When Your Hands are Full: An Interview with Gloria Furman


Hands full Mother’s Day is right around the corner.  And moms everywhere likely look forward to having one day where people cater their wants and needs.  While we should certainly make everyday an opportunity to honor moms, I thought it would be an especially appropriate time to consider the important work of motherhood and how the Gospel shapes a mother’s understanding of the work she does.

I took some time to interview an author and mother, Gloria Furman about this subject.  Since I don’t have much experience with motherhood beyond watching my wife, I thought it would be helpful to interview a mom who is passionate about writing specifically to moms.

As a mother of four, who lives in a foreign country, and a wife to a busy pastor (who is also physically disabled), Gloria writes the following about the most difficult part of motherhood for her:

Getting the whole family in and out of the car comes to mind. So does restoring order to the chaos in the kitchen at the end of the day. Physically, motherhood is exhausting! But I don't think that's the most difficult thing. Loving my children sacrificially is the biggest challenge. Without hesitating, I would fight a bear with my bare hands in order to defend my babies. But share my peanut butter banana smoothie? Gently correct tantrums? Count my stretch marks as worth it? Patiently supervise homework? Use my gifts to serve them? Let my coffee go cold so I can... [you name it]? I have to give those things some serious thought. And every day I have to ask the Lord to strengthen me with his love as I lay my life down sacrificially in a thousand little ways.

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Me: I’m not a mom, but I’m married to one.  I witness the struggles of taking care of a family, being a wife, and finding time for yourselves… but even that fails to really understand what it’s like.  Describe what makes being a mother difficult for you?

Gloria: May I just say that I so appreciate that you, as a non-mom, are seeking to understand what it is like to be a mom so that you might encourage mothers? Thank you! To answer this question concisely, I think I'm the one who makes motherhood difficult because of my sin. I've written to husbands about this desperate situation and Christ's sufficient provision in a blog post on the Desiring God:

Every husband should know that stay-at-home moms wage epic battles against chaos.

Epic battles against chaos can come in the form of sibling squabbles, maintenance emergencies, drama at school, competing budget items, scheduling hiccups, relational tension, and more. But these things are easily dealt with. - Read What Every Husband Should Know About Stay-at-home Moms

Me: Oftentimes mothering is filled with very ordinary tasks that don’t seem very spiritual.  Tasks like changing diapers, doing laundry, preparing meals, or potty training hardly seems glorifying to God.  How do you deal with that as a mother?  How do you find the sacred amongst the normal, everyday tasks of mothering?  

Gloria: What a great question! I deal with this throughout the breadth of the books, Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. It's funny how some perspective shows that nothing is truly small. I deal with that struggle by thinking through the implications of passages like Col. 3:23-24:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

And also Matt. 10:42.3:

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."

Me: Sometimes moms feel the pressure to be the perfect wife, the perfect home-maker, the perfect employee, and the perfect mom.  How does the Gospel free moms from these things?

Gloria: Ah, yes, the Mother of the Year pressure.

I have noticed here (in this global, Middle Eastern city), that even among moms who aren’t believers they can feel unreasonable pressure to have to be “the best mom you can be.” The gospel frees us in so many ways! In speaking to the very specific situation you mentioned, the gospel frees us to see our perfectionism in the light of God's truth. Because the gospel has at its center the cross of Jesus Christ - we recall that the perfect Son of God hung on the cross and died in our place in order to make atonement for our sin. The gospel sheds light on our maternal perfectionism issue and helps us to ask good questions of our perfectionism- for example, Are my perfectionism goals about God's holiness or my own sinful self-righteousness? What is driving me to want to meet this goal of perfectionism? What am I hoping to gain spiritually-speaking by striving to embody this kind of perfectionism?

On a related note, I think the gospel frees Christian moms to spend lots more time wringing our hands about the things that actually separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, which are, precisely, nothing. Praise the Lord!

[gss-content-box color="gray”]Make sure you check out Gloria’s book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full.  And if you'd like, Gloria offered this free sample chapter that describes how life after kids affected Gloria’s quiet time and practice of spiritual disciplines.[/gss-content-box]

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