Before Reuben was born, I read a few books to prepare me for the changes ahead. Nothing prepared me as well as “Ordinary Mum, Extraordinary Mission*” by Anna France Williams and Joy French. I wrote some reflections on the book at the time – 2 months before Reu was actually born. Now that Reuben is 2 years old, I can testify that the wisdom of this book has been extremely helpful and has massively shaped my philosophy and approach to being a mum. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to make the most of their mummy-years for God’s glory.
See my original reflections below.
I’m very excited about us having our first baby. As my tummy gets bigger and the baby gets squirmier, it all begins to feel very imminent! There are so many things to be excited about. It’s so brilliant that Scott and I are going to get the privilege of bringing this little one up – I can’t wait to get to know him/her. What will they look like? What will their likes/ dislikes/ opinions/ interests/ skills be? In what ways will they be like me? How will they be like Scott? There is so much potential and life in this little wriggly one. I’m so excited about all the special times ahead, the baby’s first smile, peek-a-boo, the belly laughs, sticky fingers, their first prayer and all their questions about “why?”
I’ve also had some time to think about what life will look like for me as a mother. While I’ve felt for some time that I wanted to be a full-time mum, I’ve always felt committed to the idea that I won’t really be “staying at home”. I have wanted to be out and about, getting to know other mum’s in the community, blessing the neighbours around us, spending time with Scott’s family, investing in relationships at church, doing some theological study, reading the bible with students, and of course sharing the gospel with people I meet along the way. In my mind’s eye, the house will be tidy-ish, meals would be prepared for Scott and others coming home, and the baby will be cooing happily for all to dote on.
Now all these things are good things to aspire to. I do want to make the most of the amazing opportunities that having a cute baby gives you. However, reading this book has helped me to see what a self-centred and self-reliant vision I’ve had of parenting.
In some ways, I’m afraid of losing my identity as a UCCF staff worker. It can be easy to find your identity in your work – and for me, the thought of not being in paid employment and of not doing “Christian Ministry” is a bit scary. The thought of the “glamour” of staff work coming to an end has resulted in me subconsciously trying to build a new identity on the basis of successful motherhood.
This is what Anna-France Williams says, “When I began writing this book, my idea of what a missional mum looked like was Wonder Woman, soaring around the planet rescuing troubled souls, kids in tow, changing bag slung over one shoulder, cape flying, wearing a freshly applied coat of sheer red lipstick. That was who I aspired to be. I had picked up the idea that mums who could ‘do it all’ and ‘have it all’ (running projects, groups, volunteering, baking, preparing endless creative activities for toddlers, earning money, having regular deep chats about God with strangers) were the ones who were truly bathing in the glory of God’s favour and obeying the Great Commission in Matthew 28.”
As the book goes on, it becomes apparent that the authors, Anna France-Williams and Joy French, have been humbled by the reality of actual parenting! The reality, it seems, is that your deep and meaningful conversations are often cut short due to a need of your child – running to stop them throwing themselves off a piece of furniture, or stop them hitting another child, or to kiss them better when they’ve grazed their knee. The reality is also that parenting is tiring work, and so however good the intentions of doing evening things – community projects, church meetings, even having people round for a meal – is often a battle of the will, because all you want to do is snuggle up with a book and a bar of chocolate! Also, parenting makes you realise that rather than having the natural ability and resources to serve everyone else’s needs – you often really need help yourself in order to keep sane, rested and eating properly. In fact, being real about struggles in parenting can be a much better way of deepening friendships with believers and non-Christians rather than trying to give the impression that you are coping brilliantly.
So the book has been a really helpful corrective for me. I have a bit of a Messiah complex, and trying to be super mum – looking after baby, husband, and all those other needy souls out there, would absolutely play to my selfish pride. It’s liberating to know that I’m justified by God’s grace and have nothing to prove to my heavenly father. My identity isn’t primarily in my employment (or lack thereof), or my marital status, or in how I spend my time – my identity is in Christ. I couldn’t possibly be more loved by the Father then I currently am in Christ. So this frees me up to enjoy basking in his love for me, and serve others out of a place of security. Praise the Lord that my identity is found in his Son and not my performance.
Two years on I can truthfully say that the honesty and realism of this book is wonderful! I recommended it to anyone who would listen then and I would still highly recommend it now. Whether you’re expecting, a new-parent or a seasoned parent, this is a really heart-warming and readable book that will encourage your heart with the wonderful gospel. It is also inspiring, and will make you want to make the most of the exciting opportunities for mission that being a parent give you.