When I got home from the hospital after giving birth, my bedside table had a brand new daily devotions book written just for mothers.
I love it. I try to read it every day and it brings me immense peace and joy.
However, I’ve been having problems letting go of one particular devotion. Here’s a snippet:
“Most moms take on the brunt of household duties…It’s an exhausting, and often thankless, job. This is why we need to be extra careful not to let bitterness creep into our hearts. We serve our families because we love them, but it’s easy to forget that day after day without hands in dirty dishwater. In those times we need to remember Jesus, who humbly knelt before his disciples to wash their feet…
“What is the condition of your heart when you serve your family and household? What can you do to guard yourself against bitterness?…”
In many ways this is in line with what Luther taught about the holiness of everyday people (at least how I read Luther). It wasn’t about feeling bad that I don’t read my Bible every day any more or that I’m not praying The Hours. These are all great things, but not really what God wants from us. Instead, Luther taught that the best way for me as a mother and wife to really please God is to be in the trenches of life and be the best mother and wife that I can be. Luther really thought that God gets far more pleasure from my changing Bennett’s endless diapers and being a partner to Jeff, than from studying devotions for an hour every night or keeping a tally of my sins so that I can confess on Sundays.
However, where’s the line between being affirmed about the realities of life and being expected to be misused and abused?
The first time I read this devotion I immediately bristled.
It felt like the church was telling me to be alright with being mistreated not only by others, but specifically by my family. I don’t like women to be told to be quiet and not complain. I also want to know if they had written that in the daily devotions for fathers? Do they tell dads to be silently thankful with being neck deep in laundry, dishes, cooking, and ingratitude?
I would be surprised if they had. This seems like a special brand of spiritual advice just for women.
How often are fathers told to be the silent suffering servant? How often are fathers told to embrace the daily rejection of their love – and see it as Jesus-like?
But….is this devotion wrong?
I think what kills me is that I know that the life they paint is true for so many women.
When I think about the way I treated my mom and her unrelenting love growing up, I am ashamed. I expected her to give and give and give of herself – and I rarely showed gratitude for her unconditional love and work. And yet, I can probably count on one hand the times I was aware that I had hurt her or that she was angry at her circumstances.
Again, there would be holidays when I would watch my Oma cooking and cleaning and breaking her back while any number of her children, grandchildren, family members, etc. continued to lazily watch television and talk. She insisted that she loved to do this. She told me she loved to create these environments where her family could be together – but it wasn’t right. She wasn’t being loved as she loved. When did she get her feet washed as she did for others every single day of her life?!
We all know that kids can be selfish. They can be incredibly ungrateful. To be reminded that this is reality and to not let anger or hatred creep in to poison your heart against your children and family is admirable and very Christian. But, on the other hand, to have a special message just for women telling them to not only not feel the very real feelings of hurt, pain, mistreatment, and disappointment, but instead to swallow this and tell ourselves it is all fine because it’s Jesus-like seems ripe for abuse (Whew! That was a complicated sentence!).
I have no conclusion or answer. Maybe you all have something to add that will help bring clarity to me and this uncomfortable place I have found myself before I step further into a life where I will inevitably feel hurt and misused by my children.
What do I do? Where’s the right way? Do I continue to religiously embrace the roll of mother/wife as that of a silent servant like all of the women before me? Do I fight expectations even among a broken reality?
In My Sights This Week (Things I Read & Watched):
I watched two documentaries that really have me rethinking food, capitalism, corruption, and our futures:
(1) “Soul Food Junkies” – about soul food within the black community in the United States and its dangerous and complicated history.
(2) “Sugar Coated” – about the insane increase of sugar consumption in North America (and the world) and how lobbying by those who sold (and currently sell) sugar had us redirecting our health concerns elsewhere.
I’m also currently watching ESPN’s multi-part series on OJ Simpson. It is so well done and gives incredible contextual history to help tell his story.
To be honest, most of the things that I read this past week had to do with the Orlando shooting. I’m still wrapping my head around it all and get increasingly depressed about the constant fear and danger LGBTQ+ people have to live with every second of their days and nights all over the world.