In part one of this series, I opened a can of worms on the internet… I challenged our well-intentioned habit of assuring ourselves and our friends that we are “good moms” when we are overwhelmed with internal and external messages of shame and guilt.
In that post, while I did firmly stake claim in the truth that shame-based messages aren’t helpful or healthy, I also reminded our little Mothering by Faith community that this desire to take hold of the definition of “good” and “bad” isn’t new.
In fact, it has its roots in the earliest human interactions–when Adam and Eve took hold of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, exchanging their trust in God for the serpent’s deception.
But, what do we think God had in mind before the fall? What kind of relationship with goodness did he hope that we would have? And how do we move toward that Eden ideal in our mothering more and more?
First, good moms recognize who alone is good.
The Old Testament is filled with scriptures about goodness, and surprisingly they don’t refer to human behavior. Part 3 will go into this truth more in depth, but when we think about goodness we generally think about “being good.”
In other words, we think about what actions we take part in that will allow us to be defined as “good.”
But the Old Testament writers saw goodness differently. Almost every reference in the OT regarding goodness is referring solely to the character of God.
The Lord referred to his character as “goodness” passing in front of Moses as the Israelites wandered in the desert:
“And the Lord said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name before you…” Exodus 33:19
Nehemiah, in a prayer for repentance as the faithful remnant returned to Israel, ponders that Israel’s disobedience was particularly offensive because when they lived in the promised land they were experiencing the fullness of God’s good presence, and his good blessings.
“…They enjoyed to the full your great goodness.” Nehemiah 9:25
The Psalmists led meditative songs focused on the character of God being goodness–assurance of seeing it, desire for it, gratitude because of it.
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
These Old Testament writers knew that in the midst of a sin-torn world, good could not be defined by human behavior. Goodness was a mark of the character of the Creator God.
So, when we are questioning whether or not our behavior as moms is “good,” the first step is to reorient our thinking to remember that God alone is good.
A Practice: Meditate on the Psalm above, and allow your heart to remember from where “goodness” comes.
Our desire to be good moms comes from a desire to do right by our children, to train them up in the way they should go, and to provide the best life possible for them.
That’s why we research discipline methods, why we wake up several times in the middle of the night. It’s why we cook them meals, and play ridiculous nonsensical games with them. We want goodness in the lives of our children, so we strive to give it to them.
It’s easy in the busyness and chaos to get focused on how to parent well, and lose sight of how to know and be connected to God. This is why the first step of getting back to the Eden ideal of trusting God’s definition of goodness is to know Him.
If you’ve lost sight of your personal walk with God, if you can’t remember the last time you opened your Bible or prayed, if you feel disoriented because you no longer have the time or flexibility to engage your faith in the way you used to–please hear me when I tell you that you are not alone…
When I first became a mom I was completely blindsided by how unable I was to study, pray, or read in the ways I was used to.
But I also recognized that my own strength, my own definitions of good, my own perspective wouldn’t be enough to sustain me or my ideals for raising a family with thriving faith. I encourage you to keep exploring how to remain close to God. If you missed this post on spiritual practices that are helpful for young, busy, weary mamas, I encourage you to read it and try a few out.
We must know good to be good moms, and we can only know good when we know God.
Which brings us to the next principle in how to move toward the Eden ideal of trusting God’s definition of goodness in our mothering…
Good moms are filled with goodness.
The Old Testament teaches us the true source of goodness, and in the New Testament we catch a glimpse of how Jesus’s covenant with us helps us move out of our place of sin and into a place where we shine God’s goodness out into the world and into our families.
In Galatians 5, we learn that goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. Often, we study these fruits of the Spirit and our effort becomes to will ourselves to grow in them… Completely denying that fruit of the Spirit means that it does not come simply from our own efforts.
So, instead of applying a strictly behavioral model to becoming good moms, let’s focus instead on what the scriptures say about being filled with God’s Spirit.
Acts 2 connects our filling with the Spirit with faith, repentance, and baptism. At the end of Peter’s first sermon after Jesus’ ascent back into heaven, the Jewish people are cut to the heart by what happened to the Messiah at their own hands.
When they ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38, NET
So, according to this scripture, our filling begins at the genesis of our repentance–when we make Jesus Lord and are baptized into his name. But does it end there?
Stories throughout the rest of the book of Acts refer to filling with the Holy Spirit being a product of a life that walks in confident trust of God, his ways, and his story for our lives–even in the face of grave trials.
Acts 4: Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke boldly. Believers, praying together, were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 9: Ananias explains to the blind Paul that his repentance would result in sight and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13: Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, calls out that which is not good. The believers, in response to witnessing powerful testimony of the gospel, were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15 refers to the “filling” coming from God, and being connected to a prayer for God to fill us.
Ephesians 5:15-20 connects the filling of the Spirit coming from the body of believers coming together to worship in Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs–with gratitude in our hearts to God.
In other words, though we are indeed filled with the Holy Spirit at the beginning of our walk with God, we continue to be filled with the Spirit by living a life that is ever-growing in faith.
As mothers, it is important for us to continue walking our faithful walks even as the priorities of our days shift and change. Being a good mom takes being filled with God’s spirit, and our filling increases as we live and walk in dynamic faith.
Finally, good moms desire true goodness.
In Romans 12, Paul exhorts the church to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to please God. In the next line we read,
“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God–what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”
What does this section of scripture have to do with being a good mom?
Here’s the thing–those of us who desire to be good moms ingest a lot of information–we read books, follow Instagram accounts, ask advice… but the fruit of this information overload is often stress, anxiety, and frustration with the lack of clarity, the conflicting opinions, or sheer inability to will ourselves to do all the things that all the humans say we need to do to be good moms.
But in the passage above, we are encouraged to not be conformed to this present world. We are urged to renew our mind.
So that we may test and approve the good, perfect, and well-pleasing will of God.
Just last week, I urged a client of mine to stop listening to parenting podcasts, reading mom blogs, or any other consumption of parenting advice for just two weeks. I urged her to simply be a mom… and see what comes out.
So often, these parenting resources are helpful, and I’m not in any way insinuating that we should mother in a vacuum. But what I do know is that mothers everywhere are spending a lot more time and emotional resources on pursuing other people’s definition of goodness, and not enough time renewing their mind to the goodness that God desires.
So, next time you start to get that nagging sense that you’re not a good mom… Or, you start to feel stressed that you’re not doing enough, I urge you to ask yourself if the expectation you’ve placed on yourself is from God and His word, or from some other source?
Being a good mom takes changing our mind to align with God’s. To cherish what he cherishes, to reject what he rejects. This takes a lifetime of intentionality, of growth, of flexibility, of repentance. Instead of posturing ourselves as parenting experts, or even assuming that some actual parenting expert out there has all the answers on how to be a good mom, let’s adopt a posture of humility and teachability.
In part one of this series, we outlined what was potentially problematic with our obsession with labeling ourselves, our friends, or others as “good moms” or “bad moms.” This section aimed to help us reorient ourselves to a more helpful posture.
Instead of defensively asserting that we are, in fact, good moms, let’s first remind ourselves who is the true source of goodness.
Let’s be filled with the Spirit of God, so that goodness is filling up in us from an unending source.
And let’s desire that goodness with true mind-changing repentance that will guide our hearts to constantly be learning and growing in our Spiritual walks and subsequently our walk as mothers.
Next up in the series is a look at the difference between “good works,” and true “goodness.” If you’ve got questions about that, please feel free to comment below, send me an email, or find me on Instagram.