Missional motherhood is not just for women who’ve physically given birth or for those who’ve adopted children born from the body of another. Every single Christian woman is called to make disciples of all nations. We all must labor, prayerfully expecting God to mercifully grant people new birth in Christ. Since Jesus is worthy to receive worship from the image bearers he’s created, every human being is worthy of our effort in this endeavor of discipleship.
In this sense, no Christian woman is child-free.
Every woman in Christ is called to pass the gospel on to the next generation, who will pass the gospel onto the next generation, and so forth. The aim of our motherhood, then, is to declare the good news “to a people yet unborn” (Ps. 22:31). We share the gospel because we know nothing else will give our children the strength and motivation to give their own lives in making disciples.
In theory, we affirm this mission is worth our lives. But in reality, if you ask me if it’s worth trading my comfort, I hesitate. In these moments I’m not so sure I agree with Paul that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). But what if mothers really believed any and every death to self in the cause of Christ was gain? How would it change the way we shepherd children and other women?
Land Your Helicopter
Even though he was speaking to American Christians, David Platt’s words apply to any believer tempted to live for the world:
You and I stand on the porch of eternity. Both of us will soon stand before God to give an account for our stewardship of the time, the resources, the gifts, and ultimately the gospel he has entrusted to us. When that day comes, I’m convinced we will not wish we had given more of ourselves to live the American dream.
As we remember eternity and embrace death for Christ as gain, then our lives will change.
One change I predict is that we’ll stop helicopter-mothering ourselves and the people around us. To helicopter-mother is to hover over others with the intent of controlling them and/or the circumstances surrounding them. You’ve probably heard the term “helicopter mom” in regard to how some moms tend to obsessively overparent. Child psychologists in the West have been documenting this social trend and publishing their opinion papers online. Sometimes grim forecasts are given for kids parented in this manner: depression, anxiety, poor performance in school, and financial issues.
In her article “Helicopter Parenting—It’s Worse Than You Think,” Hara Estroff Marano worries that “independence took a great leap backward” with the rise of helicopter parents. When we eliminate risks for our children, she reasons, we will “rob kids of self-sufficiency.” Marano, a psychologist, believes the state of parenting is “worse than we think.” No woman wants any of these things for her children or the people she nurtures.
I’ve heard Christian parents say they loathe the helicoptering trend, but we recognize a problem that’s even worse than the loss of independence: we inadvertently model for our children that God’s faithfulness isn’t dependable.
The overarching consequence of obsessive overparenting is that by failing to live out the truth of the big story, we fail to pass on the big story.
Helicopter parenting subconsciously teaches our disciples that though God may seem so big, so strong, and so mighty, he’s really no bigger than we are. God isn’t mighty to save, but Mommy is.
Tear Down Your Safety Nets
Are we in danger of becoming so preoccupied with eliminating risks in the world of our kids that we fail to encourage them to take risks for the gospel?
For now, forget the question of whether we let them go down the twisty slide, eat a breakfast cereal with artificial coloring, or cross the street. Consider the noble quest of crossing cultures for the sake of Christ. Are we parenting in such a way that our children will one day not hesitate to say, “I think Jesus is calling me to follow him into [fill in the blank: a hard place, a risky ministry, a university with less prestige for the sake of being close to a healthy church, and so on]”?
Will we celebrate the kindness of God to lead our children to take risks and make sacrifices for his mission, to spread his glory over the face of the earth? Or will we respond with the common objection many young people hear from their parents today: “What about everything that we’ve invested in you? Will you waste it?”
Our obsession with safety isn’t the gravest concern regarding helicopter parenting; risk intolerance is. When we spend unhealthy amounts of energy in training our children and disciples to be afraid, they’ll subconsciously adopt our anemic view of God. If God is not for us, then “we need to be for ourselves” becomes the mindset. When we unhinge our obsession with safety, we’ll see a demonic strategy to hinder God’s mission holds it together, not God’s wisdom.
My friend Tim Keesee in the film Dispatches from the Front: No Regrets, No Retreat speaks about the reign of terror and paranoia in Mao’s China. His words are poignant for this topic too: “Boundless terror is the greatest way to control the most people from the cradle to the grave.” Who’s governing our mindset about mothering? Is it King Jesus or an imposter?
If our stewardship goals are to get as much as we can of the American dream for ourselves and our children, then we betray our King and live like his kingdom is worthless. I say those hard words just as strongly to myself—even now as my family prepares to visit the United States for three weeks. I can’t stop thinking about chasing food, stores, and stuff. We need to continually renew our minds in God’s Word. Otherwise, we’ll subconsciously buy into the helicopter narrative getting its lift from the so-called prosperity gospel, which says we ought to have our best life now.
How Are You Discipling?
The kingship of Jesus and his authority over all things is sweet encouragement to this mother’s heart. What I need to address first, then, isn’t the rules and cultural norms of mothering where I live. I need to have a renewed vision of who rules our family.
I need to see Jesus.
Is he worthy of our adoration when one or many of us are physically unhealthy?
Is sharing his gospel worth staying in a place where we receive less than perfect health care?
Is Jesus worth the sideways glances I receive from people around me when I parent my children in a way that honors him?
Am I more concerned with the food my children eat than what their souls consume?
Do I point my children to worldly success as their big goal or to the mission of God as their reason for being?
Do I remind my children, by my words and actions, that God loves us enough to take care of all of the “what ifs” in our future?
Do my kids think I serve the almighty dollar or the almighty God?
Do we nurture our children with radical self-abandon, as though we’re expecting deliverance from another world? Because we are.
Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from Gloria Furman’s new book, Missional Motherhood: The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan of God (Crossway, 2016) [review | companion group study], released in connection with TGC’s Women’s Initiatives. Also, don’t miss our fast-approaching National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. Furman will participate in a panel on respecting husbands as well as lead a focus gathering on reaching the nations in your neighborhood. Workshops are filling up fast, so register now.