Keeping “Godly Homemaking” in Perspective

August 11, 2010 at 6:29 am (A Slice of Life, Attitudes, Homemaking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

Last night Nathaniel and I (along with Elijah) attended a Bible study where a man named Titus from Nigeria shared about what the Lord is doing in his country and the need for literacy so that people can read God’s word for themselves.  It was a wonderful presentation, and a great wake-up call to consider how we can be supporting the suffering body of Christ around the world–through prayer and giving.

During Titus’s presentation, he took a small portion of time to discuss the problem of finding clean water that is an everyday reality for most rural people in Nigeria (and all over Africa).  A picture popped up on the screen of a woman carrying a very large pot on her head–so that her family would have some to drink and some with which to wash clothes.  This of course had an impact on my heart, realizing how incredibly blessed we are to have clean, running water, and how important it is to consider the needs of others, but it also made me think of how foolish we can be sometimes over here in the West, trying to paint an elusive picture of the perfect homemaker…of the “godly” homemaker.

The women in the picture had to walk miles for the water they needed, carrying a large pot and sometimes a little baby the whole way.  This could take HOURS.  Imagine if three or four hours of your day were spent walking and gathering water.  Would you have time to pursue “godly” hobbies like sewing or knitting or baking cookies?  Would you have the time to attend a ladies brunch and Bible study?  Would you have the time to post to your blog (assuming you do not have a smart phone)?  Would you have time to teach your kids Latin?  Make all of your own clothing?  Prepare every meal from scratch?  Would you have the money to buy only organic produce (because, of course, that is the most “godly” thing to do)?

How can a Christian woman in Africa be “godly” when she cannot do all the things that many conservative Christians in the West say a “godly” homemaker should be doing?

These thoughts only added to a lesson my Father has been teaching me lately.  Being a godly wife and mother isn’t about being the best housewife on the street, it’s about being godly in the role God has given me as a wife and mother.  It’s not about the outward stuff, as though the kingdom of God consisted in eating and drinking…or frugal shopping or an 1800’s-like lifestyle or wearing nice clothes.

The kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

I’m afraid we can get all too consumed with outward tasks and outward adornment (modest, of course), and outward actions, that we forget about the fruit of the Spirit.  That we fail to be godly because God is barely in the equation anymore.

Being godly starts with God.  It starts with His work in humble hearts.  Seeking Him is of far greater value than making your own bread or using cloth diapers or growing your own organic vegetable garden.

The point here is not that any of these things is wrong.  The point is that they do not make you godly.  Nor are you ungodly if your house doesn’t look or function just like Susie Homemaker’s.   Godliness is seeking Yahweh, being empowered by the Spirit and motivated by love to obey God and joyfully serve Him in whatever life-situation or role you find yourself in.  It speaks more to attitudes than to actual tasks.

So let’s revisit our Christian wife and mother in Nigeria.  How can she be godly?  She undoubtedly rises early to prepare food for her household.  She praises God for His provision.  She cares for the needs of her husband and children–her heart is grateful to God for them and compassionate towards them.  She walks however long it takes to find water for her family.  And along the way she is perhaps meditating on what little bit of Scripture she has access to this week.  Or maybe she sings praises.  Or maybe she delights in the sunshine or rain that her Father has given her that day.  She lovingly nurses her infant, and shares what she knows about Jesus with other women along her path.

She may be very godly.  And all you would see is a woman walking a long way to get water.  And then working hard when she returned home.  A woman who, at the end of the day, may have nothing more to show for all of her labor than this:  she, her husband, and her children … are still alive.

(Assuming they were not attacked by Muslims that day because of their faith in Jesus–another reality of the Christian life in Nigeria).

She is godly because she is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and manifests the fruit of His work in her heart.  She may not know as much as you and I about theology.  She may not even be able to read the Bible for herself–only clinging to the slivers of light that came through the teaching she heard at the small gathering of believers that she attended earlier that week.  But every word of God that she finds, she devours.  And she trusts in Him to provide and protect, and to keep His promises.

May we consider that our Western, task-driven, formulaic, and sometimes legalistic view of what it means to be a godly woman might just crumple when held up to the light of God’s word.  We are not to compare ourselves with each other or with a cultural ideal.  We are to seek the Living God.  May we be Spirit-filled believers who put the skills and gifts God has given us to good use in the roles that He has placed us in.

More to come on this subject…

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Lest We Worship Godliness

November 2, 2009 at 1:51 am (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

worship godliness
Posted by Abigail

Most of the words I hear pass in one ear, bypass my brain, and float out the other ear leaving no great impact. My younger sister, Lydia, reminds me of this fact frequently when she says, “Now look at me and tell me what I said.” At the moment I can recap something of the main idea of what she told me, but half an hour later, all has vanished into the dim hallway of horrors which is my memory. But every once in a great while, a sentence, a phrase, an idea will snarl and snag and remain forever lodged in the soil of my mind and a slow germination will take place. Years ago, long before Lauren and Nathaniel had an “and” between their names, long before Lauren and I had breeched the careful gap of unspeakables that was Nathaniel, back when we were in the first flush of infatuation at having found a likeminded girl, she made a very simple statement: “Godliness without God is godlessness.”

The other day I met that phrase again, in the guise of a young woman. She was dressed very modestly, with a sweet expression on her face and a slim, gold wedding band on her finger. “What do you want to do?” I asked when she explained that waitressing was only temporary. “Be a stay-at-home wife and mom. And homeschool.” Yes, she’d been homeschooled, too. And she and her husband were hoping soon to add a baby to their happy home. I beamed, thinking how alike we were—and how rare it is to find another young woman who wants to live a godly lifestyle. So I asked, “Do you serve Jesus?” She smiled and dropped a bomb-shell. “Actually, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Translation: She’s Mormon.

In that one revelation I was reminded of Lauren’s words: “Godliness without God is godlessness.”

That phrase has echoed in my hallway of horrors, casting its shadow over my lurking corners of self-righteousness ever since. As I read and as I write it is easy to become caught up in the rush of religious material, holy living and set-apart lifestyles. It is easy to embrace radical holiness, while neglecting the Holy Spirit who empowers. It is easy to accept the parts of Christianity that are lovely, appealing, and nostalgic—pre-packaged for easy consumption. Especially when surrounded by folks who practice the same things. It is comfortable to settle into a lifestyle of predictability and forget about the war that rages. It’s easy to boil godliness down into a look, an act and an art.

But Christianity isn’t simply a return to history. Clothing isn’t Christian. Lifestyles aren’t Christian. Vocations aren’t Christian. Buildings aren’t Christian. Habits aren’t Christian. Need I continue? People are Christian. Hearts are Christian.

Jesus’ chief complaint against the Israel of His day was not modesty, family values or work ethic. It was this, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of these people—they honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Ladies, the truly unique thing about the woman of God is not her lifestyle. Sadly, many religious people ape a godly lifestyle. The truly unique thing about a godly woman is not her dress. Even some of the enemies of the true God subscribe to modesty. The truly unique thing about a woman of God is this: she is a woman of God. She belongs to God. She’s been purchased by the prodigal grace of Christ to walk in newness of life—redeemed to an intimate relationship with God. The Mormon women don’t have that, in spite of their lifestyle. The Muslim women don’t have that, regardless of their modesty. Just because you were homeschooled or you wear dresses or you have long hair doesn’t mean you have that.

The good woman who lives the right lifestyle apart from dependence on God’s grace is just as godless as the woman who shakes her fist at heaven, denies God’s existence and lives to glorify herself. One worships godlessness; the other worships godliness.

Godliness without God is godlessness.

Hebrews tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God. For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of…” of what? Those who homeschool? Those who dress modestly? Those who are at-home wives or daughters? He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The Samaritan woman brought up the age-old debate of where and how we are to worship God. Jesus responded that God seeks for worshippers who worship in Spirit and truth.

All too often, I retreat into my inner sanctum of self-evaluation, take off my haloed mask of pretense and discover that I am a hypocrite—an actor on the stage of time and history. Like the Greek actors—the hypocrites of old—I hold a mask before my face, recite lines and play a part for all to see. The audience claps, cheers, laughs, weeps. But I am only pretending.

And they smile and nod and say kind things like, “She’s such a godly girl.”

Because I wear the right clothes and do the right things and say the right words and spend time with the right people, write the right articles and uphold the right values and sing the right songs. I live a life of obedience. But ladies, sometimes obedience is easier than submission. And sometimes submission is easier than sacrifice. And sometimes sacrifice is easier than intimacy. Because obedience, submission and sacrifice can sometimes become ingrained habits. But intimacy requires a raw and open heart. And when intimacy fades—it is easier to fabricate a mask from our ingrained habits than it is to pursue the true form.

And on the days when my heart is as distant from God as eternity is from yesterday, no one knows. No one knows except for the Lord and me. Because I look the same and act the same and dress the same.

I have achieved the visual standard of godliness, regardless of my heart condition.

But godliness without God is godlessness!

Do you see what I’m saying? I’m not trashing the importance of wives at home, loving their husbands and children. I’m not seeking to overthrow teachings of modesty. I’m not tearing down marriages and families that are serving and loving each other. I’m just saying that when we elevate these ideals, when we hold them up as standards of godliness, when we focus on peddling results instead of preaching the cause, we create a false religious system. We create idols that should be the outcome of worshipping God. And the world perceives our priorities. I can’t even tell you how many people I have talked to that answer the question “Do you know Jesus?” with “I should start going to church” or “I should try to be a better person.” Godliness, pursued as an end, turns into a dead end–literally.

Every time Paul began to preach a sanctified lifestyle, he had preceeded it with an important message—the gospel! God’s saving and sanctifying work in our lives! How do we live godly? Romans 12 tells us to present our bodies living and holy sacrifices…and not to be conformed to the world by renewing our minds. Paul had spent the previous eleven chapters talking about God’s great redemption and His free gift to all who believe. How do we renew our minds? By worshipping God! By keeping the glory and grace of Yahweh before our eyes. We were redeemed to an intimate relationship with the Holy Creator of the universe! Let’s live like it! Not just outwardly, but pursuing Him, praising Him, seeking Him, worshipping Him…and talking about Him.

Do you know Yahweh? I’m not asking if you look like a Christian. I’m not asking if you live like a Christian. Do you know Yahweh intimately? Do you sit at His feet, listening to the words He says? Do you pour over the love letters He has written you? Do you get so excited you can’t stop talking about Him? As a child of your Abba, remember that the joy in obedience is in sitting in your Father’s lap. As the Bride of Christ, the joy of submission is in depth of intimacy. As lovers of God, let’s love God. As worshippers of God, let’s worship God. In pursuing holiness, let’s pursue the Holy One.

Because godliness without God is godlessness.

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