April 20, 2015

Battle Hymn of the Ministry Mother

In my mind, I can still hear the siren-song of late-night adult conversation. I remember slipping out of bed, tiptoeing down the hall in footed pajamas, crouching at the top of the stairs, and straining to make sense from the buzzing below. I remember the rise and fall—bursts of laughter which subsided into quiet and then rose to serious intensity. I remember the warmth rising up the stair well. I remember my own awed curiosity.

Recently, Dave Berry wrote an essay in the Wall Street Journal about his similar memories. He recalls lurking and peeking while the adults in his life did their thing. He remembers the same sense of excitement—the exclusiveness of adulthood and the child’s longing to hurry up and get there. He remembers thinking his parents had something wonderful going on. I felt it, too. In his case, it was cocktail parties. In mine, it was church meetings.

Barry’s point is that his parents had a multi-faceted life which wasn’t entirely child-centered. For him as a child, the experience of seeing his parents having fun without him was intriguing. It shaped what he thought adulthood was about, and it ordered his desires for his own coming of age.

Barry is reacting to the micro-managing common among modern moms and dads, the kind of hyper-scheduled, hyper-vigilant, hyper-child-oriented parenting detailed in Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua, in contrast to Barry’s parents, unapologetically devoted nearly every hour of her life to her daughters and their development. Chua did not go to cocktail parties.

As a ministry mom, and more importantly as a Christian mom, I take my children seriously. They have souls that will never die, and their Christian nurture is of utmost importance. I have written here before about my belief that pastors’ kids are their parents’ most important ministry. When it comes to catechism training and Scripture memory, when it comes to attending worship and supporting the ministries of the church, when it comes to praying and singing and reading Scripture in our home, I’m Tiger Mother all the way.

But I also want my children (as they peek around corners in their PJs) to see I have a rich life that isn’t just about them. I want them to overhear my conversations with other adults—about the mission of the church, and the substitutionary atonement, and the real presence of Christ in worship—and to wonder over these profound mysteries. I want them to watch me peck away at my laptop and know that their mom is writing a book for the good of Christ’s church—a book they will have to grow up to read. I want them to observe the late nights their dad spends studying the Word and praying, for their benefit, yes, but really for the benefit of all of God’s people. And I want them to watch us on the Lord’s Day as we place the bread and wine in our mouths, and I want their own mouths to water in anticipation.

Creeping back to bed on those long-ago nights, I remember the snow-muffled slams of car doors and the crunch of wheels on driveway gravel as everyone headed home. And in that final silence, I remember wanting to grow up, to know what those adults were talking about, to participate in that rich life. It’s what I want my own kids to want, too.

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