Content taken from Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman, ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org. You can buy it online here.
The missional vision of motherhood helps correct our nearsighted mothering. It propels us to bank on the cruciform victory of Jesus and look forward to receiving future grace because of what he did.
That sounds like a wonderfully lofty idea of religious hopeful- ness, doesn’t it? But the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13)—is a hope more certain than your newborn taking her nap this afternoon, more reliable than your husband coming home on time, and more sturdy than your commitment to pray for your unbelieving friend. Christ’s return is the future of this present age, which is passing away. His second advent will mark the commencement of the fullness of the new creation. You can bank on it. No, you must bank on it. You must look forward to it. You must hang onto that blessed hope. You will not be disappointed. We can’t say so much for our other hopes, now, can we?
We like to encourage ourselves and each other with short-term encouragements such as, “Just hang in there; I promise you’ll feel stronger in the second trimester.” Or, “Once we get this or get rid of that, life in our home will be easier.” Or, “After the kids reach a certain age, our family life will be more enjoyable.” “This new Bible study or book will do the trick for my problems.” And those thoughts may be of some help. But these temporary helps cannot compare to the hope we receive from considering the real long view.
The real long view is actually longer than we think. It wasn’t at the end of the ark’s voyage atop miles of water. It wasn’t at the end of Sarah’s barrenness. It wasn’t at the end of the Hebrews’ Egyptian slavery. It wasn’t at the end of the conquest of Canaan. It wasn’t at the dedication of the temple. It wasn’t at the beginning of the exiles’ return, temple construction, or wall restoration. The long view is not at the end of this no-good, terrible day. Or at the end of this magically brilliant day. It’s not at the end of five years or seventy-five years. Or five hundred years. The long view stretches past whatever earthly ideas we have into a vision of a new world, into eternity and the new earth. Contrary to popular opinion, when we mothers take this long view, we actually become so heavenly minded that we are of immense earthly good today. If we want to get technical, we should say that the real long view is not actually even heavenly minded—it’s new-earthly minded. We’re looking forward to the consummated new creation. Being new-earthly minded corrects our Seasonal Obsessive Disorder. It corrects our nearsightedness and returns our vision to God’s mission to glorify his name in all the earth.
You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a common condition among people who live close to the north or the south poles, where daylight is dramatically limited during certain times of the year. Sometimes SAD affects people who live in regions of the world that experience overcast and rainy weather. The locals describe feeling gloomy enough to match the ever-present, dark clouds in the sky. Well, Seasonal Obsessive Dis- order is just something I made up to remind myself of the hope I have in Christ. SOD is a condition in which you are preoccupied with finding a name for your temporary circumstances. You de- fine them, obsessively compare your circumstances to others, and covet a season that God has not given to you. I seasonally suffer from SOD and self-medicate with things such as coffee, complaining, and daydreaming. When this is over, or this begins, or this changes, or we fix this—or whatever—then, I’ll be content. Last day of school. Never mind, first day of school! Does that sound familiar?
The missional vision of our motherhood, with its sights set on the return of Christ, reminds us that we are all currently in the season of life. We are all in this season, from empty nesters to singles to widows to new moms to high school students and every other woman. It’s true of all of us. We get to live outside of the garden. We get to live.
I need my shortsighted vision of motherhood corrected with an eternal perspective. Otherwise I will not keep my gaze fixed on the horizon of eternity. I will not believe (and live like I believe) that sin—my sin and my children’s sin and my neighbors’ sin—is our biggest problem. I will not hold out the gospel of Jesus Christ to myself or anyone else. I will ignore the deepest needs around me and pretend they are insignificant. I’ll stare at my navel and wait for a new “season,” neglecting the fact that right now and forever I am in a season of life.
God’s gracious gift of life, in spite of our sin, is overwhelming. We are alive for a purpose—to make known the Lord’s mighty deeds among the nations. Let your mind be blown by the reality that Jesus is currently, intentionally holding our very lives together by the word of his power. What mercy! Whatever season we are in, and whatever kind of nurturing work we are doing, and how- ever long our season lasts, life in Christ is our new normal. And it will still be thirty trillion years from now. We are in a season of life in Christ forever! And this year. This month. Today. Right now. His grave is empty. Somewhere in Palestine there is a hole in a rock that once held a lifeless body for three days until Jesus, the resurrection and the life, walked out. The world hasn’t been the same since. By the grace of God, you and I get to live in light of this cosmic renewal. I can’t even. Isn’t that what the cool kids say nowadays? Did I use that in the right context? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around that. We get to taste eternity now.
With God’s promises of future grace strengthening our hearts and hands, we can enjoy an eternal perspective as we mother others. In the middle of the pain of life in a fallen world, we groan with hope, knowing that when the new creation does come in its fullness, then all our groaning will not be remembered. In light of the long view, they are just “former-world” problems. Because Christ burst through the de-creating cords of death and into eternal, resurrection life, suffering is not the end of our story. We can rejoice that the thousand deaths to self that we die each day are our servants—midwives that are bringing us gain, an eternal weight of glory. We nurture others in view of God’s promise of future grace in Christ.
Jesus redeemed our motherhood from the futility of sin. We follow in Christ’s pattern by laying down our lives. We serve with the power that he provides, and we look forward to the fruition of God’s promises by faith. We live out his big story, the story that says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)
The old would not have passed away if Christ had not come. We nurture others as a new creation in Christ. That’s our story. Let’s live out of that. Our nurturing work done unto Christ is part and parcel of the new creation, an invisible kingdom that is growing like a mustard seed in a garden, and spreading throughout dough like leaven. It’s the story that says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8–10)
We go about the good work God has prepared for us, knowing that our salvation (and the salvation of those we care for) is a gift of God by grace through faith. We boast in Jesus Christ and point to him. That’s our story. Let’s live out of that. Missional motherhood looks away from our works to the work that Christ has already accomplished for us on the cross. We freely and gladly follow his cruciform pattern because we have already been forgiven. We look forward to the promises he has secured for us on the cross. And the triune God gets all the glory when women say, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15), because it is God who works in us to spread his glory among all the nations.
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Gloria Furman is a wife, mother and author. In 2008 her family moved to the Middle East to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai where her husband, Dave, serves as the pastor. She is the author of 'Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full', and she blogs regularly at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and GloriaFurman.com.