Rev. Bruinsma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The largest share of the body of this article is made up of a personal letter I received from a Protestant Reformed sister in our church in Edmonton, Canada. I am grateful that she has allowed me to print this letter because I believe it reveals what must be in the heart of every godly mother of Zion. Not only must there be peace and contentment in a mother’s labors in the home, but she must see this task as challenging, exciting, and rewarding. All these are revealed in this letter. It is for that reason we print it.
I am going to give an answer to this letter in the next article I write because this letter raises questions that are worthwhile answering. In this article I would only ask the reader to take note of the following in the letter published. First, the emphasis on safety found within the circle of the home and family. This emphasis is all but lost in our modern society. I agree wholeheartedly that too much time is spent outside of the home by parents and children alike. Mothers who are in the home spending profitable time with their children, and fathers who likewise are able to do the same inasmuch as they are able, make for a happy and godly home. Children too, when they are little but also when they become teens, must be shown that life and joy is found, not always on the go with friends, but in the quietness of home and family. Mothers go a long way in establishing this godly atmosphere in the family.
In the second place, I appreciate the emphasis on willingness to sacrifice of self for others. Career mothers are often times heard saying, “I just am not fulfilled in my work in the home. I need more!” That reasoning is self-seeking: I need fulfillment. What about the need of the children to have a mother in the home to field questions and to teach them by example what it means to live in communion with our heavenly Father? Motherhood is a time of self-sacrifice and giving of oneself to children. But the rewards are great!
Finally, take note, in this letter, of the desire to serve God in the calling of a mother in the home. That is above all our chief calling in this life: serve God! God gives us our covenant children for a short time in order that He might use a godly father and mother as means in His hand to nurture the children of His family and covenant. A mother in the home who is busy doing this is humbly—but cheerfully too—walking as a servant of God in her life. That makes for the best of mothers!
Keeping these thoughts in mind, read the letter.
Dear Rev. Bruinsma,
I am writing to you regarding two Standard Bearer articles you wrote. The first one, titled “God’s Command to Mothers,” I found very encouraging and clear in setting forth the principles of Scripture concerning this calling. I hope that you will be willing to expand on a couple of points in a subsequent article entitled “Working Mothers.”
I pray that I am not being touchy at the thought of being placed in a category named Extreme, but I did struggle with a feeling that enough had not been said. Will not there be mothers who now feel they have just cause to pursue work outside the home since Rev. Bruinsma has given his ok? This I try to see from God’s perspective, in my very finite way, as to what He would have me do. I was very pleased that you brought up the phariseeism that is prevalent in this area. This truly must be seen as a matter of the heart.
“There is the eleventh commandment….” This statement came off sounding rather sarcastic, leaving me with the impression you were about to embark in a whole different direction than your previous article. Away from living the antithetical walk, though it be difficult, to something fraught with indecision and no clear direction from God: “There are conceivably times when a mother will work outside the home and family.” Certainly, if God places work in the church for her to do, I can agree. This is a part of her calling within a place of safety. But that statement was followed by sets of circumstances with which I have difficulty. It would seem necessary to ask the question, Where is God? Is He not sovereign over all, even difficult circumstances in our lives? He has commanded us to live in obedience to Him in all things, and promises to make a way out. Where, then, do we place the church in this? Is it not an organic, living part of our daily lives and circumstances? The office of deacon is beautiful and must be protected at all costs as God’s providential way out of the cares of this world. Our dependence on God comes at great cost to our pride but affords much wealth to our souls.
It was clear that you said that full-time work was impossible for mothers, but was the door left open to other perilous alternatives? Why do I see peril? This goes back to a sermon you preached in Spokane, WA at their conference. Biblical child-rearing, where we as parents are to train our children in a life of obedience, was the subject. I remember, because it forever altered my perspective. God’s Word led me to understand that I must properly deny myself and live in my calling as mother as an ambassador of Him. There is a circle of safety in which children can live. And in that circle there is a command to parents to train their children within it, living out of faith in God’s promises, spanking because God chooses it as a means to train our children. In this way we use that circle of safety as a means, not questioning it but loving it and seeing its blessings, trusting that He who sovereignly decrees knows best. There is then a circle of safety for fathers and husbands, as well as for mothers and wives. This is ordained by God and laid out in Scripture, as you well pointed out. For wives, it is to live in subjection. This too, you aptly showed us, was God’s ordained chain of authority.
Now for those wives whom God has called to be mothers, it is perilous to try to live outside of their circle of safety. Who sets the boundaries? God, who is all wise. He has chosen with great care the vocation perfectly fit for her. She will be saved in childbearing, on her knees, soul baring, cross bearing, and in sacrificing service morning, noon, and night. To walk away from that submission to Him, and the subjection He places as boundaries on her, is to choose peril. Satan did that to Eve when he came to her and twisted the words of God and presented to her the lie as truth. She left obedience, and in so doing fell.
The lie appeals to our enemy within. Satan wants us outside the home. He knows that God places mothers in safety in the home in subjection, in humility serving while relying on Christ. It is subtle deception to think to myself that I would be a good helpmeet to my husband by lifting some of his burden of making ends meet. I must remember that burden was not given to me. It was given to the man, and God is the one who can make that burden light. Then I must find contentment in my station, within my God-chosen boundary, and not seek any merit or fulfillment outside of that.
It is appealing to find fulfillment outside the home. Why? It is heady, intoxicating stuff, this theology of self-love. The god of individualism, look out for yourself, decide for yourself, puts me in the driver’s seat, determining for myself how I will find self-worth. Just a 50-cent raise will put a lift to my stride, and a co-worker’s praise will bring a glow. But it is self-glory, for a fleeting moment that is of this earth earthy. Yes, just a couple of hours a night sell Tupperware. “Help us out. We really need only a small commitment of your time!” Is there peril? Indeed! The woman was made with her weaknesses, and this will lead her to slip off her submission, leave her subjection behind, and suffer a rift in that sweet fellowship with God. It takes great soul searching, brutally honest spiritual inventory, to examine why I will choose to work outside of the home as well as to do anything that would interfere with living out of obedience to God in His command to be a mother. Other temptations too will come, where she will be asked to think for herself. Who is the Sovereign of her womb? For one, her strength is nothing in herself, so she must find her strength in God’s Word. Sabbath day to Sabbath day she will come with her family to hear, “Thus saith God,” and it will rule her walk.
The last question then is: do you place this in the realm of Christian liberty because it is a thing indifferent? Or is it commanded?
I love the calling of motherhood! God does flood the soul with peace, whether our husbands and children notice that loving service or not. God brings contentment and great joy inside the circle or station mapped out for me. Living in the realization that He has mapped out for them what is best, and leaving Him to direct all things, liberates mothers so they can ponder over His mercy and governing care of His church. I would jealously guard the self-denying, God-ordained vocation of motherhood. It is here I am humbled and privileged to witness the wonder of a child stirred by the spirit within grabbing hold of the truths of God’s Word and appropriating Christ, living in gratitude. It is a miracle to behold, that through weakest means, God will be MAGNIFIED! Is the cost then too high???
I hope this is an encouragement, for I am thrilled that we speak about these issues. Although difficult, we must do our battles against the world, and on the battleground of God’s Word.
Lee Ann Ferguson.
Amen! God bless the mothers of Zion, whom God uses to build His church!