I recently heard you give a message on the Proverbs 31 Woman where you talked about being “family obsessed.” At first, I thought the term sounded odd. But as you went on, it sounds like you were encouraging women to know their family in a deep and meaningful way and to make home a place they want to be. With two daughters in middle school, I’m approaching that season when moms are no longer “cool,” and schedules become even more full. What are some of the practical and spiritual ways that I can cultivate knowing them as they become young women and that I can make our home a place they want to be?
~ A Growing Mom
Dear Growing Mom,
In the movie Magnificent Obsession, a wealthy and wayward man begins to pursue doing good deeds for others anonymously and without any expectation of something in return. His mentor in the process says, “Once you find the way, you’ll be bound. It will obsess you, but believe me, it will be a magnificent obsession.” He further describes this journey, “You can’t just try this out for a week . . . this is dangerous stuff. One of the first men who used it went to the cross at the age of thirty-three . . . .”
Viewing that old movie brought to mind words I had written 30 years ago at the height of my child-rearing responsibilities—words, though not questioned then, in recent months have been pulled from my writing for ridicule and even a gentle reminder from a friend that she would help me find a more modern way of expressing my thoughts. So I decided to revisit the word “obsession,” since indeed the culture does seem to delight in revisionism—even with words themselves. This word can still effectively be used to describe someone or something that one thinks about constantly or frequently.
So, I did affirm from the public platform that I am proud to be a woman with a “magnificent obsession”—in the sense of complete focus on managing my household and dedication to the task of nurturing children and grandchildren with a passionate commitment to the high and holy task of preparing the next generation. For me, this task has gone far beyond meeting basic physical needs and juggling family schedules. French mothers use the word “cadre” to describe the foundation upon which character is formed and through which preparation for life and work is done, the framework for setting limits for children while giving them appropriate freedom within those limits.
I firmly believe that motherhood is a “statute without limitation.”
Even as I have entered my seventh decade, I feel a passionate commitment to invest in the lives of my children and grandchildren. This priority goes beyond remembering birthdays, holidays, and celebratory events to include serious prayer support and creative interludes, as well as an effort to know their giftedness and skills, their interests and hobbies, and, most of all, progress in their spiritual journey.
Perhaps some would consider me preoccupied in an unnatural way or unbalanced in how I invest my time and energies or unwise in allowing the interruptions or digressions family may bring to my life and personal productivity.
With enthusiasm, I challenge mothers to join me in going beyond being “family-oriented” to become “family-obsessed.”
- Begin on your knees to determine for yourself what God has given you to do—praying and listening for Him to speak to your heart through His written Word (Gn 2:15-25; 3:20; Dt. 6:4-9; Ps 127; Prov 31:10-31; Eph 6:1-4). Then move forward to accomplish the Lord’s task for you.
- Study your child—observe giftedness as well as friends and hobbies. Affirm strengths and redirect weaknesses. Encourage and open doors that are part of a godly path to preparation for life. Discourage and refocus interests that will not lead to godliness. This process takes faithful commitment—not just cursory observation but careful study of your child.
- Balance your parental responses. Never miss affirming good in your child or her behavior. Discern where you need reproof or correction and help the child understand your reasoning for discipline. Divine discipline is not primarily punishment for offenses, but a process of discipleship to help a child obey and to guide the child into right choices and behavior. You must break a child’s willfulness but not her will, for the will enables your child to move forward on the good path.
- Look for opportunities to share in the life of your child. Whatever her extracurricular activities—celebrate joys and comfort during sorrows. Whether the child’s focus is athletics, music, art, you should be the chief cheerleader. You should be able to give specific affirmations and creative corrections. Plan memorable celebrations for the family and also among peers/friends.
- Track your child’s spiritual journey with specific prayer requests and wholesome Christian influences (carefully selected books and music, guests who reinforce your values). Never assume that your child is getting the appropriate education and spiritual nurture, but monitor all because the Lord holds you responsible. This mission is not espionage or oppression, embarrassing or belittling the child, but calls for interest and alertness—meet teachers in school and church; look over curriculum; get to know friends; participate in all parent events with enthusiasm. Don’t ignore danger signs!
- Give necessary time and energy to make your home a welcoming place not only for your children but also for their friends. Parents are often not present, much less engaged, when their children and friends are in the home. Encourage your children to bring their friends to your home—after school, on weekends, for fellowship and fun. Keep homemade cookies and snacks available.
- Always keep routine family mealtimes or celebrations. Introduce your children to extended family—lessons can be learned from both the God-fearing and prodigals.
“This is everything I want,
This is everything I need
I want this to be my one
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You, Jesus,
Be my magnificent obsession . . .” (Stephen Curtis Chapman)
My obsession knows no bounds when it comes to the Lord and to my husband, children, grandchildren, and extended family! I take delight in pouring my energies and creativity into the family; I am humbled that they honor the Lord and rejoice in serving Him. Yes, they have been and will ever by my magnificent obsession until I reach the heavenly court and humbly place at the feet of the blessed Jesus the lives of the family I love so much as my crowns of kingdom ministry.