My friend watched as I pulled a store-bought container of baby food out of the pantry and began feeding it to my screaming, and apparently famished son. “So, you aren’t making your own baby food anymore?” she playfully goaded. My pride immediately bubbled up within me, warming my body from head to toe. You see, there had been a time when I was able to joyfully steam, purée, and freeze fresh vegetables for my babies. But these days, when I am just happy to get three meals into all three of my little boys, where the baby food comes from is a little lower on the priority list.
I’m not sure what bothered me more in that moment: the thought that she previously assumed every ounce of baby food I put into my children was homemade (which has never been the case), or that she might now think less of me for not living up to my former ideals. She was probably thinking neither–simply commenting on something she remembered from the past and making inquisitive conversation–which makes my immediate, prideful reaction even more frustrating!
It is in little moments like these that I am thankful for the Holy Spirit’s gracious, sanctifying work in my heart! I am grateful that he allowed me to respond with kind, encouraging words and that I didn’t feel the need to pridefully justify my current baby food choice. Nor did I feel the need to belittle my previous puréeing practices by commenting on how ridiculous I was to have even attempted such a feat in the first place. I simply laughed with her about the necessity of being flexible and humble as life, responsibilities, and priorities change. Four years ago, I had the time to make my baby’s food, today I do not, and that is okay.
What desires were battling within me at that moment? Well, first there was the desire to be respected and admired for my “superior” mothering–because obviously making your baby’s food makes you a better mother than buying it at the grocery store! My sinful flesh desired for her to envy me and to wish that she could be as wonderful as I was. In a sense my heart was wanting to make her feel bad about her own mothering abilities when compared to mine. I didn’t like her knowing that I too bought my baby food from the grocery store, because it meant that she could now view us as being on the same mothering plane. My heart was ugly, my desires selfish, and my concerns petty–all in the wink of an eye.
But thanks be to God, there is always another desire within the heart of a believer waging war against the flesh. It is the powerful, transforming work of the Holy Spirit that makes us long to do good to others and truly love them more than we love ourselves. In this particular moment I found myself fighting to be honest with my friend and choosing humility over pride. The Spirit prompted me to lay down my desire to be seen as better than her and instead serve her through confessing my own weaknesses–my own need for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance in this mothering thing. It was an opportunity to put to death my own self-worship and instead direct my heart and the heart of my friend to the One who is truly worthy of worship and adoration. In this particular instance, I was victorious–through the power of the Spirit–to seek to build my friend up, rather than myself. This is not always the case.
Isn’t it incredible that a battle like this can take place within the space of a split second? All these feeling and emotions and desires can arise and wage war within our members before we have even realized what is going on. How grateful I am for the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Because of his indwelling presence, we are never alone in our pursuit of holiness. He is continually sanctifying us and making us more like the Savior. As we interact with our sisters in Christ, we can be confident that he both desires for us to have sweet fellowship focused on the loveliness of Christ and that he is powerful enough to bring it about. It is when we seek to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting that we are blessed with the fruit of Christ-centered friendships rather than relationships characterized by deadly comparison. It is when we avail ourselves to the weapons of war purchased through the cross that we have the hope of being victorious in times of inner turmoil.
Which brings me to the point of this post: I’ve heard a lot of talk about “mommy wars” recently, but at their core, don’t mommy wars have more to do with the war within ourselves than the war between moms? Aren’t exchanges like the one I shared above simply manifestations of sinful self-worship affecting the way we relate to each other? It would seem that at the heart of the mommy wars are women–like myself–who think more highly of their own image than they do of Christ’s. We want ourparenting methods, our craft projects, our schooling choices, our immunization stances, ourhomemade baby food to bring us respect and admiration from other mothers. We want the honor and the glory even if it means making other moms feel bad about themselves or becoming utterly ineffective in our unique callings as mothers because we are paralyzed by the impossible standard we feel others have set for us.
We are not consumed or controlled by the glory and majesty of our Servant King who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” This God who, ”being found in human form, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:7&8) does not rule our thought lives. Instead, we are obsessed with our ownachievements or lack there of. Rather than seeking to build our sisters in Christ up, we are tempted to use them as tools to gauge our own progress on the path to supermom status.
In reality, the newly coined phenomenon known as “mommy wars” are the same common wars fought within every believer–the battles we fight against our old, sinful, self-focused natures. But as I stated earlier, the good news of the gospel is that we have been liberated from the chains of sin that once bound us. We can actively fight against the desire to be as good as or better than other moms and instead seek to serve them in our speech and actions. We can desire the best for them, set out to help them, and–heaven forbid–allow them to help us! Because of the gospel, we can be honest with one another about our shortcomings, temptations, and struggles because the same blood that cleanses me cleanses you. Together we can seek to be moms who bring honor and glory to the Savior because the mommy wars we fight within have already been won–their victories were purchased on calvary’s tree.