By Anna Ilona Mussmann
Many women live a conglomerated life. For homemakers especially, the vocations of wife, mother, and keeper-of-the-house are so intertwined that it can be hard not to feel that a weakness in one area makes us inadequate in them all. Often we have no other outlet--no other employment, no cordoned-off hours of the day--that can make us feel successful at something unrelated to our families. In addition, the homemaker’s daily tasks involve serving the people whom we most love. These are not the people for whom we are content to do a “good enough” job.
Perhaps this is why conversations intended to defend the importance of a homemaker can lead to feelings of guilt. When someone declares that the stay-at-home mom is fulfilling a sacred calling by creating a place of order and beauty for our husband and little ones, we might hear, “You’d better not fail, sister. By the way, when did you last clean your oven? Does your child get enough iron to prevent learning disabilities? Is that apple organic?”
When a discussion of homemaking comes from a religious context, it can seem as though we are being handed a subtle message that God wants us to keep a perfect house filled with fresh cut flowers and happy, obedient children. Because we know how imperfect our homemaking skills often are, this can be a burdensome or even crushing message. Basically, our soot-encrusted oven is merely one more example of the way that we are failing not only our beloved kids, but God Himself.
Yet when it comes to our salvation, the state of our home is about as important as last year’s junk mail. After all, when God looks at us, He sees a beloved child redeemed by His blood and made righteousness through the righteousness of Christ. He doesn’t see our oven.
Our homemaking doesn’t matter.
Only Christ matters. In Christ, we are freed from the burden of getting our lives right. We are liberated from the need to feed our families the perfect diet or to incorporate Lutheran hymnody into our daily lives. We are accounted as righteous as the perfect homemaker who ever lived, as if we were an unfallen version of Eve.
Once we comprehend this (and it is the sort of liberating truth that we must hear again and again, in and out of church) the world looks different.
Suddenly, an article about how to stay on top of the laundry doesn’t have to be a source of guilt and shame. Staying on top of the laundry doesn’t matter, and yet it is breathtakingly good. Managing a house to the best of our abilities is a way to create something beautiful. It is to be like Michelangelo as he painted the Sistine Chapel or Antonio Stradivari when he created violins. Toast crumbs, dust bunnies, and all, it is the beauty of real life, and that makes it far more important and lovely than the transient charm of a Martha Stewart photo-spread.
As we wade through the labor produced by our home, we are liberated from the impossible task of measuring up to perfection. We are made free women who can strive to serve others despite our sins and imperfections. We can remember that as the masks of God, we are the people through whom God works--not the people who do God’s work. He is faithful, and He will accomplish His will in the lives of our husband and children even when we mess up or get lazy. He will forgive the sins which we commit as we go about our daily chores.
Our efforts to serve our families through the crucial work of giving them a home is not another dose of Law. It is liberty: an opportunity and gift from our good and gracious God. The work of a homemaker does not matter, and yet it is so very crucial. It is good. It is something for which to give thanks.
After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their small son (and are awaiting the arrival of baby #2, due in July). Anna's personal blog is Don't Forget the Avocados and her work can also be found inThe Federalist.