About 2 years ago, I read a very popular book. It came highly recommended by several women, so, I picked it up to see what all of the fuss was about. I was not surprised to find that I didn’t like it. In fact, on several occasions, it so infuriated me that I wanted to throw it out a window. But, I am in the minority. It is apparent that this so-called “Christian” self-help genre (now, if that isn’t a contradiction in terms!) is what women today want to hear.
Stacy McDonald, co-author of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, perfectly describes the driving mentality behind the popularity of that book, and the many others like it,
“False teachers abound who know exactly what women want to hear. Since many of these teachers are women, they know our fears; they know how we fail; they relate to our frustrations; they’re acquainted with our temptations; and they are fully aware of what we, in our flesh, don’t want to do – repent.” (pg. 17)
She goes on to say,
“False preachers, speakers, teachers, and bloggers are ready to tickle our ears under the guise of ‘freeing’ and ‘encouraging’ us. Unfortunately, the only thing we find ourselves encouraged to do is sin all the more, and the only thing we are truly free of is the truth.” (pg. 19)
All that these books do is encourage and legitimize the whiney, me-centered, looking out for number one, entitlement mentality of today’s Christian women. Sadly, I hear it most often from those within my own age group and stage of life – young moms, or moms of young children. They complain that the responsibilities, the demands, and the stresses of everyday life – of being a wife and mommy – have become too much…
While they can find time to go to the gym on a regular basis, they have difficulty finding time in their daily routine for God’s Word. They care passionately about the latest diet, staying thin, and looking good, yet they pay very little attention to their spiritual diet. They devote hours to a particular television program, hobby, or spa treatments in an effort to relax, get away, and take care of me, but become overwhelmed and defensive at suggestion that perhaps more time and energy should be devoted to spiritual pursuits (daily, meditative Bible reading and regular in depth study).
Please understand, I am not suggesting foregoing physical activity, a healthy diet, or adequate rest! We are to take care of our physical bodies. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19) As children of God, our bodies do not belong to us. Therefore, we must be good stewards of what we have been given – our health, our time, and our energy. We can do this by ensuring that we are receiving proper nutrition, rest, and exercise.
If we consistently make poor dietary choices, consume insufficient amounts, or if we constantly over-indulge, we will likely end up over- or under-weight. Either extreme is unhealthy, and can sap our strength and energy, rendering us lethargic, lazy, and incapable of fulfilling the roles and responsibilities that God has given us. How is that glorifying to God?
CJ Mahaney points out that rest should lead us to humility, as it is a reminder of our utter dependence on God. Yet, so many of us act as though this is expendable, as though we can do without sufficient sleep each night. This is an area that I have always struggled with. I am, and always have been, a night owl…ask my mother! According to her, I was this way from the womb! I do tend to “come alive” after 10 p.m. And, sometimes, I do think that I am more productive in the wee hours of the night. That being said, even I agree with Martha Peace when she says,
“I have heard of women who pride themselves on being ‘night people.’ That means that they have trouble getting up in the mornings because they come alive at night. They may stay up till all hours reading, watching television, or pursuing some sort of interest. The next morning they are too tired to get up and care for their family….These women are not ‘night people.’ They are lazy and selfish. Who would not rather stay up late to do whatever they please and sleep late the next day?” (Becoming a Titus 2 Woman, pgs. 116-117, emphasis mine)
Proper rest is essential to being available–both mentally and physically–to serve our families. How does it glorify God to spend our evenings selfishly pursuing our own interests, and then lazily neglecting those of others?
The first part of 1 Timothy 4:8 tells us that “bodily training is of some value.” Exercise, staying in shape, is profitable. It can help us to maintain our health, our energy, and enable us to focus and accomplish certain tasks. But, along with verse 7, the second part of 1 Timothy 4:8 prevents us from placing excessive attention on our physical body. “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in everyway, as it holds promise for the present life as and also for the life to come.”
Yes, we do need to take care of our physical body. However, contrary to the opinion of many of today’s popular authors, we are never commanded, or even encouraged (in Scripture) to take care of ourselves in a selfish sense – to serve ourselves. Our aim in taking care of our physical needs should be physical and mental preparation for service to God and others.
We must learn to discern the difference between needs and wants. Philippians 2:3-4 is clear when it tells us “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
But, too often, instead of actively pursuing and obeying God’s commands to die to self (Matt. 10:39), and to serve Him by serving others (Phil. 2:3-4), we have fallen prey to the claims of “Christian” authors and speakers who encourage us to actively pursue and make time for what we want to do (not need…want), and what makes us feel good. Women are encouraged to look out for our own interests, and to pamper and serve ourselves. The old saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” has become the mantra under which all too many “Christian” families operate.
But, as wives and moms, we must realize that we are to take care of ourselves for the express purpose of obeying God’s command to serve, and to give of ourselves sacrificially. Even when I am tired. Even when I don’t feel well. Even when I plain don’t wanna.
Now, there is nothing wrong with getting away, relaxing and enjoying oneself (perhaps through the kindness or generosity of a friend or husband?), as long as our God-ordained priorities and responsibilities are not shirked in the process.
But, how can we possibly expect to do this with a right attitude? It is hard. In our own strength, it is downright impossible.
Luke 10:38-42 tells the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus and his disciples had come to visit, and while Martha busied herself preparing food, and caring for their guests, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, and listened to His teaching. Martha became frustrated, and demanded that Jesus instruct Mary to help her. But, Jesus corrected Martha by saying (in verses 41 and 42) “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Like many women, I often identify with Martha in this story. I become worried, anxious, and overwhelmed by all the things that I need to do each day. I forget that “one thing is necessary.” And, it could be very easy to begin feeling sorry for myself, and looking for a way out. Some days, I want to listen to those “Christian self-help” speakers, authors, or bloggers who will “encourage” me to take care of myself. But, in those moments, I don’t need my ears tickled. I need to hear that “one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42)
If we are to pursue and obey God’s commands, we must know what they are. Yes, there are myriad other tasks clamoring for our attention every moment. But, even in the midst of the chaos of housekeeping and child-training, we must daily sit at the feet of the Lord, be refreshed by His teaching. The Truth of God’s Word is the only way that we will truly be freed to joyfully fulfill our roles as wife and mommy – demands, pressures, joys, and blessings included.