By Kim Longden
It was ten years ago, and we were at a fork in the road. We’d just had our third child, we were in the process of moving, and God had closed the door on my returning to work outside of the home. It was terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Terrifying because of the unknowns of living on half of our usual income, but also exciting to now step out into our own adventure of trusting God to provide having grown up hearing stories of God’s faithful provision from my parents.
One day I was at Hobby Lobby and I saw this sign: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I thought, “Yes! I will hang this sign in my kitchen to remind me that my treasure and identity are now at home and in my family.”
I thought this was a good thing, an admirable thing, and the correct application of this verse, right? Well, no… not quite, as I would later learn.
I dove into being the best stay-at-home mom I could be. I cleaned the house with gusto, took care of the kids with pride, and worked on setting up my new identity as a homemaker. I didn’t have any time to spend reading God’s Word because the kids needed me. I didn’t have time to pray because the dishes were calling my name. And these things I was putting first were all good things—noble things. Little did I know at the time that even good and noble things can become idols in our lives.
It’s crazy how our sinful flesh can take anything—even really good things—and twist them into something they weren’t meant to be. My standard of having a clean house and perfectly behaved kids had become the center of my universe and the source of my identity—they had become idols because they had replaced God as the main priority of my life and the source of my fulfillment.
And you know what I learned? Even really good gifts make terrible gods that are not at all dependable or fulfilling. Unless you live alone you don’t have much control over your clean house actually staying clean—it’s a never-ending battle. And what about when those “by the book” parented kids totally freak out—especially in public? If my identity or source of fulfillment rests in things that I’m trying to control or on the behavior of other imperfect human beings, I am setting myself (and them!) up for frustration and ultimately devastation.
If my house is a disaster two seconds after I clean it, does that mean I don’t have it all together? If my kids’ misbehavior is a barometer of who I am as a parent, does that mean I’m a failure every time they struggle? This pressure to perform so I could be fulfilled and secure in my identity filtered down to everyone in my family. Everything became so much more complicated for all of us when who I am got wrapped up in things of this broken and fallen world.
So, back to that sign in my kitchen. My noble idea of storing up treasure and finding my identity in my home and family had ultimately led to frustration for all of us. This beautiful gift of home and family had been placed on the throne of my heart displacing the True King and Giver of these gifts. Rather than enjoying these gifts for the blessings they are, my attempt to find my purpose in them only added stress and grief to our home life.
It was little invitations from God here and there that led me to a better application of the words on that sign. An encouragement from a friend to join a weekly Bible study with a commitment to being in God’s Word every day. Reading a book that challenged me to start a prayer journal and pray each day. Consistently meeting with a group of ladies who spurred each other on to walk out the things we were learning rather than just reading about them.
By degrees the King revealed the treasure I needed to set my heart on. Jesus became the priority of my life—the kids would be fine for a bit while I took time to study the Bible each day. The dishes could wait while I spent time in prayer. The fulfillment I had been seeking in things I found in Him—the only One who could provide it completely and perfectly.
This renewed dependence on Jesus allowed all of those other things to go back to their rightful places—gifts to be enjoyed freely without the pressure to perform.
So now I can laugh instead of cry over spilled milk, because the state of my house does not define me. And whether my toddlers exhibit model behavior at the store or are the ones screaming and throwing their shoes, I can just love them freely without wrapping their highs and lows up into who I am (or who they are!).
By seeking God first, all of the other things I had been toiling for were added to me as well—peace, contentment, and joy in the role God placed me in. My family and home actually benefit by NOT being the center of my universe. Aren’t God’s ways mysterious?
Now I look at that sign in my kitchen and smile with thankfulness for a God who is always teaching me and who is ever gracious in the midst of my lessons. I am so thankful for this gift of being a homemaker and a mother. But I am a thousand times more grateful that my treasure and identity is in Christ—a treasure that is promised forever. An identity that can never be shaken. An identity that shapes how I am all the other things I am.
I still slip sometimes. I still find my identity in the most obvious or most devious places. I can begin to listen to the lies that my performance or my achievements (or my kids’ achievements) define my worth. But again and again, Jesus calls me back to focus on Him. Jesus is where my treasure is—and more and more, Jesus is where my heart is, also.
Thank you for articulating something I, too, have struggled with. You are right – even good, noble things make terrible gods … and might I add, make frustrated people. Thanks for sharing that we need to keep Christ central! It is a message that we always need.