Lately it has begun to hit me just how important the role of a mother is. Yes, of course fathers are important as well, but in those early days especially, mothers and babies have a unique, special relationship.
By realizing this importance I have been faced with evaluating, and questioning, my own relationship with my mother. I think that everyone on the brink of motherhood does this. Maybe you loved your childhood and only now are beginning to appreciate the magnitude of your mother’s love and direction. Maybe, like me, your mother has not always been the most consistent, loving, or dependable person in your life and you wish to provide your children with a very different kind of upbringing. Whatever your situation may be, becoming a mother means becoming your child’s most important caretaker… that’s a big deal.
Of course, I am overjoyed to begin this adventure, who wouldn’t be?! But to say I am fearful would be an understatement.
My mother’s role in my life has been incredibly destructive – and it has taken many years to break out of the bondage she placed me in. My upbringing established many sinful behaviors that have been an uphill battle to combat. From self reliance, harboring of hatred, impulsiveness, tendency towards anger, expectation of perfection, selfishness, and the inability to process emotions, I learned very little from her as how to be a mother, but rather instead, how not to be.
I have slowly been able to heal from her years of misguidance and have been able to repair many of the misconceptions that existed in my outlook on life. However, the scary part is yet to come.
With a childhood like mine, and a past riddled with the sins of my early adulthood, my fear of motherhood has only increased as our baby’s arrival comes closer. Throughout my life I have learned, and done, very little that I wish to teach to my children.
As a result I have had to wonder….
How do we become the mothers we want to be, the Biblical definition of a mother, without ever having seen such a person?
The answer resides in the Bible.
God’s Word is His instruction manual for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that Scripture can be used for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness. This is so comforting to me. I need only depend on God and His Word to know how to be a mother and how to create the childhood I have envisioned for my children.
Proverbs 31:10-31, I believe, can lend women excellent insight as to how a woman believer should behave – as a wife and a mother.
[a] An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself[b] with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.[c]
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
I’d like to examine several of the verses included here and pick them apart for mothers and mothers to be.
Vs 12: I believe this speaks wonders into the mastery of motherhood. During my childhood I saw very little respect for the men in the house. My father, and later my stepfather, were at the command of my mother – a situation that is unnatural and very destructive to children’s perception of their fathers. 1 Peter 3:1-2. “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” I know that in many situations it feels that our husbands do not deserve our respect, or are not living up to their own commands – such as loving as Christ loves. But there is blessing in obeying God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 28), and sanctification in obeying the laws that are hardest for us to obey. Showing our children, at an early age, what Biblical submission is can ultimately strengthen their faith in God and His promises.
Vs 13: Working with willing hands. I love that imagery. It is one thing to work for your family – to dry your children’s tears, to wash the laundry, to do the shopping – but what a difference those actions have when they are done with a willing and joyful heart. I catch myself frustrated in the monotony some days have… cook lunch, do the laundry, clean the house, walk the dog, cook dinner, etc., but I know that everyone, including myself, suffers, when there is no joy in my work. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Being thankful for the job we have been given and roles we are to fill is one of the most powerful things I believe we can teach our children.
Vs 14-15: There’s an element here of ‘keeping the house going’. Providing food, in most traditional homes, is one of the key jobs of a wife and mother. Unfortunately, we live in a society where most mothers have to work outside of the home to be able to afford ‘life’ – so cooking and meal time have become rushed, convenience type gatherings. But I believe the point of the verse here is deeper then simply providing nourishment for one’s family. The key in these verses is that the well being of your family should be more important than your own. The woman described even deprives herself of sleep to wake early enough to provide for her loved ones. Self sacrifice – whether it is our time, energy, sleep, or pride, is a beautiful showcase of the type of love a mother is to have. Often, I believe our society urges us, women especially, to ‘live for ourselves’. We exist in an age of selfishness – and to witness the woman who gives so much to her family and her husband is a rare and wondrous thing.
Vs 20: Giving to the poor, needy, and unfortunate is something that is required of all Christians, an act that is blessed by God. (Deuteronomy 15:10-11) I find it so impressive when women are able to not only care for their families well, but also their neighbors, the other members of their church, and the less fortunate. A giving heart is something I wish desperately to teach my children. I want to provide for them an example of living far below our means so that the majority of our pay may be spread to those who need it most. I love this verse for how close it clings to the vision I have of raising my family.
Vs 21: “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.” There are two aspects of this verse I believe are very insightful to a Biblical mother hood. The first is “she is not afraid”. In this case, she isn’t afraid of snow, but I believe that in general, the absence of fear is a strong trait to posses. Fear, from a woman’s standpoint, is infectious. Since the beginning of sin, the Fall, women have been troubled with worry – an infectious sort of fear that can have negative effects on every aspect of our lives. The woman who can trust whole heartedly in the Lord is valued and honored more than any other. Psalm 56:11 “In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.”
The second aspect is that she clothes her family in scarlet so that they may be seen against the white of snow. In this I see a woman who is well prepared and who is wise in how she takes care of her family. Many times my mother would be late, or forget completely, to pick us up from track practice. There were days when dinner would be hours delayed because she hadn’t gone shopping, or when we needed items for a school project that she had forgotten about and therefore weren’t able to finish. Life happens, things get busy, but the consistent pattern of being unprepared I think shows something unintended to your children. It paints the picture that there are things in your life that are more important than they are. I know this pain personally, and I wish for my children to never know the heartache from being on the bottom of the totem pole of priorities.
Vs 25-26: I like that the description of her outer appearance is defined by her inner appearance. I cannot stress enough the beauty in modesty – but more so, how beautiful it must be to come across a woman whose strength in the Lord is what gleams in her appearance. This is something I strive to become each day – that others may know me by my heart and my heart for God instead of what brand of clothes I wear or how I style my hair. I also strive to be a woman of wisdom, which the wife and mother in this passage obviously possesses. So much of what leaves our mouths is nothing but conceit, selfishness, bitterness and anger. What if we were to change how we speak, and instead use words that edify, that praise God, and that provide a source of wisdom for others? That is the ideal mother indeed.
Vs 27: She is not idle. This is another verse that I love dearly. I am always surprised by the attitude that I receive when I tell other women that I will be a stay at home mother. I think unfortunately, our society has put a negative stipulation on women who choose to stay at home and raise their children versus having the modern 9-5 job. Regardless, the woman who is not idle is the woman who can do the most good. I like to think about this in terms of TV. So many Americans come home, prop up their feet, and put on a good show – this is their way of relaxing. Add up all the hours you spend in front of the TV. Then make a list of all the things you want to do or wish you had time for, but simply don’t. I think you’ll find that much of your time is wasted and could be better allocated to things like time spent with family, time in the Word, or working in some other occupation the Lord has called you to. I am guilty of this, just like the next person, but Jared and I both have made commitments to using our time more carefully – realizing that each day truly is a gift and each day should count for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Vs 28-29: Her children call her blessed. This is a beautiful sentiment. Personally, I could never call my own mother blessed. I couldn’t call her strong, wise, or loving either. A mother whose children and husband praise her for her performance in her role invokes a feeling of pride in my heart. I want to embrace motherhood with such Biblical accuracy that my family is blessed by my efforts and therefore recognizes my effort for them.
Vs 30-31: I didn’t grow up with a woman who feared the Lord, I didn’t grow up with knowledge of the Lord at all, but my mother-in-law encompasses this so well. A God fearing woman is one who can examine a situation and, putting her own fears and anxieties aside, can still do as God commands. This is a hard thing to do, especially when our sinful hearts plead with us to act upon our fear. Trusting in God and that He is a promise keeper is powerful in teaching our little ones about real faith and what being a follower truly means.
Motherhood is bound to be hard and no one can perfect it. We live in a fallen, broken world and we are all sinners. But this passage is so instructive as to how we are to perform our God-given duty, that I believe much of the confusion and misconceptions about motherhood can be avoided simply by opening up God’s Word.
Bless you all and your journeys in motherhood. I pray that this examination of the Word was helpful, but furthermore I hope it allowed you to turn to the Lord in prayer. Communicating our fears to He who is almighty is a powerful thing…