Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You to Run

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2

There is an article by Stephen Altrogge making the rounds on social media this week titled “Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You to Chill Out.” It is a great post, reminding moms that the yoke of legalism is a heavy burden to bear, and that majoring in the minors does nothing to help us love God, our spouses or our children better. I applaud Altrogge’s insight into the comparison-plagued mind of the typical Christian mom, daily sailing between the Scylla-and-Charybdis scenarios of motherhood (doctor or doula? Bottle or breast? Gluttony or gluten-free? Public or private? And on we sail…) Modern moms are so often characterized by (and crushed by) the side-long glance of comparison.

But are all comparisons to others harmful to our mothering?  I don’t think so. In Hebrews 11-12, scripture challenges believers to look to those who have gone before – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab – those who endured great hardship and opposition for the sake of doing exactly the thing Altrogge (and Jesus) want us to do: Grow in holiness by loving God and others. What is mothering, if not a race for holiness? Hebrews 11-12 gives us a comparison that is worth our time – a comparison not to those who majored in the minors of legalistic one-upsmanship, but to those who majored in the majors of faith-bolstered preferential love of God and others. And it calls them as witnesses to our own efforts.

That makes this mom want to get off the couch.

It makes me want to redouble my efforts to fix my eyes on Jesus and on the faces of those he has entrusted to my care, to fix my thoughts on the transforming grace of the cross so that my life models holiness to my kids, to fix my efforts on creating a home that celebrates what God celebrates – shared time, shared faith, shared affection. Moms, daily remind yourselves not to major in the minors, but do something else as well: daily remind yourselves to major in the majors.

In matters of legalism, rest – yes – but in matters of holiness, run. Run like your hair is on fire. Cast off everything that hinders: all false measures of righteousness cloaked as homemade bread or spotless kitchen surfaces. But let your newly-found chill mentality toward Pinterest and June Cleaver free up energy to run the race that counts. Because this good work of loving God and loving others is a race for the fit and the fleet, particularly if you’re a mom. Psychologists tell us that a child’s moral framework – the way they view right and wrong – begins forming at eighteen months and is set by around age eleven.  So if you thought you had eighteen years to train them in the fear and admonition of the Lord, you might want to bump up your timetable. You might want to run.

In the faith-fueled race of holiness, some days you will run well and some days you will run out of steam. There is grace for that, and majoring in the majors will require you to draw on it constantly. But get up and run again. Your family does not need you to bake the perfect pie, but they do need you to run with endurance the race marked out for you—a race that we run for the joy set before us: the joy of running in the very steps of Christ. Not an easy race, no, but a course we can surely complete because of the completed work of the cross. Dear moms, Jesus wants you to run.

  • Clarice

    I appreciate the dialogue here and the perspective from a different angle. I think I understand the balance that you are attempting to bring here. As moms we want to chill out about the wrong things and get fired up about the right things.

    But…is the race of motherhood personal holiness or is it the holiness of our children? This isn’t entirely clear in the article.

    You write: “Psychologists tell us that a child’s moral framework – the way they view right and wrong – begins forming at eighteen months and is set by around age eleven. So if you thought you had eighteen years to train them in the fear and admonition of the Lord, you might want to bump up your timetable. You might want to run.”

    I’d just want to be careful even in this. We must be faithful to train our children and teach them the love of God in Christ. But our striving in this area won’t produce righteousness in our children. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be faithful, it just means we should fight to trust God rather than worry about our own time tables. If my children leave my home without repenting of their sin and trusting in Christ, I will pray for them even then to be won by Christ because ultimately my hope is in Him to save my children.

    We run a race of FAITH, not a race of holiness. In other words, our place in the race is not determined by how sanctified we are, but in what direction we are running. Holiness is a fruit of faith, not the other way around.

    • Clarice

      I hope my push back here didn’t come off as overly critical or unappreciative! It wasn’t my intention to overlook the good of the article. It’s quite good. I’m just a big one for clarity in mommy matters and so my comment was in hopes of clearing up something that seemed unclear to me, especially regarding the “up your timetable for training your kids” part. Unfortunately, no matter how inspiring the rest was, I was lost there.

      • Jen Wilkin

        Hi Clarice, you didn’t offend me. I just wasn’t sure where you read the assumption that we could produce righteousness in our children. My intent was to point out that we have a brief window of influence with our children, not that we can guarantee a particular outcome through our efforts. I also wasn’t clear about your disconnect over faith/holiness. We are commanded to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:16)and to strive for holiness (Heb 12:14). Holiness is a pursuit, fueled by faith. So, in that sense, the race is one of faith and holiness. I didn’t think we disagreed here – thought you had nuanced your language a bit differently. Peace, Jen

        • Clarice

          Hey Jen, thanks for responding. Forgive me, I’m a analytical thinker and so it’s my natural tendency to read and respond. Just to clarify, I didn’t assume that you were necessarily saying our influence guarantees a particular outcome–though what parent strives for good influence yet not want a particular outcome? Hence my question. My concern was about what motivates us to be a good influence. I don’t want to be motivated by an earthly time table but by faith in God. I’m sure you don’t disagree and you said plenty else in your article to suggest faith in God is what motivates.

          I see in this great conversation concerning motherhood the desire for balance. We don’t want moms to be “off the hook” from holiness, but we also don’t want them to fret with legalism. In the quest for biblical thinking there’s always going to be opportunity for more clarity and more dialogue and I hope that it continues with friendliness and grace. Thanks again!

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Hey Jen,

    Thanks for this helpful counterpart to my article! I agree w/ you wholeheartedly!

    • Jen Wilkin

      Stephen, thanks for taking time to encourage moms to focus on what matters! I could have used your post about fifteen years (and fifty perfect pies) ago. Blessings, Jen

  • Tina Thompson

    Good word! Thank you.

    It stands out in my mind that the awesome thing about this race that we run, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, is that when we falter and stumble and think we can’t run another step, there is our sweet Jesus carrying us on his back headed toward the finish line.:)

  • Jessalyn Hutto

    Wow. Thank you for this great encouragement and challenge! We moms definitely need a push in both directions-resting in what Christ has accomplished and running the race set out before us. It is incredible that we can be tempted on both fronts at the SAME time!

  • Luma

    Totally right on, Jen!! Such a good word of encouragement!

  • LauraLee Shaw

    Thank you for letting the Lord speak through your pen. Powerful encouragement!

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  • Danika Cooley

    Thank you for such a thoughtful response to Stephen Altrogge’s article. I could not agree more.

    While I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Altrogge that we must not focus on the trivial aspects of mothering, discipling our children for Christ is of the utmost importance. We have only a few short years to point them to Christ before we lose their attention.

    ~ Danika Cooley

  • Wendy Alsup

    I loved both yours and Stephen’s articles. And I love, love, love that great cloud of witnesses that cheers us on from the sidelines.

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  • Justin

    Great article and very encouraging. However, I find it interesting that you know that Paul wrote Hebrews.

    • Jen Wilkin

      Ha! You’re exactly right – great catch. I know no such thing.

  • Mel

    Are those legs a real person’s legs with an identity or are they from stock photography?

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