On Instagram the other day, a mom posted a selfie while wearing a sweatshirt that said: Raising Legends. (You can find a similar shirt here.) I know this kind of messaging is common. It’s likely perceived as inspiring for moms to hear that we’re raising legends or world changers or history makers.
On the one hand, if the intent of this message is to place a high value on the importance of motherhood, then that is a good thing because motherhood is so very important.
On the other hand, I can’t help but sense there’s also something subtly pernicious with this message, for it ties a process with a product, where the process is mothering and the implied product is a child who will eventually achieve a certain status or level of success.
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with having a child who does, in fact, grow up to do things that are impressive in the eyes of the world. But neither is there anything wrong with having a child who grows up to become a hard-working, kind-hearted citizen who leads a quiet life as a teacher or a computer programer.
If we expect our kids to become earthly legends or world changers or whatever else the world views as impressive, then we’re succumbing to performance-based motherhood, where we bank on our parenting methods to produce certain outcomes. When we do this, we’re promoting a formulaic type of legalism with a side dish of prosperity gospel: If I mother like x, then my kids will turn out like y.
I would posit that it’s unhealthy (and inaccurate) to presume any parenting method as guaranteed to produce impressively legendary people. This isn’t to say that our mothering doesn’t impact our children. Naturally, we as moms have tremendous influence over our kids’ lives. But as moms who are also followers of Christ, there comes a point in every mom’s journey when we must recognize that God loves our children more than we do, and God has plans for our children beyond anything we can imagine. Sometimes those plans include “great things” that will make the world gush over them. Other times those plans include a journey through suffering and heartache, and sometimes even death.
God is sovereign over both the good and the hard, regardless of our mothering methods.
I realize this isn’t a popular message. We want so much to believe we can control our children’s destinies if we just follow this 5-step method or that 10-step action plan.
As a mom, I am not immune to the temptation of seeing the awesomeness in my kids as a direct result of my parenting skills. A part of me wants to take credit for the good outcomes in my children’s lives. But there is a larger part of me that recognizes, while I have great influence over my children’s lives, I am not in control of their lives.
God is a writing a story in each of our children’s lives that, ultimately, we have less control over than we’d like to believe. As much as I want to be the author who writes an amazing script for each of my children’s stories, I am their mother, not their author.
God is the author of their faith.
God is the author of their hope.
God is the author of their life.
The more I rest in God’s sovereignty over my children’s lives, the more I see the good and beautiful outcomes in their lives as a testament to God’s lavish grace. Because I believe that anything truly good is a result of his good grace.
Motherhood is a journey I have learned to come to with open hands, saying: Lord, I trust you with these precious ones you’ve allowed me to love and care for. Help me each day to entrust the direction of their lives to you.
And even as I pray this, over and over, I still check in to make sure their homework is finished and their rooms are clean. Because being a mom means loving the child and doing the work of parenting while entrusting their future to God.
Let’s suppose for a moment that our kids don’t turn out to be “legendary” in the world’s eyes. Well, Scripture tells us that God’s kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. Jesus said, “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16). I take this to mean that the people we find impressive here on earth won’t be all that impressive in eternity, but the people we overlook as ordinary will be the ones who are held with the greatest esteem in heaven. Jesus flips everything around. He’s pretty awesome like that.
So, I want to be a mom with an eternal perspective. I’m not in the shirt-making business, but if I were, I’d make a comfy oversized sweatshirt that said: Raising Legends Humans . . . who love God and others well.
*Today, I’m sharing three articles that do an excellent job of exploring this same idea further, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!
“Don’t Call Your Kids ‘World Changers’” by Jonathan Trotter
“It’s tempting. I get it. It sounds motivating and inspirational. I get that too. But I’ve come to believe that the good-intentioned, hopefully inspiring practice of talking about children as ‘world-changers’ is, in most cases, damaging. You can cover it with a spiritual veneer, you can call it ‘speaking truth over them,’ you can call it a ‘parental blessing,’ you can even call it ‘stirring them up to greatness.’ But from where I sit, and after what I’ve seen, I’ll just call it probably harmful. Let me explain. I grew up among world-changers. My family was part of an exciting, global ministry which had as its motto, Giving the world a New approach to life! Wow! What a vision! What a large, God-sized dream! What hubris.”
“Christian, You Don’t Have to Change the World” by Tim Shorey
“[Y]esterday’s billboard wasn’t helpful. It urged college students with one part encouragement and one part moral imperative to ‘Be the spark that changes the world!’ I’m 40 years out of college, and the spark has yet to happen. Despite all ‘I’ve done,’ the world remains the same as always, only worse. There’s no ignited the world line in my résumé. . . . I’m a simple guy with an uncomplicated calling. . . . Love people. Tell them about Jesus. Baptize them and add to the church. . . . That’s my calling. And with a few tweaks, I’d say it is the calling virtually every believer has, from the megachurch pastor to the mom with kids.”
“Those Baskets Won’t Last” by Melissa Edgington
“It was a reminder to me that most things we dedicate our time and efforts to [in motherhood] are fleeting. As parents we can get so very invested in our kids’ abilities and talents, in their interests and endeavors, and the truth is that all of it can be over in a half second. Just one injury. Just one incident. Just one bad day. Just one failed audition. We have a difficult time as parents separating what is temporal and what is eternal, and we tend to put all of our children’s eggs into corruptible baskets.”
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You can read more in the #ThreeOnThursday series here.