If you’re an overwhelmed mom, Christina Fox gets what you’re going through.
“Unlike hard and difficult jobs I’ve had before, motherhood is all consuming. It consumes energy, time, emotion, wisdom, and everything else…. It reveals our insufficiencies. It shows us just much we don’t know and how incapable we really are. And, it seems to spotlight sin in our heart, magnifying it so what we see the depths of our sin in ways we’ve never noticed before.”
It can refreshing enough for a young mom to feel like she is not alone. We stepped into this role with optimism but pretty soon we’ve figured out nothing is quite going according to our plan. What happens next, as we begin to reconcile our hopes for motherhood with the reality of its challenges, reveals a lot about the state of our hearts. But Christina Fox offers more than just solidarity. In her book Idols of a Mother’s Heart, Fox acknowledges the challenges of motherhood not just to offer us solidarity but also in order to help us understand our hearts. She reminds Christian moms what their hearts were made to worship and what they may have been worshipping instead.
Fox unpacks the concept of idolatry in Part 1 of her Idols of a Mother’s Heart. If you’re familiar with Tim Keller’s reconceptualization of idolatry for modern believers, you’ll find much of this section to be a rehashing of old ideas. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in this section that is specifically aimed at mothers.
This would be a great read for a MOPS-like group to use as the content of their meetings. My only fear is that women may get bogged down by the first section, which hardly references motherhood at all, and will never get to the really rich insights of Part 2. In Part 1 she hints that “we often worship God plus something else” but it isn’t until I got to chapters like “The Idol of Achievement and Success” and “The Idol of Comfort” and “The Idol of Control” that I began to truly see myself as an idol worshipper.
Her diagnostic test at the end of Part 1 offers mothers a chance to ponder their own hearts for symptoms of idolatry. For example, she asks us to consider whether we are tempted to self-pity, reminding us that “the more idolatrous our hearts are, the more we will have self-pity. We feel sorry for ourselves because of some trial, hardship, or injustice and we seek out others who will agree with us, feel sorry for us, and perhaps even intervene on our behalf.” This was one of the first places where I started feeling that familiar discomfort of conviction. (In other words, guilty as charged!)
I felt similarly convicted throughout the rest of Part 2. I was frequently marking pages that I need to meditate on and bring up in my prayers of repentance. How easy I find myself turning to false hopes as a parent. I look to my child’s achievement as a “method of measurement” to assure me I’m doing a good job or as the evidence to support my self-pitying conclusion that I’m failing as a mother. I turn to the comforts of my digital life or my books to help me escape or numb myself to the reality of difficult parenting decisions. Fox knows from experience, I’m guessing, how tempting it is to believe the idol of comfort which tells me that I “have a right to pleasure and comfort” and so I can “start to resent those who interfere” (namely, my precious children.)
Fox came alongside me and helped me to be honest about some of the emotions I’d been experiencing as a mom. Rather than just dealing with the symptoms like so many books for moms, Fox diagnoses the idolatries that are the root causes. But she does so with the sympathy of a mom who has been there, and she leaves you with a final chapter on turning to Christ that restored my heart to worship.