Americans are a bunch of fickle people. On the one hand, individualism is supreme. We don't want to be told what to do and the very idea of independence is stamped on every single individual that calls himself a citizen of the good 'ole USA. Yet, everywhere you look, there is some sort of version of self help being preached that promises to yield a better life if the instructions are followed carefully. "Lose inches off your waist in just five weeks!" "How to get along with your husband!" And one of my "favorites"..."Hot sex tips!" Does it get anymore awkward or invasive than that? Yet these sorts of magazines, books and media are gobbled up like hotcakes because despite our attempt to be individuals, we really do just want to be told what to do.
I don't know all of the reasons why this dichotomy exists is but I do have some theories. One of them, in my opinion, is that we seek happiness rather than wholeness. When we're not happy, as we're bound to be at many points in our lives, we think there must be something majorly wrong. For it even says in our Declaration of Independence that we have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This American Dream is foundational to the soul of every American. So when we aren't happy, we need to find a way to fix it-fast. Hence the self help.
Except self help isn't the answer. Christ is and thus His wisdom is. For self help can only go so far and so deep. Godly discernment is what helps us sift through the difficult things in our lives and make decisions about them. Self help only gives a mass formula that may or may not apply depending on who we are. We're all different. We are all individuals made in God's image and we have different personalities. One diet might work splendidly for someone while another person might find that anytime they try that method, they gain weight instead of lose. We're all people with thoughts, feelings, weaknesses and passions. No two of us are the same. That's why self help just doesn't cut it. Simply following the rules doesn't help us wade through all the muck out there. We need wisdom to help us discern the wheat from the chaff before we can start sifting. Once we've got that down, we can start weeding out the actual food-the wheat.
Now before you all start calling me a relativist, let me explain something about the difference between principles and methods. This teaching is not my own but it has revolutionized my thinking in this area. There are things called principles. These are standards that must be adhered to because they are either God's laws or man's laws (sometimes there is a difference between man's laws and God's laws in which God's laws must be followed above man's laws). Do not kill might be one of them. Raising our children to love the Lord is another. These are basic principles that we are expected to follow no matter who we are. God has laid them out and we are to walk in them, period. God has also told us to listen to those in authority over us so we must obey the laws of the land. These are principles and we build our lives around them taking their instruction at face value.
Nevertheless, how we carry those principles out varies according to family culture, personality and circumstance and that is where methods come in. We know the principle, we apply wisdom and out pops a method. My method probably won't look like yours in every way because I'm different than you. But the spirit is the same.
Never has there been a better place to apply this teaching than to motherhood. Your neighbor might be a co-sleeping, demand feeding, eco-savvy mama to you (hypotheticals here) and every time she brings up cloth diapering you swoon. But you can still be friends. Because even though you're a structured, homeschooling, scheduled feeding mom, there can be a respect there that you're different and that methods don't matter all that much in the end. And you don't have to recycle your Pampers boxes in her recycling bins to make your point either. Some methods can be superior to others but most are just different. And they aren't any reason to get your panties in a wad. We're just people. If you know someone who doesn't like to feed their kids processed foods, you don't have to turn your nose down at them. You might not agree and think it's a bit snobbish. But it's a method. And you also don't have to feel less-than because you pull out the mac n' cheese sometimes.
Motherhood requires thinking, not formulas, and it requires grace. You have to take the principles God has given you and carry them out with the best methods you know how, keeping in mind your own preferences and personality. And then, when others do it differently than you, you have to have the maturity and grace to deal with it. Once you do, the world is before you and there is freedom...freedom to love those around you and freedom to make your own little domain what you want it to be without hostility, without fear and without doubt.
CJ Mahaney’s Christmas Book List 2017
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