If you're a parent and a Christian, you've probably read your share of parenting books. Of the making of self-help parenting books, there is seemingly no end. If, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, you've been wearied by such study, Christina Fox's new book, Idols of a Mother's Heart, will be a balm for your soul. While Christina's book is directed at mothers, there is much in her writing that would comfort, encourage, and challenge fathers as well.
Unlike so many of the books on parenting that I've read, Christina's book isn't about smacking you on the head with what you're doing wrong. Her approach isn't like Bob Newhart's counseling skit. She doesn't simply tell you to "Stop it!" From beginning to end, Christina's message is gospel-centered and full of grace for us all.
Christina reminds us that our purpose is to glorify God and worship Him (37). Our identity and meaning aren't meant to be found in motherhood, or fatherhood, but in Christ who has redeemed us (111). Our value and worth aren't in our achievements and successes as parents. Instead, "our worth is grounded in who Christ is for us, and what He accomplished on our behalf" (122).
Since that's true, why focus on motherhood and the idols we may have as mothers? Parenting can make us more aware of our sin in ways we didn't expect (24-25). Christina writes:
First, as mothers, we all face the problem of the presence of remaining sin in our life. Secondly, motherhood is hard. It is challenging and stretching in unique ways, different from other areas of our life. Thirdly, motherhood is another area of our life God uses to transform us. (31)
In other words, parenthood can reveal idols we may not have known we worship. How can we identify our idols? Idols are the things we hope will provide meaning and fulfillment for us apart from God. Generally, as believers, we try to add something to our faith in God, like a job or relationship (67).
But ultimately our idols will let us down. They can't save us, and they are powerless to help us. Christina reminds us that we need to see that about our idols, not so that we can fix ourselves, but so we can see our need for God (80).
One really helpful section has questions to help us identify our idols. Questions like, "What controls you" or "What do you fear losing?" (91) Once we've identified which idols we've put our trust in, Christina systematically breaks down how these idols are destructive and how Christ fulfills our needs instead. The book focuses specifically on the idols of children, success, comfort, control, and approval.
For me, the idols that I find myself trusting in the most often are control and approval. As Christina points out, the idol of control leads to worry. Don't I know it! I try to manage everything around me, but I can't (139). How do I uproot the idol of control? By remembering God's sovereignty and His providential care of me:
Moms, we must learn to rest in God's sovereignty. It must become a comfort to us. Our God is holy, perfect, righteous, and good. He always does what is just and true. He always acts with wisdom; He always does what is right. We can trust His sovereign control over our lives and that of our children. We need to yield in dependence and humble reliance upon His sovereignty. (145)
And approval? That idol can never fulfill us. We'll be bound to the opinion of others. Happy when we're accepted and miserable when we're not (151). To topple the idol of approval, we need to recognize that God's opinion of us is the only one that matters. And He loves us:
We are loved by the Maker of all things. He approves of us. The approval of others falls flat in comparison. What others think or say about us can never measure up to God's holy, perfect, and infinite love. The idol of approval never lasts; it is like chasing after the wind. God's love is forever. (159-160)
In the end, Christina directs us to the gospel again. Why can we trust that God will take care of us? Because He's already met our greatest need. He's saved us from death and separation from Him. He sent His Son to die for our sins. He's not going to forget us or forsake us (146).
While our sins may feel overwhelming, while we may feel like we can never hope to remove the idols in our hearts, we should remember that the struggle may last all of our lives, but the war has already been won for us. Christ has overcome sin and death, and we aren't fighting on our own strength alone. He is with us and won't let us go (175).
And that is the best promise of all:
The marvelous wonder and grace of the gospel is not that we keep a tight grip onto God but that He holds onto us. Because we are sinful and fallen, there will be times when we forget these truths. We will forget who He is and what He has done. We will fail to love Him with all our hearts and will instead erect counterfeit gods to love and serve. But God never lets go of us. Our security is not based on how strong our faith is or how often we read the Bible or how much we love God; rather, it rests in Christ's work for us. It is His grip which holds us secure, not our grip on Him. (184)
I highly recommend this book for any parent, mother or father, who is deep in the trenches of life with children. We all need to identify and root out the idols of our hearts. And we need to remember the gospel. I'm thankful for Christina's helpful encouragement in this book.