We don’t all “mom” the same way in the many gray areas of motherhood—things like food choices, education decisions, and movie options. We have freedom to decide what’s best for our family, in submission to God’s word, according to our personal consciences.
There was a time when I struggled when other moms in our church made choices for their children different than my own. I worried that I was not spiritual enough, or that others were judging me, or that perhaps I was actually missing how God was leading me.
My struggle wasn’t with God’s will but rather with my own insecurity.
I’ve found that my discomfort with differences is not unusual among women in the church, particularly among young mothers who are navigating many important decisions for the first time. Our greatest struggles and misunderstandings leading to disunity are typically about secondary, non-gospel issues, such as education, working versus non-working, financial choices, and parenting practices.
Instead of secondary, we often make these choices primary identity markers for who we are and how we’re doing as mothers and disciples of Jesus. As a result, we self-divide within the church, huddling into groups that share our convictions and can best relate to us.
In order to experience unity as mothers, we must intentionally reject uniformity and instead celebrate the unique gifts, skills, life circumstances, and choices others may use to adorn the gospel.
Paul tells us that a grace-filled response will allow for differences on secondary issues. We don’t all have to do everything the same way, and in fact we can’t all do everything the same way.
Each of us lives by faith as unto the Lord, and we will account only to God for how we lived in response to him. Because of this, we aren’t to judge others who think or act differently on these issues. Just as we trust God to lead and care for us, we must trust God to lead and care for others.
When we see more quickly what unifies us rather than what makes us different, we focus on what is truly at the heart of the kingdom of God, and we’re able to speak grace into the lives of others who are weary, dry, and desperate for it.
And isn’t that every mother within the church?
These littles of mine certainly stand out.
I was born to a white mother and a black father. And I should mention, I’m one of 7 kids. I had the muscle tone of a seasoned female wrestler and the hair of a trolls doll left in the water too long. As you can imagine, I didn’t quite fit in.
My husband, Oshiomogho, is the youngest son of Nigerian parents who left everything in Africa to bring a few dollars, his older sister, and their rich Nigerian history to Canada.
Soon after we found out we were pregnant, I realized in the Atogwe family, tradition says the grandparents name the babies. The Sloanes, Haydens, Micahs, Chloes, and Whitleys of my dreams were laid to rest.
My son is Oshiolema, and my daughter is Keogena Na’Airah.
They’re both different like their mama was different. Different like their daddy was different.
But I’m elated to assure them that their Savior was different too. Jesus knew what it was felt like to be unlike his peers, and unlike any human that ever lived. He certainly didn’t fit in. And yet, even though he’s different, Jesus securely knows his identity.
Christ proudly stood firm in hs identity, and in a beautiful exchange, Jesus humbled himself, choosing to say whose he is. Fully God, fully man, and the way he lived his life here on earth speaks powerfully about who he is.
Whether or not we fit in—if we are accepted or rejected—the deep desire to be understood is fulfilled when we remember Who is in us and what he has called us to do. As followers of Christ, we are called to be the lights of this world, and I’ve never once known a light to blend into the darkness.
No two of us are alike. We will all face moments where we don’t feel like we fit in-but in Christ we can walk in secure and beautiful identity until we meet him face to face.”
While motherhood often brings women together, it can also highlight differences that challenge our love for one another. More than ever before, in this world of Motherhood-by-Instagram, opportunities abound for comparison, criticism, and misunderstandings.
Quite often I’m tempted to judge or criticize a mom who parents differently than I do, feeds her kids healthier than I do, prioritizes her family better than I do, keeps house better than I do, or exercises more than I do. If I find some fault in her, I am less apt to feel inferior in comparison to her...
But the message of the Gospel intersects all my sinful heart attitudes: "Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you".
Because of what Christ did for me, loving me to the cross while I was still his enemy, my identity in him is a foundation for loving unity toward other women, even and especially toward the mom who is different from me.
Do you build walls of division within your church?
I know what you are thinking—"No! I warmly greet anyone who I pass walking down the halls of my church." But… what about your small group? How unified are you when someone shares an opinion on a matter of preference with which you disagree? What do you do when someone is different than you?
As we draw near to our sister, are we supposed to forget our differences? No! We are to use them to build up our sisters in Christ. God gives us unique schools of circumstances that are meant to cultivate new knowledge of Him—whether it is singleness, infertility, aging parents, financial difficulty, or illness.
However, rather than building a wall because of difference with your sister, build a bridge because of grace. After listening to your sister’s struggle, consider how Christ has ministered to both of you in similar ways. From that place of humility and common ground, be a caring sister and tenderly apply truths of the gospel that you have learned in your school of circumstance to your hurting sister’s heart.
Our differences do not have to divide. We can build bridges of grace rather than walls of division... . And, we would get front row seats in witnessing the power of the gospel transform the lives of those we love… even in the midst of our differences.