The Cult of the Family

Carla: Today has been a better day. No one has locked themselves out of any houses and all children are in cooperative moods. 

Before I launch into today’s post, I want to point out that my dear friend Tony has gotten wind of our conversation about motherhood as a calling. Pop in to his Beliefnet.com blog, The New Christians, and take a look at some other perspectives.

On with the show. So one of the issues that Caryn and I are taking on in the MR is what we see as the immense pressure and guilt the church lays on mothers. Really, our greatest hope for the Rev is that it frees mothers from unrealistic–and unbiblical–expectations about who they are supposed to be. To get there, however, takes some serious dismantling of the cultural messages that have become so ingrained in us.

Our American culture has all kinds of damaging and hurtful messages and there are several wonderful books out there that do a fine job of peeling back the cultural wallpaper to find a new layer of truth for women. We will use the occasional post to talk about those messages, but our real passion is to deconstruct the Christian myths of motherhood. And the first one to go is what I call the Cult of the Family.

Christian women are taught that motherhood will someone complete us, that in motherhood we will find the culmination of all our hopes and dreams. We hear sermons and read books and go to conferences about how what we do as parents will shape our children more than anything else in their lives. One result of that is that the church encourages us to take parenting seriously. And we applaud that message.

But the other result is that women come to believe that our ultimate worth comes from motherhood, not from our relationship with God. We get the impression–and you only have to read the comments from the last week to see how deeply impressed upon us this is–that our real contribution to the world is to raise children.

The problem is that churches have elevated the family to a position that is out of synch with the gospel. We have been led to believe that the family is more important than the broader community, that protecting our children from the secular culture is more important than bringing God’s love into that culture. And we have been led to believe that every ounce of thought or energy or time we put in to anything other than our families is a sign that our priorities are out of whack.

Those messages have pulled women away from God. And that’s why I call it the Cult of the Family. It keeps our eyes on mothering, not God. It focuses our attention on a small group of people, not the body of Christ. It convinces us that if we sense God leading us anywhere but into our homes, we are being tricked and swayed by the godless culture. It shuts down our ability to discern the path God has for us by telling us that path has already been decided.

And it hurts women. Not just mothers, but all women for whom motherhood is not an option, for whom motherhood is a constant struggle, for whom the dream of motherhood has been crushed by the loss of a child–in the womb or out of the womb.

We received an e-mail from one such woman and we asked her if we could share it with you. Here’s what she had to say:

I’m in my late 30s and a longtime Christian. I’ve never been married. I very much wanted to be a mom, but that hasn’t happened  (in spite of eHarmony and a host of other sites, setups and a whole lot of prayer). I find that the church has no idea how to respond. And sometimes the responses are downright mean.

Some people automatically assume that single women are weird or too picky.  I don’t think so. It’s hard to meet decent people, despite all the advice doled out in books.  (And why are all those books marketed specifically to women anyway?)

I don’t know why I’m not married with 2.5 kids. I don’t know why God put that longing in my heart and didn’t fulfill it. And if anyone else knows the answer, then perhaps they can pass it along to my mother, who is dying to know.

I’m troubled by some of the more devastating lies in the church. Some prominent Christian organizations are now telling older singles that they’ve sinned because they’ve put off marriage and motherhood. 

Please understand that I esteem marriage and children. I wanted those gifts. God gave me something else, at least for now.   And there’s a tension there, between living a full life for Him and acknowledging the wistful ache. Because sometimes the single life is lonely. (It’s not at all like TV! And it’s a far cry from the single life of college, too.) 

I am steeped in children’s ministry. I love kids. But I wish the church had a stronger message to those of us who don’t have partners or children. Because sometimes we feel that because we aren’t part of the club, there’s not a place for us in the family. 

I’ve heard the “wait until your married” message my whole life. I would love to see the church teach its daughters to wait “because you are Jesus’ precious daughter, whether you are married or single.”

Some of us can’t talk about the ticking clock and the ache because we might choke up and make you feel awkward. Some of us try to talk about it, but then we hear how lucky we are, with our tidy, quiet houses and diaper-free shopping carts and all. Yes, we know marriage and motherhood are work. But we think it’s work we’d like a chance at.  Maybe we want to talk about the ups and downs of being a mom honestly with you. Maybe it would be OK if the moms out there asked us about the dating scene – or lack of it. 

Singleness wasn’t my choice. But it’s my life. And our family-centric churches rarely help us along.  

I’ll never forget attending a Mother’s Day service at a friend’s church. The pastor asked all adult women to stand and prayed that they would be strong women and nurturers to whomever God might place in their lives. Yes, I know it’s not a typical Mother’s Day gesture, but it meant the world to me, and that pastor has a special place in my heart.

Let’s encourage each other, as women in the Lord, moms or not. 

Whenever a message creates pain in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s the wrong message. 

Caryn: (Actually, it’s still Carla. Caryn is on her way to some fun weekend retreat that I’m never invited to. If she has the internets when she gets to her chalet or whatever it is she’s staying in, she will chime in and tell me how off-base I am. But in the meantime, I’m posting so that you’ll have something new to read and ponder over the weekend. At least one of us is committed to this endeavor.)

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61 responses to this post.

  1. This is great stuff. I agree. A great book, that offers a secular perspective on this whole making a career of motherhood thing, is Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, by Judith Warner.
    I talked to a mom the other day who complained of her 7 year old whining at her, asking for more of her time, even after she had played with said child for five hours straight. Five hours! Making motherhood a “career” can sometimes make us lose sight of common sense and boundaries.
    I also have noticed that if women focus entirely on motherhood, they lose touch with women who aren’t moms. They forget about the common ground they have with all women–married, single, kids or no kids. And that, sisters, is tragic.

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  2. Good call on Perfect Madness, Keri! That’s a good one. And kind of an inspiration behind the Rev.

    My brain is way too friend right now to add anything. This retreat you aren’t invited to, Carla, involves listening to the remarkable brain of Dinesh D’Souza live in all his glory. So I’m still recovering from brilliant overload and feeling like a complete moron in his presence.

    And then there’s the fact that this guy makes a living writing smarty books and debating Christopher Hitchens, so every time he mentions his “pal Hitchens” I space out thinking of how I’m one person removed from one of my all-time fave writers and wonder if it’d be inappropriate to ask a million questions on what Christopher is really like and if maybe he’d want to guest blog here sometime…. I bet he’d really like us.

    But ANYHOO, of course I’m totally in step with you on the church’s mis-elevation of the family. Though really, it’s mis-elevation of non-hurting, troubled families. We do hate those with any sort of skeletons or splinters.

    But I’m still noodling your thing that a message that pains the body is a wrong one. I dunno. It seems like Truth does often tear into us a bit.

    Huh. Okay. My old beach hotel is getting creekier by the minute, and I need to try and sleep. Breakfast at 7:30!

    OH: Our assistant Mickey has a nametag sitting on the piano waiting for him, but alas, no Mickey….

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  3. Posted by Steve B. on January 24, 2009 at 8:27 am

    This is a very interesting topic to me. I’ve stated before that my wife has a full time job outside of our home – a “working mom”, if you will. And as soon as I throw out that term, I realize that moms who stay at home with their kids feel slighted. But to me, the term “mom” itself implies work; hard work, that’s a given as far as I’m concerned. We are very blessed to be a part of a church that seems to have a pretty diverse view of motherhood and the many roles that go along with it. My wife is in a Working Moms small group – church sanctioned and everything.

    It is so huge for her to be able to fellowship, pray, and study Scripture with other moms who share many of her day to day struggles. Understandably, she constantly wrestles with the guilt of working at a job that takes time away from family and it is important for her to see that she is not alone in this. 3 of the women in the group are single moms (Superheroes) who certainly struggle with some of the issues raised by the emailer above. So, I guess what I’m saying is that churches do need to look at the “big picture” when addressing family issues and realize that Christians are not and cannot be a homogeneous group – or Borg.

    In closing, I confess that my love for my family sometimes borders on idolatry. I am then reminded of when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, just to show him that there is only room for One on the throne in his heart. Easier said than done.

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  4. I’m enjoying all the posts on “themommyrevolution” blog. This particular one is a hot button of mine because my husband has been involved in singles ministry for many years and he and I have both been single, twice in our lives. I believe that “the church” has elevated both marriage and family to an idolatrous level. It is my firm conviction that we must care for the individual first regardless of status….single, married, mom, dad….etc…. But that’s usually not how it plays out. I believe in many of our Bible colleges and in some Christian Liberal Arts Institutions as well we don’t encourage women to learn, grow, become who God created them to be, but we give this secondary message that you are just here “until” you find your ‘knight in shining armour’. I guess I’m not offering solution so much as affirming the problem and hoping to make more people aware and maybe our attitudes and actions will change. I’m thankful you were allowed to post the email, which came from much pain.

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  5. Maybe y’all have read it already, but a great book on this topic is Rodney Clapp’s Families at the Crossroads. He unpacks how Protestants and evangelicals have morphed into this overemphasis on family (especially in its Western, industrial, nuclear forms) that’s not necessarily biblical. He talks about how for Christians, the first family is the church, and only secondarily comes the biological or marital family. So ultimately it’s an ecclesiological issue.

    As I understand it, the first few centuries of the early church overemphasized singleness as more spiritual. Marriage was seen as worldly and a concession to the flesh. If you were really spiritual, you became a monk or nun and renounced biological/marital family. Then the Protestant Reformation reversed this and said that marriage and family were normative, not celibacy, and evangelicals have followed with a focus on the family ever since.

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  6. P.S. My book Singles at the Crossroads has some material relating to this.

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  7. Posted by Carla on January 24, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Steve brings up a great point (that’s why we heart him). You can tell a lot about who is welcome and accepted at a church by the programs it offers. A church where the women’s ministry consists of Bible studies that either meet during the day (with childcare) or at night (with no childcare) makes it clear that they assume women are home with their children during the day and that children can be home with their fathers at night. So working moms? You’re out. Single moms? You’re out.
    The annual meeting comes along and there’s no childcare available? That tells me the voices of women with children are not valued in that community.
    But a church that offers a Bible study for working mothers? That communicates an understanding not only of the fact that the majority of mothers work outside the home, but that being a working mother has a particular set of challenges and that women need support and encouragement from their faith community as they face those challenges.
    We attend a church that, for a long time, was made up largely of single people in their 20s. The social life of the church revolved around movies and concerts and game nights and dinners after church (we meet on Sunday nights). And guess what? As a family with young children, we found it very difficult to connect. We couldn’t really participate in the social part of the community because it was based in a lifestyle that was very different from ours. No one was intentionally leaving families out of the plans, they just arranged the plans around their needs, not ours.
    The same thing happens to childless women at churches all the time. Tomorrow (or tonight or whenever you go to church), look at the schedule of events for the week. How many of them revolve around families? Imagine yourself single or childless. What would your community feel like then? Maybe you don’t have to imagine that and you know how subtle those messages are. But they are there. And they are part of this cult-like thinking that presses for one model of womanhood.

    One other quick thing: I knew someone would comment about the “messages that create pain” thing. I just didn’t think it would be Caryn. But just the same, I agree that there are messages about our faith that can and should make us uncomfortable as we work to become who God created us to be. But pain is not the same thing as conviction.

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  8. What a thought provoking discussion! As I think of it, you are right. The church does, for the most part, support “traditional” families above all else. Families with stay-at-home-moms, dads that come to church each Sunday and children that are involved in only church activities are given some sort of elevated status. It can be very confusing and stressful for women (and men) to try and achieve this “perfect, holy” family. The pressure can be great. What if God’s plans for you are different than what the church expects? What if God’s plans and His people don’t fit into the church’s box?

    I like the statement you made about taking the love of God out into the culture. That is what the great commission is all about. As a parent, I do want to shelter my kids as much as possible. But, I also want to equip them to go out into the world, to be salt and light. There has to be balance.

    While I think that being a mom is very rewarding, I am so happy to see others speaking that its ok not to be all-consumed by our families 24/7 for the next 25 years! A lot of us moms feel such guilt from others, in and out of the church, if we wander outside of our mother roles. Thank you for relieving the pressure!!

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  9. Posted by Cindy on January 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    My observation is that “the church” views the childless or single woman as less than adult. Somehow, marriage and/or parenting embues one with maturity and status. It lets one into a mystical club from which others are excluded. Weird. And terribly, terribly wrong.

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  10. It’s always fun when I can surprise Carla with my random comments. My questions about the pain messages thing actually have more to do with my own sort of psycho journey away from being co-dependent and needing to set boundaries in my life (read: “tough” or loving in a way that hurts pretty bad) than they do with this topic. So, I didn’t mean to imply that these hurtful messages to moms and everyone else were “God things”! This is what happens when I write tired…

    But I have had the pleasure today of raising this Cult of the Family issue during my little time away. One woman who became a widow in a tragic, very taboo way says her church has no idea what to do with her since they learned her secrets and has even been told explicity she shouldn’t expect anyone to want to marry her again.

    Another woman—who is a spiritual director by trade—told me MOST of the women she directs come from conservative Christian backgrounds. They come to her lost and wounded and completely confused about who they really are or are supposed to be within the context of Christian community.

    I think both of these things have everything to do with the Cult of the Family. I love, Carla, how you said it keeps women from God. Because that’s what it does—from being the women we were created to be, from doing the work we were meant to do, and from living in his love and rejoicing in his grace.

    Okay. Another new friend is back—we’re going to walk out on the lake. Total heaven!!!

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  11. Posted by karin on January 24, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Oh, how on target I think you are. I just finished reading your book “The Myth of the Perfect Mother”and the message was music to my ears and has truly given me a new freedom. I guess the most profound thing I am learning about motherhood is that there is not one way to go about it. There are a million and one ways to go about it and still honor God….working at home, working outside the home, volunteering with kids in tow, co-parenting with flexible work hours, the list goes on. And, I am learning not to judge others for the way they choose to parent, but rather give them the benefit of the doubt that they are working it out in a way is best for THEIR family and that honors God.

    I am touched by the honesty and vulnerability of this woman to share her story. It wasn’t long ago that I was in her shoes. And, if we buy into this notion that motherhood is the fulfillment of the Gospel it leaves out a lot of women who don’t have children. How sad that the church has done this to women, because it is clear in the Gospel that this is not what Jesus intended.

    I got married in my mid 30’s after waiting and wishing through my 20’s and part of my 30’s to meet my “perfect match” and start a family. God brought a great man into my life, we got married and now have a 20-month old. It hasn’t taken long for the itch to find something else to do alongside full-time parenting. I love my family and they are a supreme blessing in my life that I don’t want to take for granted, but in the midst of lonely days and isolating feelings I know that I need to do more than be a parent. There is an inclination in me to get out and use my talents and gifts with others. Not at the expense of my family, but in addition to them. After reading Carla’s book I no longer feel guilty about it. Taking a step outside the house is no longer a selfish ambition. It has become a necessity because I feel like I am shriveling up on the inside. It is not only a good thing for my family, as it will make me a better mom and wife, it is being obedient to the Gospel call in my life.

    Thank you for continuing this conversation beyond the book. It’s a good place to kind of work out this new (old) ideal together.

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  12. Fascinating discussion, and such a breath of fresh air! I feel like I’ve finally found a site that makes some rational sense around these issues with a Christian perspective. I’ve lived both worlds of a full-time professional mother, a “stay-at-home mom”(who rarely stays home), and everything in between. The culture shock between these worlds was an incredible adjustment for me. Now, after several years, I feel comfortable with my desires to both nurture my family and explore other “callings” in my quest to discern that path.
    Thank you, thank you for the validation.

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  13. Posted by April G. on January 24, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    This is a much-needed discussion in Christian culture. I think we tend to accept and expect certain things from life, and when it doesn’t fit into our box, we don’t know how to handle it. “There must be something wrong with that woman, otherwise her life would be like ours.” I think there is a great amount of guilt and fear that drives our expectations. I am sure we all know at least one person who would give anything to have a family but has not had that dream fulfilled. And then there are those of us who have always longed for children, but now that we have them feel guilty because we aren’t as cut out for this as we thought we would be. Now that I am in the trenches of toddlerhood I am questioning if I have what it takes to be a good mother.

    My sister’s only child was born with a severe heart defect. He endured a horrific surgery at one day old (it was to be the first of at least 3 such surgeries). But he died at 11 weeks. She tried again for years to have another baby (during which time I had two) and was unable. After enduring fertility treatments and heartbreak, her husband confessed he did not want any more children. She chose to respect his wishes and went on birth control. The rollercoaster of motherhood for her has been rough, but she has been nothing but supportive of me in my struggles as a mother. When she found out I was pregnant with my second child (my first was only 5 months old), she called me a name I am not sure I can repeat here. Her response was part jest and part pain, but she eased my guilt for getting pregnant again so quickly when she could not and confessed that she did not hold ill-will toward me for but that it was refreshing for her to be able to celebrate a pregnancy and a baby even if it wasn’t hers. I shared this story because, as we contemplate the idea of “balance” in our lives, I think we are off base. I am beginning to wonder if balance can never really be achieved individually because we are not meant to have individual balance. (We are either too lonely or too frazzled.) Maybe our individual imbalances are meant to cause us to reach out to eachother and seek a collective balance. I will bear your pain and you can bear mine. Together we will brave this storm of life. My life isn’t better than yours, just different. I (as a frazzled mother of toddlers) need you as much as you (the one longing for children) need me and my brood. Lets let go of our expectations for ourselves and eachother and choose instead to accept life as it comes, together.

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  14. THANKS FOR ANOTHER SIDE TO MY TEACHING. I TEACH THE TEEN GIRLS. ALL YEAR LONG AND I TALK ABOUT SAVING OURSELVES FOR THE MAN GOD HAS IN MIND FOR US. I WILL NOT BE TEACHING THAT CONCEPT ANY LONGER BUT WHAT I WILL TEACH IS REMAINING PURE FOR GOD IF HE SAYS HIS WILL FOR A GIRLS LIFE IS SINGLE AND PURE IF HE SENDS A YOUNG MAN CHILDREN OR NO CHILDREN. THANKS A GOD BLESS, THANKS FOR WRITING

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  15. Posted by Not a mom on January 25, 2009 at 12:19 am

    April, thank you for sharing so candidly. What a thought-provoking post.

    Bonnie, YOU are now leading a revolution. I’m not married, and I grew up being told to pray for the man God had for me. Those prayers were heard, I believe that. But for whatever reason, I’m single.

    When I was in my 20s, I would ask older women about singleness and was assured that God wouldn’t ask that of a “nice girl like you.” (And yes, Caryn, I grew up in very conservative circles in a conservative part of the country. I could go on and on, but I won’t.)

    “Wait for your husband” is a message that doesn’t ring true if you’re approaching 40 with no one on the horizon. Wait because you are precious and your HEART matters to Jesus is a message that is always true.

    We serve a gracious and loving God who cares deeply about his daughters, single or married, moms or not.

    And yes, I’m the anonymous e-mailer from above. I’d prefer to stay that way for now. And to the earlier point about messages that create pain: Pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Truth can bring pain … and then healing. But when the pain comes from lies and outright meanness in the church (most of it is unintentional, I truly believe) then it’s unnecessary hurt.

    Incidentally, I do realize that the single life does bring blessings and freedom that I wouldn’t otherwise enjoy. But I think there’s an unnecessary isolation/segregation in our churches. I challenge single women to bridge that gap, even if it’s difficult at first. You could reap some of life’s deepest friendships — and plenty of wisdom, too.

    April, I love what you said about bearing and balancing each other’s pain. What a beautiful picture of how the body of Christ can function.

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  16. Posted by karin on January 25, 2009 at 7:04 am

    So many thoughts…such good discussion.

    I think one of the lies of our culture that plays right into the cult of the family is that marriage is the reward after waiting so long to find someone. This sends the message to single women that they are forgotten by God (which is how I felt) or that they are doing something wrong because they are still single. Scripture speaks of singleness, so why does the church seem to condemn it?

    I am contemplating your idea of collective balance, April. It really makes sense to me. Not only do I gain encouragement from the perspectives of other people in my life (single, married, young, aging, Christ-followers, unbelievers, etc.), but I am convinced it is more than a luxury to have them in my life…it is a necessity. Whenever I try to find balance on my own I end up believing a lot of the lies in my head to be the truth. And, the collective balance happens when we share our burdens and share in the burdens of others.

    The reward of a faithful life is NOT being married and having a large family. It is Jesus at the end of the road waiting to bring you home and out of the pain and suffering of this life. I love my family more than I can say and if God were take them away it would be like taking away my breath. Not to be a downer, but the reality is that we will lose people we love to death at some point. We will be disappointed by those we trust at some point. We need each other to help lighten the load and point us in the right direction. If my family is ALL I have, what happens when they aren’t here? If I am everything to my child, what happens if I weren’t here? It’s a sad reality and a reason we need Christ and others to walk through this life with.

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  17. Bonnie!!! Thank you for your words on this. The “saving yourself for your husband” thing has troubled me for years—-not because I think “saving yourself” if wrong, but because, as you said, it should be for God (that sounded creepy, but you know what I mean). Teaching girls to remain “pure” so they can offer their virginity to their husbands as a “gift,” I think is one of the cruelest, most degrading things the Christian community has done to women. And it does make an idol out of marriage and husbands (and then family) by promoting a need to lay something on the altar (so to speak) of our husbands. Not to mention, that it perpetuates this thing of “we’re only complete or fulfilled” if we marry….

    God, I believe, wants women (and men) to remain chaste until marriage (maybe some day I’ll talk about my own struggles here) because it’s BEST for women. Not to give men some sort of “deflowering” thrill.

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  18. Posted by Not a mom on January 25, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Caryn: Amen, amen, amen! Every time I hear the “wait until you’re married” or “God will reward you if you wait,” I want to stand up and scream.

    (And yes, I’ve heard the “offering yourself as your husband as a gift” teaching in countless sermons and books.) It’s damaging.

    Marriage is GOOD. Family is good. Please don’t misunderstand me.

    But I like how Larry Crabb writes about “first things” and “second things.” Blessings are GOOD, but they are second things. Knowing God, however complicated and hard and frustrating that can be sometimes, is ultimately the first thing. If our faith and joy are based on whether we meet a great guy or whether we have healthy well-behaved children, it’s a shaky faith at best .

    I love this blog.

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  19. Posted by Not a mom on January 25, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Why does the church condemn singleness? Oh man, you have opened a huge can of worms…..

    There is a whole movement of authors and bloggers “out there” condemning singleness. And it’s not pretty. It’s hurtful and naive.

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  20. Bonnie, I think you will change a whole generation of girls with that message! Obviously, the other damaging part of that “save yourself for your husband” message is that it assumes there will be a husband. It ingrains an expectation that is completely cultural, not biblical. My beloved single friends have opened my eyes to how pervasive this message is in the lives of girls (not just from the church of course, but we don’t help) and has changed the way I talk to my daughters.

    And April, you are so, so, so insightful!!!! You have given voice to something so profound–we cannot be whole, healthy people on our own. We were created for community, for relationships, and we need each other. Beautiful.

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  21. what great comments. i am especially drawn to april’s honesty. i probably feel this way at LEAST 100 times a day. feeling like i’m failing. feeling like i could be doing better. and getting bogged down in looking at other people’s blogs, hearing stories, worrying that i’m not being creative enough, funny enough, playful enough, homey enough.

    i think this anxiety in me is in part my personality, but i also think it’s in part built into me based on societal pressures, like you all have been saying. “get married, have a family, stay at home, bake cookies, do arts and crafts, produce the most well-behaved citizens.”

    i do the first 3, and sometimes the 4th, and then that’s where i fall off the mommy wagon, since i work full time from home. i almost think this is worse–being at home but feeling absent from what is going on around me because i’m feeling pulled in two directions.

    carla, your last comment made me think about how i talk to my daughter about marriage/her future. my husband has especially railed against disney princesses and fairy tales, and i have attributed it mostly to commercialization. boy, does he hate anything commercialized. but fairy tales have a super huge problem, in that they all end with the girl getting the knight in shining armor. and my daughter is hooked on these things. so i need to be working really hard to help her hear a different narrative.

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  22. Posted by April's Sister on January 25, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    My sister told me about this site and that I may find this particular discussion interesting. In fact, I have found it to have really struck a nerve.
    Since the death of my only child, I have found myself in a very awkward position. Am I a mother or not? I don’t really feel like I fit in to the mold of the family as I see it. So where do I fit in?
    And I could not possibly agree more with the anonymous emailer who said that we would rather not be reminded of what our tidy homes mean. I don’t like being reminded that every time I spend my overly abundant free time frivolously, my child-weary friends and family can only salivate at the thought of an hour or two of such time. What wouldn’t we give to be in their shoes?
    I didn’t choose childlessness of my own accord; it was chosen for me. So, does that make me any less deserving of what God has in store for me?

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  23. Posted by Not a mom on January 25, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    To April’s sister: Thank you for writing. Thank you for your honesty. I never lost a child, and I will never pretend to understand that kind of grief, but I think we both understand the unnecessary hurt that goes with the remarks about how “lucky” and “carefree” we are. People are careless with words sometimes, and the wounds can be deep.

    I am so sorry for your loss, and for any pain that the culture of church has piled up on it.

    Don’t you think that Jesus specialized in people who “didn’t fit”? But as a church, we struggle, don’t we?
    ——————————————

    And to Bonnie: Go Bonnie go! And spread the word. You are in a position of influence.

    I have to admit that I struggled with e-mailing the original post in the first place, because single women are sensitive about being judged, or being called bitter or jealous or insecure. Maybe that’s true in some cases, but certainly not all. It’s just that like so many people in this broken world, we’re mourning. Only in our case, we’re grieving over something we never had.

    I grew up without much Disney influence in my life, but I have to say that I struggle with this. Disney is ridiculous and romanticized and shamelessly commercialized, but don’t most cultures have Cinderella stories and fairy tales? (I’m not an expert here….I’m just typing.) The book of Ruth is a Cinderella story in our own Bibles, and yet, unlike with Disney, there is tremendous pain and loss in that story. And Ruth was in the lineage of Jesus, and her story points us ultimately not to a knight in shining armor, but to the savior of all.

    I have loved reading everyone’s comments. Thank you, Carla, for posting my e-mail.

    Reply

  24. Posted by Janice on January 26, 2009 at 8:37 am

    I have appreciated reading everyone’s comments on this topic. I can relate – I was 29 when I got married, and in those years of post-college singleness I got some pretty insensitive comments from well-meaning people in the church. I also was bothered by the way the singles in the church were somewhat separated from the married groups, and my friends and I joked about how going to a singles’ social event was just like going to a “singles’ bar”, and once you got married, you “graduated” to the Married Class.

    Looking back, I am so thankful for those years of singleness. There were so many benefits to moving away from home and living on my own. It almost saddens me to see young kids getting married right out of high school or college, knowing that those young women won’t experience the joys and struggles of independent adulthood. To complete my story,I have now been married for 18 years and have 4 children, ages 10, 12, 14 and 16. I have been a sahm all these years, and I do believe this is God’s role for me right now. I do work a small part-time job, but I am glad that I can be the “family manager” and create a mostly pleasant and peaceful home for my husband and children. Many of the comments have challenged me to prepare myself better for the day when the kids are gone, as well as to avoid the “cult” mentality as I talk to my daughters and sons about their futures.

    I admit I have never been bothered by the idea of “saving yourself” for your husband, but I will definitely begin to reword that concept for my daughters (and sons) – remaining pure should be motivated by a desire to please God and follow His perfect plan.

    Thank you Carla and Caryn for your thought-provoking blog.

    Reply

  25. Posted by Robyn on January 26, 2009 at 10:29 am

    We, as women, are complete in Christ. That is what we need to remember. Neither marriage nor motherhood complete us. Christ does. God knew each of us before we were born, when he yet knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. When we choose to embrace him as our Creator, our Father, our All-in-all, we are completed.

    The thing is, when I define myself outside of my relationship with God, I rob both him and myself of my primary purpose. That is not to say that my relationships with others are not important. They are. But the FIRST commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength. After that, I am to love my neighbor (husband, child, sister, coworker, friend, etc) as myself. First things first.

    By the way, after reading some of the comments on the blog you linked, I am so very thankful for this one. I cannot tell you how wonderful, what a blessing it is, to know that there are people out there who think like I do about being a woman and being a mother. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Carla and Caryn for starting the Mommy Revolution.

    Reply

  26. Posted by Steve B. on January 26, 2009 at 11:00 am

    To April’s sister, I got really choked up just reading what you shared. Sometimes words are useless and I don’t have any answers for you but if it were ever possible for a total stranger to grieve with you, consider it done.

    Reply

  27. Ditto for me, April’s sister. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

  28. Posted by Carla on January 26, 2009 at 11:30 am

    triple.

    Reply

  29. Posted by April G. on January 26, 2009 at 11:42 am

    After my sister wrote her post last night, we had an honest discussion about this whole issue during which we both admitted we were often jealous of the other. You will all be relieved to know that we came up with a perfect solution. Since she lives across the country, it is not easy to physically share eachother’s burdens. Therefore, I am shipping a child off to her and she will be sending me a package of free-time. Whew! Problem solved.

    Seriously though, just honestly discussing such a painful and (dare I say) unfair circumstance has caused the burdens to lesson a little. Thank you for helping us be honest with eachother.

    Reply

  30. Posted by Not a mom on January 26, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    April G: I’d hate to see the UPS bill…..

    To everyone: I want to make clear that I believe purity is a beautiful, healthy and holy message to women and men, especially in this hookup-Sex and the City culture we live in.

    But what seems to happen is that the message gets “bent” a little bit, and then the promise of a good husband/marriage/children seems to become the “reward” for waiting.

    And if there’s no husband after decades of waiting/praying/sometimes-dating, then we have to look at how we frame this message.

    Reply

  31. Posted by karin on January 26, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    I am challenged by the vulnerability and honesty being shared here. It is refreshing to know there is a place, even though it is online to find this kind of transparency and care for each other. It’s also sad that it’s so hard to find face to face. It’s a challenge to me in my face to face friendships.

    Thank you for sharing. I am touched.

    Reply

  32. Posted by Melissa on January 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I terrify many of the younger single Christian women I know and meet. I am 46 and never married. No one wants to be me. For a while I tried empathizing with their pain (which I have experienced firsthand), but found that they had a hard time receiving it from someone who scares them so much. I have also tried reassuring them that it really does get easier over time (especially after that clock stops a tickin’) and that if marriage and/or children are not in their future, they will be more than okay.

    In the very conservative Christian circles I run in (family, church, work), marriage has been elevated so much that anything else is seen as less than. Like it’s some kind of reward or prize.
    I think that I am mostly viewed as defective in some way or lacking in the submissive qualities needed to get married (and have been questioned accordingly). Years ago, I finally got everyone off my back by letting them know that I was giving them the responsibility of finding me a mate. I would go on a date with anyone they set me up with. The challenge was met with enthusiasm, but I only went on one date (that was really fun by the way). I have not heard a peep from anyone since. The pressures off.

    I keep in mind what my 89-year-old single friend (who is a hottie I might add) said to me when I asked her the secret of being happy and single so many years. Her reply, “Oh honey, we’re good looking women and you know how it is. I’ve still got men chasing after me. But I have a lot to do and I don’t have time for all that nonsense at my age.” My life belongs to God. How He chooses to use my time here on earth is fine with me.

    Now I have adopted a child. Can you imagine the comments for CHOOSING to be a single parent? I still have not recovered…

    On a lighter note, when I read Anita’s post about she and her husband being single twice in their lives, I caught myself wondering how is it that they can marry twice and I can’t even get married once. It’s going to take a lot of work to change my own thinking!

    Reply

  33. Posted by Dave on January 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    It seems that so many writing in are feeling hurt because they don’t fit their churches’ “improper” model of Christian family. I personally find this unfamiliar, but I suggest that perhaps you are in the wrong churches if they are teaching that the “cult of the family” is the proper way to fulfill the Christian calling.

    Christianity is not about being married or single; being a parent or barren; etc.
    It is about being submissive to God and His Word in ALL that we do – that is: NOT trying to run our own life, but letting Him shape and direct it for us by His Word.

    Bottom line as we see it is: With God’s help we submit to His Word and whatever gives Christ ALL the glory is the right decision.

    We are to be lights in the world, but remembering that we have no light of our own, we are a reflection of God’s light only!
    Our attitude (more than our actions) is what determines how that reflection looks to others.

    So no one should be able to make you feel bad about where you are now – but we should feel repentant about how we got there IF it was by our OWN decisions to follow society and “self-help” books to shape our own lives instead of yielding to God’s Word.

    Most (NOT all) of the comments on this and other posts seem to have a scent of worldliness that likely got the poster to where they are.

    I’m saying this in love.
    … and I’m putting on my helmet now.

    Reply

  34. Posted by April G. on January 28, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Dave,

    Could you please explain how worldliness is responsible for a Christian woman staying unmarried or my nephew’s death and sister’s infertility?

    Reply

  35. dave, you are absolutely right: worldliness got me to where i am. i actually tried to listen to what the worldly church was telling me was the right way to be a mom. as a woman, i am inundated with the worldliness (male-driven) of how my body should look, what kind of mom i should be, what kind of wife i should be, what kind of woman i should be.

    and the world corrupts everyone; no one is above that. you are right: in a perfect world, we would all cling to Jesus’ robes and never turn our eyes astray.

    and i also think it’s flippant of you to say “i suggest that perhaps you are in the wrong churches…” without first stopping to think that it might not be so easy to find a church that doesn’t preach this cult of the family stuff at us.

    my solution: stop going. but i’m guessing you wouldn’t agree with that either.

    hope your helmet was strong enough for that one!

    Reply

  36. Posted by April's Sister on January 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Dave, through the course of my grief, there have been a lot of reasons that have floated through my head to help me understand the situation that I’m now in.
    I have wondered if maybe this was God’s way of telling me I didn’t deserve one of his children, or maybe I did something terrible that I’m being punished for. It even occured to me that maybe I am bearing this burden so that someone else doesn’t have to.
    However, wordliness is one I hadn’t thought of before. So I guess I should sit down and contemplate what worldly thing has brought me to this place and time.
    Funny, I had always thought that worldliness was about being selfish (i.e. marrying out of lust or greed instead of staying pure and waiting for the man God meant you to have). Thanks for enlightening me.

    Reply

  37. Posted by Dave on January 28, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    @April: I didn’t think it needed explaining how worldliness(born of selfishness) is responsible for our troubles. It is cited throughout scripture.

    @kristi: my helmet is fine – thanks for your concern.
    No – don’t stop going…. But don’t stop LOOKING either!
    Orthodox churches are few and far between, but they are out there. Look for one that holds Scripture more inportant than its property or membership.

    @April’s Sis: “maybe I am bearing this burden so that someone else doesn’t have to.”
    is one reason I had not thought of when God took our child a few years ago.

    Thank you for that thought – I find new comfort in that.
    It pictures to me our Gracious God using us to spare someone else from great heartache and despair, and strengthening us to witness to others of our hope and joy and peace in His Grace even through such a tragedy.

    I do believe that that trial was related to our worldly thinking in that it compelled us to evaluate our priorities and attitudes and renew our trust in God’s providence.

    Reply

  38. Posted by April G. on January 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a man preach. He included in his sermon a story about his wife. She had been driving down the freeway with their children in their van. Another driver was driving erratically near them, cut her off, and moved into the other lane. Apparently, there was physically not enough room for the eratic driver to do this, but somehow there was no accident. In the moment of panic, the mother yelled, “Jesus!” The preacher continued in his sermon to link this interjection with the safety of his wife and children on the freeway. He said if his wife had not yelled, “Jesus,” or if she had said something profane, there would have been a terrible accident. Now, this sermon was to children attending chapel at a Christian school. So, I understand the need to simplify things and use stories to explain truth. But, the illustration and implications have bothering me ever since. It is the same assumption Dave just made in his “worldly” comment, and I think it is rather prevalent in the church. It is the assumption that if we say the right things and live righteous lives, nothing bad will happen to us and everything will work out the way we want it to. If something bad does happen, it is because we made some kind of mistake or needed correction.

    First of all, I don’t think we really have that much power. God was going to protect that woman and her children (or not) regardless of what she said in a moment of panic. It is a rather cruel view of God to think he would cause an accident because of a word someone did or did not say in a particular moment. I just don’t believe I serve a God like that.

    Now, we do live in a fallen world and “worldliness” is responsible for some of the pain and suffering we go through in life. But, as much as we would like to, we cannot know why all things happen. It would be much easier if we could follow a formula and fit God into a box. But, we can’t. God is too big for a box, and formulas for success in life don’t always work. (We can look to some heroes in the faith to see that clearly.)

    There are quite a few problems in my opinion with giving a trite answer like “worldliness” for the pain we encounter. Not the least of which is that we limit God and pretend to know why he does things. He is bigger than us, bigger than the words we say, bigger than our sin, and bigger than our plans. Often he does things we cannot ever understand and were not meant to. I think it is more appropriate in these times to offer out a gracious and merciful hand to the hurting around us and simply grieve with them.

    Reply

  39. Posted by Not a mom on January 28, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Worldliness? For praying for a partner to serve Jesus with? For trying to ignore the ache when you hear a baby cry because there’s a very real clock that I believe God put there? For broaching an honest church subject that no one wants to talk about?

    No. I don’t think it’s worldliness. Suffering, perhaps. Brokenness. And mystery.

    Reply

  40. Posted by Not a mom on January 28, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    And to April G: Well said.

    And to Melissa: I understand exactly what you’re talking about. When I talk about being single and older than 35, sometimes people look like they want to cover their ears (or the ears of their young daughters) and pretend that singleness doesn’t “happen” to good Christian girls. But I’m also grateful for the women in my life who do understand. I’m blessed beyond measure for their listening ears.

    Thanks for posting.

    Reply

  41. Posted by Dave on January 28, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    April.
    I wasn’t trying to be trite – I was trying to stay brief.

    First, to your comment:
    “It is the same assumption Dave just made in his “worldly” comment, and I think it is rather prevalent in the church. It is the assumption that if we say the right things and live righteous lives, nothing bad will happen to us and everything will work out the way we want it to. If something bad does happen, it is because we made some kind of mistake or needed correction.”

    I have NO such assumptions (though we all do need constant correction).
    Even our Lord Jesus Christ had troubles and pain in His earthly lifetime yet He lived perfectly and without sin.

    Since sin IS the cause of all trouble, we must conclude that the trials we experience are not necessarily direct results of our own sins -we affect each other and God uses all things and all those around us to test us, refine us, and bring us into closer communion with Him.

    We do not consider the loss of our child a “punishment” for something we did. It was God’s decision for His reasons and someday, when we meet our baby in heaven, God will reveal all the answers to us.

    What we are here for is to allow Him to use these things for our good.
    We can speculate that perhaps He was reminding us that children and parenthood is not to be honored so highly that we forget to keep Him first – or maybe not.
    Perhaps he was reminding us not to take childbearing for granted – or maybe not.
    Whatever His reasons, we are SURE that all in our family ARE closer to Him than before because of it,
    and we can now witness to others in their grief because we can relate and sympathize with them.

    You’ll probably see some problem with that too.

    Reply

  42. Dave, I think you’re really off-base here with this worldliness thing. We’re talking about women who are desperately seeking answers to their prayers–the same kind of prayers you told them to pray by the way in your previous posts about asking God for the blessing of many children. These are women who find themselves left out of the life of the church either because they aren’t married, don’t have children, or aren’t parenting the way someone thinks they should. You have cast tremendous judgement on the women who have shared their hearts on this blog about the challenges of raising children.

    Dave, whether you mean to or not, you have been advocating for the cult of the family in your suggestion that a woman’s primary focus ought to be her family. You have yet to express any understanding or compassion for the real struggles that we are talking about here. And that’s your calling as our brother in Christ–not to add to our burden with thoughtless words and judgments about women you don’t know, but to pray for us, to honor us, and to encourage us to keep seeking God even when that means our lives will look different from yours.

    Finally, I can guarantee that the readers of this blog will share your grief along with the grief we feel of other parents who have lost children. And none of us will attempt to give you some explanation as to why that happened because that is not our place. Our place as your sisters is to “mourn with those who mourn.”

    Reply

  43. Posted by April G. on January 28, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Dave,

    First let me say that I sympathize with you in the loss of your child. I believe there is no greater loss on this earth. My problem with your initial post was that there did not seem to be much sympathy there. There was only an easy answer for the suffering of others who had chosen to be vulnerable and honest. You just said your loss has helped you sympathize with others. I challenge you to extend that sympathy to the women who shared their stories here as well.

    Secondly, I am going to have to disagree with you on your statement, “sin IS the cause of all trouble.” Often righteousness is the cause of trouble. We have only to look to Job, Stephen, or Jesus for that one. And before you start blaming man for putting him on that cross, keep in mind that it was the Father’s plan to place him there before time began.

    Reply

  44. Posted by Not a mom on January 28, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Thank you, Carla. Well said. Thank you.

    And for an entirely different perspective on how the cult of family alienates single MEN in the church, check out this week’s column on CT.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/singles/newsletter/

    Reply

  45. Posted by Melissa on January 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Brother Dave,

    I think we go to the same church. How you respond to the issues discussed here is identical to how my dear brothers and sisters in Christ would have responded. I can tell you read, know, and value the Word of God. I can hear that you want to glorify God in all that you do, delight in Him every moment of every day, and want everyone to know of and experience His greatness. Beautiful.

    But…

    Just because a church teaches the truth and people say the right words, it doesn’t mean that they are immune to “the cult of the family.” What is in our hearts is often harder to reach. And as you know, we speak and act from our heart, not our head. Like it or not, we say and do things that hurt others. And we are not impervious to the things others say and do. Being together is messy— regardless of how excellent the theology or teaching. We are not perfect yet and there are no perfect churches. We are daily “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

    It is hard to recognize an unhealthy emphasis in our church when we share the predominate attitudes and behaviors that characterize the church. Discussions like this help us become more aware of what others are experiencing and take a closer look at what is going on around us that we may not have seen before. Then we can respond in love and encourage, rather than discourage, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    You might say…
    • I am hurt
    • I go to the wrong church
    • I lack submission to His Word and will
    • I shouldn’t let others make me feel bad
    • I need to repent of pride and self love
    • I need to yield to God’s Word
    • I am worldly
    • I am where I am today because of worldliness

    …and you would be right on all accounts EXCEPT the last. I am where I am today because of the grace of God.

    Reply

  46. Posted by Dave on January 29, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Carla,
    I realize I am just one dude invading girl-land here, but am I not allowed share my heart also?
    It is mean of you to say that I “cast tremendous judgement” and “have yet to express any understanding or compassion for the real struggles”, etc.
    Strengthening each other does not necessarily mean that we must employ only soft words and sympathy. Don’t forget that we are also to admonish one another in love. (You seem to have no problem doing that toward me.)
    We all know, especially as Christians, that the truth is not always pleasant, and sometimes we must feel worse before we can feel better. I have been there many times and will no doubt be again.
    I present my view/opinion just as you all present yours.
    I have not threatened or attempted to force anyone to agreed with anything I have said.
    I have not condemned any of you or accused any of you of idolatry, etc.

    You may not realize this, but the “church at large” does not cater to large families either.
    We are left out and shunned just as much as singles are.
    We are referred to by many as freaks, over-breeders, tempting God, irresponsibly procreative, etc.
    Many may admit that God has blessed us greatly, but do you truly believe that many children are a blessing?
    If you really truly do, bless you – and pray accordingly.
    On the other hand, it is despicable that many so-called “Christians” have told us “your crazy!” or “glad it’s you and not me!” or other such comments.

    If this is just a sympathy site for motherhood issues, then how about some sympathy for my poor wife getting heckled in public for having a trail of “ducklings” behind her wherever she goes – and sympathy that society and government cater to single people and “small” families (2-4 kids) while those of us who have more children are hampered by almost every law that comes along.
    BUT I am not looking for sympathy, approval, or affirmation, nor do I need to be “empowered” by others – God in His Word takes care of all that.

    Strengthening and edification in God’s Word – Yes, give me that – even if it may hurt a little.

    BTW, I DO sympathize with singles that yearn for families! Our older children very much do, but fear they will never marry for lack of conservative like-minded suitors – and pledging to remain totally pure and preferring serious courting rather than casual dating really narrows the field for a person to find a lifelong partner to marry.

    2Mellissa:
    I almost agree with that list:
    But for me a few changes:
    • I am hurt
    • [Even though I think I go to the right church]
    • I lack submission to God’s Word and will
    • I shouldn’t let others make me feel bad
    • I need to repent of pride and self love [and my stubborn, perpetual lack of trust]
    • I need to yield to God’s Word
    • I am [still too] worldly
    • I am where I am [trouble-wise] today because of worldliness.
    I am [no worse off] today because of the grace of God, [but God would certainly have led me much closer to Him if I had not been so worldly.]

    Reply

  47. Dave,
    I think there are two problems here:

    1) Admonishment has a place. But that place is not when someone is bringing their pain and sorrow and grief into the light for perhaps the first time. We are to offer comfort and care to each other in times of need, times of pain. The women who have shared their hearts here are doing so with great fear and trembling, telling of experiences that have left them bruise and bleeding. They have done so because this feels like a safe place. They have more than enough admonishment in their lives.

    2) Admonishment is a privilege we earn in the course of a friendship. If someone I know and trust, who I know loves me and knows my journey, believes I am doing something I shouldn’t be or living in way that is pulling me away from God, then by all means they should call me out and offer to walk with me to a place of healing. But I don’t believe you know any of these women. You know five paragraphs of their lives. That isn’t enough to make a determination about their faith, their character, their failings, their flaws.

    Reply

  48. Posted by Dave on January 29, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Sorry Carla, and thank you for your 2 point admonition. You must consider yourself my friend even though you only know of a few paragraphs about my life. That is fine and good.
    By posting I open my heart freely to critisism from all of you, do I not?

    I guess we don’t share the same definition of “admonishment”.
    It is not a scolding and it is not vindictive or with malice.
    It is to console, comfort, and strengthen through Scriptural truth.
    I WANT your Christian perspective on my character, failings, and flaws else I would not post, right?

    I believe that the whole point of any “Christian” blog is to assume that we are all friends as brothers and sisters in Christ and as such, whatever we say is meant in Christian love and should be taken as such.
    If I only want to hear soft words, then no blog is a safe place to pour out my heart. In Scripture and in Christ I find the strength to patiently ponder whatever words are directed toward me.

    Do you not believe God has power to strengthen us through the words we hear from other Christians even if they don’t seem as consoling as we would like?

    Again, I meant no harm and I am sorry for whoever took it as such.

    Reply

  49. Posted by April's Sister on January 29, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Dave,
    I have been trying to hold my tongue through the last several posts. But I feel compelled to speak my peace.
    First, I believe you when you say you mean no harm. I stand by my belief that everyone is entitled to their opinions regardless of who does or does not agree.
    But when your opinion begins to feel less like an opinion and more like condescension, it can easily be misconstrued as a personal attack.
    And while you may have meant well, I honestly felt no comfort or consolation in being told that the death of my child was a result of some bit of worldliness for which the price was incomparable grief.
    I think the point of this discussion was to encourage the sharing of experiences that have lead us to feel that our current familial situations were less than ideal in the eyes of the church. And you, as well, have expressed feeling the same.
    But at this point is seems more like we are playing offense/defense in the red zone. So Dave, please refrain from adding anymore criticism, regardless of how constructive you may feel it is.
    I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say your posts are welcomed, but there need not be any criticism here.
    God Bless

    Reply

  50. Posted by Dave on January 30, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Ok. I understand.
    Conversation is welcome only when it is something we want to hear.
    That rules out much of Scripture, but Oh well.

    Hope you all enjoy your revolution.

    Reply

  51. hey, awesome post. It is really late and I don’t want to sound like I need the Google typing addition thing, so I won’t gush a lot – I blogged this at my site, so if you would, tell me what you think.

    Reply

  52. I meant I blogged about this. See, its late. I should have used the Google thing.

    Reply

  53. Dave, I appreciate your rabble-rousing personality. I am a fan generally of people who take “extreme” positions for the sake of conversation—which is what I suspect you are up to. I recognize it because I do the same thing.

    But it gets tiring. And isn’t even effective technique of persuasion. So it’s not that we only welcome conversation we want to hear. But sometimes we don’t need to “hear” anything. Sometimes we just need someone to shut up—maybe draw a bit in the sand—or give some comfort or just listen.

    A godly life and following Jesus is not about constant instruction and admonition. It’s about freedom and—praise God for this!—grace.

    Randomly (or maybe not) I read Psalm 88 this morning. It’s so sad and raw and honest and wonderfully relatable. You’ll notice Psalm 89 isn’t God kicking David when he’s down. I think God just listened, and maybe gave him a boost onto that Rock David always seems to be on. I think that’s why after the heartbreaking devastation of 88, you get “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever…..” in 89. Just a thought.

    Reply

  54. Posted by karin on January 30, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I really hope the turn in this conversation hasn’t scared anyone off. I have been a little afraid of posting my thoughts, not because I can’t handle the responses or only want to hear the feel good answer, but because I’m just a tired mom looking for a place to connect. I, like most of us, are taking each day’s challenges as they come and when I actually sit down in the few minutes I can to get on the internet I don’t want to hear admonishment or criticism (believe me, I’ve got a good husband and a handful of great friends who have that kind of open door into my life). I just want to connect and I get so much from hearing the stories, struggles and joys of other women like me. I believe everyone here has the right motive, but can we just walk together for a little while and understand each other more than correct each other? I have shared this blog with a lot of other mom-friends and I am so hopeful about the conversations ahead. Thanks for all of your honesty and vulnerability women!

    Reply

  55. i’m glad you commented, karin, because i have been thinking about this very thing. i shared the link to this blog on my own blog, and i also sent the link to the previous post to a friend of mine who has had infertility struggles for 5 years. i thought the post itself had really encouraging things to say to her, especially related to us as women finding our worth in God, not in cultural mandates, whatever those may be.

    in the previous post, i didn’t read the comments, but unfortunately, when i sent her the link, she DID read the comments, and she said that although she really liked the post and what it had to say, some of the things people were saying in response were “scary” (her words).

    i have been paying attention to these comments only because i knew karin had commented and she’s one of my closest friends. but i have had much stress over reading a lot of the back and forth here, and, to reemphasize what karin said, i would love to see the comments take a new direction…

    Reply

  56. Posted by not a mom on January 30, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Kristi: I HOPE this hasn’t scared anyone off. Because I think that some of these comments have been vulnerable and profound. I am honored to have read some of these stories. There is much in this broken world that we don’t understand. For those of you who have lost children or have struggled with infertility, my heart goes out to you in a giant way.

    And I’ll state again that I’m Carla’s original anonymous e-mailer. I’m single with no kids. And that wasn’t my plan.

    The Internet, of course, is full of strong opinions and personalities and conversations that veer into places we’d rather not go.

    But even if some of the postings on this blog (and plenty of others) turn extreme, they represent ideas and attitudes that are out there in church and culture.

    As a single woman, I’ve had people (well-meaning people, I should add) say harmful things to my face that are far worse than a comment on a blog. They didn’t mean it. That sometimes happens when we don’t understand other people’s stories.

    And despite the comment about women looking for sympathy, I don’t see that at all here. And I’m not a mom and I just stumbled here and was intrigued by the discussion. I’m not looking for sympathy either. Understanding, yes.

    I see this as people being honest about trying to connect — and to be a little revolutionary in their thinking.

    And if a blog becomes a safe place for people to share a few paragraphs of their stories, I think that’s a beautiful thing.

    Reply

  57. Posted by Erin on February 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I am jumping back to earlier post/comments to throw out the challenge to reconsider this term “the church” when we talk about issues within our body (of believers). WE are the church, you, me, and all the rest of us dysfunctional, forgiven sinners. To say “the church” has treated me this way, or “the church” has held this opinion – is in essence to say that WE have. Which, if that is what you mean, then fine, but the impression I get from a lot of the comments is more along the lines of some external entity doing something to an individual – which can lead quickly and easily down the slippery slope of resenting or blaming the rest of the body to which we all belong.

    If it is true (and I believe it is) that “the church” has done heinous things to its members then the question to ask ourselves is “how can I, as a member of that body change things?” To point a finger at “the church” might feel good for a moment and be well deserved. But to stay in that place robs us of reconciliation and forgiveness with this entity to which we are intrinsically and eternally linked.

    I have received countless well-intended (I assume) comments from good, God-fearing Christians that have hurt – and not because it is in the name of convicting sin or rebuke or whatever, but comments that were just plain hurtful (mostly regarding my infertility and the notion that we are in control of conception). For every comment I have received though, I bet I have doled out just as many – without even realizing it. Which is exactly my point. I hold to the hope that MOST churches and Christians do not look to intentionally hurt their members in the ways this post suggests. I would argue they don’t intentionally mean to make it sound like a rule that family comes before God, or you must have a big family, or stay celibate, or become a missionary, or whatever. As those being hurt, we must remember this fact, or else, I agree with a comment from above – stop going to church! People say and do stupid stuff. Even Christian people. Even groups of Christian people. The problem comes when we are unable, as parts of the same body, to bring these errors/misconceptions to light and lovingly explore ways to become more aware of the power of our words and actions. We, as those hurt, can choose to stay hurt and continue pointing the finger, or we can raise a hand and volunteer to be part of the solution. If you don’t like that your church doesn’t offer enough for singles (or large families, or whatever) then step up and lead something. If your pastor preaches on something that you find theologically errant, discuss it with him or her. We must be a community of openness, and honesty – not just out here in ciber space where it is extremely safe to say whatever we want, but in the context of our own communities of believers, where we live, eat and sleep this thing called “Christianity.”

    For my part, as one who has been wounded – I have had to develop some thick skin. When I feel slighted or hurt by other believers, the first question in my head always needs to be “do I believe they really meant to hurt me?” Almost ALL of the time, my answer is, “Of course not!” Which allows me to let it go, become less sensitive, and when/if the opportunity presents itself shed light on how comments and actions can be misconstrued in hurtful ways.

    As one who has no doubt been involved in doing some wounding of my own – I need to pray to receive the heart of God and nine times out of ten, simply keep my mouth shut. Lest you think I contradict myself from a few lines before about honesty and openness, I am talking about two completely different situations – one in which I need to be brave to point out hurtful actions and the other where I inadvertently produce the hurtful action.)

    I have appreciated the honesty of all the comments here. I hope I don’t sound lacking in compassion. Truly, I speak as one who has my own scars from the horrendous things “the church” has done – but I refuse to play victim to a crime I so often commit myself and to blame a body of which I am a part. I just wanted to encourage all of us to take on the challenge of solving these issues in addition to dialoging about them.

    -with much love –
    Erin

    Reply

  58. Posted by Dave on February 1, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Well said Erin

    Reply

  59. Posted by Robyn on February 2, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I can completely understand how someone would be scared off by this conversation.

    My perception of The Mommy Revolution is that it is a “place” where mothers (and fathers) are valued regardless of whether or not they fit into someone else’s cookie cutter box of parenting. I have often struggled with the fact that I do not typify the supposed “right way” to be a woman–to be a Christian woman. I have fought against the natural talents and abilities God has given me to lead, to teach, to be bold. I tried to fit into the “timid, quiet Christian girl” box for far too long, accepting that people in the church thought me inferior and lacking because of my femaleness. Not anymore. It is wrong–and an irresponsible use of my talents–to cease to be and do what God created for me to be and do.

    When I became a mother, all that identity crisis resurfaced, because I wasn’t practicing motherhood the way that someone else thought I “should.” It was tough. Until I decided that it didn’t matter what anyone thought. It only mattered that my husband and I sought to raise our daughter to love and honor God, and that we sought his direction in how we did that. It only matters what GOD thinks. I rejected the molds that others tried to pour me into. I prayed. And I resolved to love my daughter, and fulfill my responsibilities as a parent without losing sight of the other missions to which God has called me. When all is said and done, it is my creator I will face. I will make mistakes. Everyone does. But they will not necessarily be the ones that others like to throw in my face. I will regret some choices. Everyone does. But I will learn from them, grow from them, and continue to strive to be the mother, and the PERSON, that God has called me to be.

    I hope and pray that other moms, women, dads, men, brothers & sisters find The Mommy Revolution and extend to one another the grace and acceptance I believe we all deserve.

    Reply

  60. Posted by Jennifer on February 18, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Whew. That was intense. I wonder if there was was some strong male/female miscommunication here…. and, theorizing pain and frustration mostly feels like invalidation and insensitivity to those wounded.

    CS Lewis wrote “A Grief Observed” only after he lived in it for a while, maybe even let himself swim in it for a while. One has to be emotionally ready for that kind of communication. Just a theory. Probably an unnecessary one. I am procrastinating grading essays.

    Reply

  61. Posted by Jason on November 16, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I think you view life through a modernistic paradigm which is contrary to biblical thought. You say, “Christian women are taught that motherhood will someone complete us, that in motherhood we will find the culmination of all our hopes and dreams. We hear sermons and read books and go to conferences about how what we do as parents will shape our children more than anything else in their lives. One result of that is that the church encourages us to take parenting seriously. And we applaud that message.
    But the other result is that women come to believe that our ultimate worth comes from motherhood, not from our relationship with God. We get the impression–and you only have to read the comments from the last week to see how deeply impressed upon us this is–that our real contribution to the world is to raise children.
    The problem is that churches have elevated the family to a position that is out of synch with the gospel. We have been led to believe that the family is more important than the broader community, that protecting our children from the secular culture is more important than bringing God’s love into that culture. And we have been led to believe that every ounce of thought or energy or time we put in to anything other than our families is a sign that our priorities are out of whack.”
    First, the vocation of motherhood has nothing to do with fulfilling all your hopes and dreams. Christ’s example involves the denial of one’s self in order to serve others, not fulfilling one’s hopes and dreams. Modernism has caused man to cut his life into pieces and to view his or her relationship to the world as segmented and particular. Thus the false idea that one’s worth comes from either motherhood or God. A traditional and healthier view would see these relationships as integral to one another. Motherhood is a divine calling. It is one way God relates to women. One’s relationship to God is through his/her calling as a mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother, employer, employee, subject, ruler, etc. To bifurcate one’s vocation from their relationship to God is to leave one empty in their relationship to God which forces them to invent a relationship through non-biblical methods.
    Second, the family is how we reach the broader community because our family members are part of our community and the ones we have the most immediate and deepest impact on. I help prevent hunger by feeding my family, homelessness by housing them, lawlessness by discipline. I also act in accordance with the great commission by raising them in the knowledge of the Lord. Your children are your first mission work.
    Finally, family is the most basic unit of any other expression of community whether it is the church, the nation, the neighborhood, etc. Of course it should be of primary importance. The corruption and degradation of family is the fall of humanity as a whole.
    God bless.

    Reply

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