As a new mum I spend a fair chunk of time around other mums, reading mum blogs, and articles, scrolling through family forums. Whenever I'm around other parents, the topic of conversation is usually “the kids”.
Something that I hear and read pretty frequently is 'my kids are my life.' It's the kind of sentiment you see in those mushy Facebook posts that parents (and grandparents) share saying things like 'it doesn't matter how old my children are, they will always be my babies.'
A perfect example is a (terrifying) children's book that I won't name, which literally pictures an elderly mother sneaking into her grown sons room at night to take him out of bed and rock him on her lap. Yes that is an actual book for children.
The above example aside, the idea that 'my kids are my life', seems good, it seems right. After all, I grew my daughter, I carried her for nine months, went through eighteen hours of painful labour to deliver her, and seven months on she is still completely dependent on me and my husband to meet her needs.
Hating my family
I love my daughter. I love her with a fierce, overwhelming, irrational, unconditional love and I have done from the moment we saw her as a tiny little jellybean on a screen.
I also love Jesus, and he says that if I don't hate my father and mother, my spouse and my children, even my own life, I can't follow him (Luke chapter 14 verse 26).
Wait, Jesus said what?
There are many things about Christianity that are off putting, this is one of them. If you put the phrases “my kids are my life”, and, “I must hate my family to follow Jesus” side by side, it's pretty obvious which one seems right and which one seems wrong.
So what on earth does Jesus mean?
Jesus is saying there's a cost to following him, and the cost is high.
The Greek word for “hate” used by Jesus is 'misei', and can be translated literally as “hate”, but also as “to esteem less”, or “to love less”. When we look at the wider teachings and life of Jesus, it is pretty obvious he meant the latter.
Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “...anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew chapter 10 verse 37). Jesus insists that his disciples will put him first; loving Jesus will be their priority.
The most important thing
As a young mum, and a first time mum, there is a huge temptation to make my daughter “my life”. To spend all our money on new clothes for her, to spend my spare time browsing Instagram in search of cool kids brands and fun places to take her, to not go to church on a Sunday so we can hang out at home, or even because it might muck with her sleep schedule.
Being a parent is a wonderful thing, but it is not the most important thing. Being married is a wonderful thing, but it is not the most important thing.
Jesus tells his followers to count the cost (Luke chapter 14 verse 28) before choosing to follow him, and for those first followers the cost was high: their lives were on the line. Jesus made it very clear what they would have to give up. However, he also told them what they would gain. “Whoever loses their life for my sake, will find it.” (Matthew chapter 10 verse 39).
Motherhood and Jesus
As an affluent Australian, it is highly unlikely that I will literally lose my life for loving Jesus, and as someone from generations of Christian families, I don't have to choose between my family and Jesus either. However, I am at risk of making my life revolve around being a mum, or being a wife, not about being a disciple of Jesus.
You see, one of the other things I hear (and say) a lot is, “I'm just a mum”. Being a mum is awesome, and I am well aware of the gift our little girl is. But I don't want to be just a mum, I want to show my little girl who Jesus is, I want my life to point to him. I want to lose my life, and gain the abundant life Jesus brings (John chapter 10 verse 10) in motherhood.
I want our daughter's life to be filled with people instead of stuff, action instead of complacency, and grace instead of fear. I want her to know that we don't go out for brunch every Sunday because we want to worship with God's people.
I want her to see us love and welcome all people into our home and to our table, with generosity and joy. It's one of those confusing, wonderful paradoxes of following Jesus, that by giving up our life, we gain true life.
I can only be that mum, the mum I just described, if my daughter is not my life. I will be a better mum, a better wife, a better human, by putting aside those aspirations, and making my life revolve around Jesus. I will love my little girl better, if I love Jesus more. Sometimes it's hard, sometimes people don't get it, sometimes our family is going to seem weird, but I've counted that cost, and I truly believe that what Jesus said is that following him will be hard, but it will be worth it.
Jess is married to Colin and they have a young daughter who is teaching them more than they are teaching her. Jess is also a recent college graduate who has no idea what she will do with her ministry degree, but is passionate about following Jesus wherever he may lead.
Jessica Currie’s previous articles may be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jessica-currie.html