Almost every week, when we’re walking…
My friend and I eventually end up touching on the topic of family as an idol.
Meaning–when family and all that goes with it (kiddos, parenting, marriage, homemaking, education, traditions, cooking, recipes) hold a place in our lives that is out of balance.
Where too much weight is placed on all those things.
Where we take something good and use it to crowd out the worship that only God deserves.
And then today I read this article– Worshipping at the Altar of Family.
“This stuff of many women’s fantasies includes an adoring, faithful spouse; attractive, obedient kids; people who depend on you, love you, give you a reason to get out of bed, regularly stand up and sing your praises. And it is idolatry, just like money, power, and fame. It’s the thing that causes the mom in your women’s Bible study to post the 67th picture of her daughter’s birthday party on Facebook. It’s the reason for the magazine-quality family pictures all over the house. It’s why the mother-of-the-bride obsesses about her daughter’s wedding and treats it like a part-time job. It’s (at least in part) why Christmas letters get sent and then end up making their recipients feel mad and competitive.”
In part, this hits home and I’m convicted. There is a lot of truth in this article and it’s worth carefully considering, with a heart to let God shine light on areas of blindness that need to be exposed.
(I write this during Lydi’s nap time after just posting 20-something-fun-photos to Facebook of our trip to an amusement park yesterday).
But I also feel this article could be dangerous.
It invites us to guess at motives.
When our eyes and hearts really need to look to God and ask–
What is it that you have for me?
What do you want for our family?
And in a era where a heart-for-home is vastly devalued, I guess I’m just wrestling with the author’s words.
The comment-responses following the article were mostly in wholehearted agreement of the post.
And I understand why–
We need to constantly evaluate if our family has become an idol.
But on the flip-side, there is a tendency in our society (and even within the church) to value time spent on everything BUT the family.
For example, if Christ-followers plan an outreach or service project or make a meal or give time to a ministry or person outside of the family…the sacrifice is generally accepted as honoring to God.
And is valued by others (which I know is not the goal). But it’s just the reality.
While time creating memories and traditions and beauty in the home is often overlooked as a meaningless pursuit, or even worse, as an attempt to uphold false pretenses.
Now mind you…
I’m all about a willingness to share in honesty my failures (check out our most read blog posts).
And just this morning I was cleaning hot pink nail polish out of the carpet and you could say that my countenance was less-than-cheerful.
But–I also think we can err on the side of looking down on those who put time and effort into pursuing a pleasant family aroma.
And no–I didn’t get a Christmas card or letter out last year.
But–I love the ones I did receive.
Especially from families who use their lives and interests and children and gifts and ministries to point back to Christ.
When we were expecting our first child, I read Noel Piper’s book–
Treasuring God in our Traditions.
It opened a beautiful window for me–
To see how God-centered traditions and heirlooms and family patterns and yes, even decorating can (and should) be valued.
I still mentally debate myself, trying to find the balance of pouring myself into our family and what God wants for this stage of our lives.
Trying to find a balance between serving and being missional-reaching-out-to-others without it becoming a detriment to our family.
I struggle with missionary biographies where the cost of the missionary’s ministry is their family’s care-taking or relationship with the Lord.
Or with biblical examples, like the one shared in this excellent article, Embracing the Biblical Tension Between Family and Ministry–
“Eli in the book of 1 Samuel is a sobering illustration. By failing to honor God in the discipline of his sons, Eli lost both his sons and his ministry.”
Or when is the cost to our family acceptable and what God has planned?
Our natural tendency as sinful people is self-preservation and security…while God often asks us to take risks and lay down our needs for the sake of others.
Still, there is the reality of how much time and energy and emotion and investment a child, marriage, family really needs to flourish (and only so much time and energy that a mama has to give).
I look back on our kiddos’ early years and honestly wish I’d done less serving outside of our home (we’ve been pretty involved at our church and I’m a “yes-we-can” sorta person). We pulled back about a year ago (probably in ways that only we noticed). We’re still pretty involved, but I think the move to invest a bit more in our children and marriage was healthy.
Because as Sarah Mae shares in this painfully beautiful post:
“I haven’t been as intentional with them as is best for their souls, their minds, their persons. I’ve been too busy. Too burdened, too excited about opportunities. How easy to get sidetracked, to say ‘yes’.”
I just want to keep–
A heart willing to listen to His nudging, but also to guard against missing our primary “mission field” which is our family (especially while our children are still at home). And I want to love and value our family in a way that brings Him glory.
And those are the only conclusions I’ve come to–
That the tension is a good thing.
And that God has different plans for different families.
And that wherever we invest our lives, we can do it for His glory.
And that the main thing is to hold it all loosely, in a open palm, with a willingess to say to Him–
“Here I am! Send me.” ~Isaiah 6:8
“I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.” ~Luke 1:38
I’m trying to–
Live closer to Him.
Listen for His whisper.
Not step out unless the nudge to serve is truly from Him.
Remember that His delight and approval is my only true aim.
Rest in… if it’s led by Him, I can trust Him.
Clearly I’m still processing…
But wrestling with that tension is a good place to be.
Because it keeps me coming back to Him.
Would love to hear your thoughts…
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