February 20, 2009 by Stacy McDonald

The Myth of the Perfect Family

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The following article is a re-post of an article I wrote a few years ago. I wanted to post it again because of a growing problem I’m seeing lately where women compare themselves to other women and their families, rather than putting their hope and trust in Jesus, remembering that we are all unique and that God uses us in different way.

Ladies, please know that there are no perfect families. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, and that sweet lady sitting in the front row at church with all her children sitting obediently in a row is not perfect either – just ask her! She probably thought you were perfect!

We are such an idolatrous people; but, regardless of the fantasies we make up in our own minds about others, everyone has their weaknesses and sins. We all fail many times a day – we fail to worship God as we should, we fail to love as we should, we lose our tempers, we get weary, we become disorganized, and the list goes on.

As Christians, washed in the soul-cleansing blood of Christ, we are all on a great journey – a terrifying, exciting, painful, wonderful, breathtaking, God-glorifying journey of sanctification. To God alone be the glory!

If you find the following article helpful, you might also want to read I am What I am: Growing in Thankfulness

The Myth of the Perfect Family

By Stacy McDonald

Paul says in Titus 2 that the aged women are to teach the young women, among other things, to love their husbands and children, and to be “keepers at home.” If we decide it’s true that we as women are called by God to love and serve our families and keep our homes, then we as Christian women should do it wholeheartedly, because we’re also told in Colossians that, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

It’s true; some days seem overwhelming. There are times when child rearing is just plain old “hard work.” Try as we might, our houses never stay perfectly clean, and each of our children is disobedient at least once every day. We could throw up our hands on those difficult mornings and claim for ourselves a day of defeat and failure, but God has a higher calling for us and sanctifies us through the day-to-day challenges.

We’re not to serve God by pretending life is easy for us or that we have it all down perfectly, because it’s not and we don’t. The world needs an honest depiction of real down-to-earth people living out real life to the glory of God. Unbelievers will see God in us when we demonstrate contentment wherever He has us, when they see the peace He gives us in trials, and when we give rather than take.

Don’t Blame Your Idols for Your Idolatry!

Don’t make the mistake of elevating anyone else to perfection status either. The family you’ve put up on a pedestal more than likely didn’t ask to be put there and won’t be very pleased when they feel themselves crash to the floor after you discover for yourself they are fallible humans, just like the rest of us. No matter what it looks like from your vantage point, the people in the family you’ve idolized still sin, the children aren’t perfect, the mom sometimes says unkind things, the father speaks in sinful anger from time to time, and their family creates messes that have to be cleaned, just like yours does.

Instead of wishing you could have a “really godly family” like that spit-and-polished family at church, consider the great gift of your own family and pray together that God would use you to serve one another, and others, to the glory of God. Each family has its own flavor or scent, spiritually speaking; and your family is no exception.

It is imperative that we live out the gospel consistently in every area of our lives, especially in our families. Not because it will make us happier or more fulfilled; our primary purpose is not to have children who will turn out smarter or godlier; or marriages that will be more satisfying; though all of those things may happen.

“Our primary purpose is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever!”* We must display to the world an honest depiction of Christ and His Bride; we must prove to the heathen that God is real and that He is awesome, good, just, merciful, powerful, pure, holy, and magnificent! Our purpose in doing this must be to bring glory to God. If we have selfish, prideful motives in what we do, we’ll be left empty and won’t wind up “enjoying God” at all.

All of your family’s talents, personalities, and gifts work together to bring a unique offering to the church and to others. Instead of focusing on your blemishes, thank God for His grace and mercy and pray that your own family scent would be a sweet aroma to the Lord. And rather than coveting what God has done in another family, praise God for our differences, remembering that they too have their own blemishes that God must deal with.

As you live out the day-to-day as a wife and mother, nurturing your family, helping your husband, training your children, being industrious, creating a God-scented home, I pray you learn to be more than a content and happy homemaker—I pray you become a passionate housewife!

*In The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question number 1 asks, “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer is, “Man’ s chief and highest end is to glorify God, (Rom. 11:36, Cor. 10:31) and fully to enjoy him forever. (Ps. 73:24–28, John 17:21–23) The Westminster Larger Catechism : With Scripture Proofs. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, S. Question 1



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22 Responses to “The Myth of the Perfect Family”

  1. halmar says:

    Dear Stacy,

    Thank you so much for this post. What a struggle it is, and how easy it is to sink into it. Oh, that God’s grace will abound in me more and more!

    Erica

  2. Lisa says:

    Stacy,
    Thank you for this post and for the linking article you wrote. They were such a blessing and balm. I so appreciate your transparency.God bless, you.
    Lisa

  3. Dusty says:

    Amen! I struggle with this myself sometimes. I see “that couple” and wish I had it together like they did, but I’ve been coming around and I’m starting to realize that I just need to worry about my family and not someone else’s. The only expectations I need to meet are those that God has for me.

    Thanks for posting this!

    BTW, I don’t know if you want to keep up with my Passionate Housewives study, but I posted my entry on Chapter 4 yesterday.

    Thanks for the compliments on my cake too! I was so nervous it was going to turn out horrible, but I was pleased that it at least resembled a castle! lol

  4. Elaine says:

    Thank you for the reminder and encourgement. This is an area that I have to constantly check myself in…to see if I am doing it for God’s glory or my own.
    Elaine :)

  5. Jenn says:

    This is a sin I have to keep aware of or else it will creep back in. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement for how to refocus.

  6. lilyamongthorns16 says:

    Thank you for posting this. I definitely needed to hear this and be reminded of it. I often find myself trying to be perfect, do everything perfectly, and have the perfect life. I tend to only see what other people excel at and not their weaknesses, wishing I could excel at that (and everything!) just like them. It’s not possible and leaves you drained and disappointed.

    Thank you for this reminder!

  7. Mandy Pena says:

    Stacy, Thank you for being willing to bless the lives of so many ladies who go through the same types of struggles you also deal with. It is a blessing to know that the Lord can use us sinful stumbling believers to bless other sinful stumbling believers. He even choses to us to spread His words and love. This is His plan — to use us.
    Mandy

  8. Mandy Pena says:

    Stacy, Thank you for being willing to bless the lives of so many ladies who go through the same types of struggles you also deal with. It is a blessing to know that the Lord can use us sinful stumbling believers to bless other sinful stumbling believers. He even choses to us to spread His words and love. This is His plan — to use us.
    Mandy

  9. MrsFranklin says:

    Iam so glad to see this post. I’ve been concerned about how so many women go to blogs and see these families and think they are perfect and it causes them to be discontent with who God placed in their lives.

    Its refreshingly honest for Sisters in Christ to encourage and lift each other up, not tear each other down with jealousy, covetousness and contention!

  10. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Dusty – yes, I do. Thanks for letting me know you put a new post up. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    Mrs. Franklin – You are right. And it happens on blogs, in churches, and with authors, singers, movie stars, teachers, and even close friends. Idolatry lives in the heart of the person who idolizes someone else. We need to remember that and continuously check our own hearts.

    Lord, help us to give you ALL the glory!!!!

  11. Mrs. Lady Sofia says:

    Stacy,

    Thank you for posting this. It’s very easy for us, as women, to get “caught up” in comparisons. Thank you for reminding us that the most important thing that we should be doing in this life is glorifying God and not man/woman.

  12. Don and Rebecca Fizell says:

    Dear Stacy,
    You always seem to post just what I need to hear at the right time. Thank you! I am always encouraged when I read your blog.
    ~ Rebecca

  13. The Francis Family says:

    Thank you for this article!

  14. The Butterfly Catcher says:

    What a beautiful reminder of what our truest and deepest motivation should be as wives and mothers – to glorify our precious Saviour and to see His Love and Life manifested in our hearts and in our homes! Thank you for being open, honest, and real!

  15. Ashley L says:

    Thank you so much for your encouragement! I have been praying about much of the same thing lately as I strive both to be a godly mom and to work at what I do “heartily as if for the Lord and not for men,” and at the same time realize that God cares about the motives of my heart rather than external appearances (a perfect looking home doesn’t please God if I push His priorities aside to make it happen). A constant tension… I really appreciated your words of wisdom. Thank you!

  16. Nancy says:

    Raising 7 children is, as always, a walk of faith with the Lord. If I compared myself with others, I would constantly fall short. We ALL fall short of the glory of Christ. Yet in His forgiveness we have a sanctuary and new life. I am praising Him for that daily. I commend you for encouraging the Godly position of motherhood! Well done.

  17. L.H. says:

    Thanks for this! As a young mother and homemaker, it is hard not to try and find that “perfect” family that you compare yourself against. The idea that there is no “perfect” family and that I should appreciate my own families uniqueness, help get rid of that “perfectionism” attitude.

  18. Stacy McDonald says:

    Dear Civilla,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I’m wondering, as an older woman who has seen more, where do you think the problem lies? It seems to me the real issue is our idolatrous hearts. I can remember many times in my own life (even recently) when I catch myself thinking in my heart that someone else has it “all together” when I know with my “head” they don’t – I know that in reality they have their own struggles, just like I do.

    When I’m having a hard time getting a little one to obey, I catch myself thinking “So and So’s child would NEVER act like this – what am I doing wrong?” Yet, I know this isn’t true and I have to take that thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I have to remember that idolizing any man is wrong.

    Still Scripture teaches us to imitate those who are godly. Of course, this means imitate their acts of godliness, not the men themselves.

    “That you do not become sluggish, but IMITATE those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12, NKJV) emphasis mine

    “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, IMITATE me.” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16, NKJV)emphasis mine

    I just think we should be careful of blaming our idols for our idolatry, rather than our own wicked hearts. Just as we can’t blame a bottle of wine for our drunkenness, we can’t blame someone else for our sin.

  19. Civilla says:

    I agree with you, Stacey, it is a two-fold problem. I think I have been guilty of showcasing myself. When I started having problems MYSELF with idolizing others and feeling comdemned, at my age, I realized that we have a problem.

    I finally started admitting problems that I have with my home and with my children, or admitting that I do not necessarily like to cook (but I do it anyway and have done my best to be good at it) and use packaged foods occasionally. That’s when I started getting e-mails from young ladies desperate for reassurance.

    I think that we are told to look for “that perfect Titus 2 woman”, when really, none of us is perfect at every single thing. Some excell as patient mothers, some as extrordinary cooks, some as great crafters, etc. We can learn different things from all of these different women, but very rarely will one woman excell at all of these things at the same time. We need many mentors, not just one “perfect” person. Perhaps we can recommend other older women who excell at things at which we do not excell — kind of spread it around.

    I think we are looking for that plaster Madonna who floats six inches above the ground, because as Americans, we are always looking for a magic formula for success in whatever (I do it all the time).

    Yes, it is wrong to idolize people. That is sin. But we need to be careful to be open with younger ladies and admit that our lives are not perfect and that we need the Lord’s help each day to be the women he means for us to be.

    Thank you for letting me blog. I bought your book and like it very much.

    I have to admit that I have had a lot of depression recently after reading blogs, because I have recently dealt with a prodigal son (my husband resigned his church over it, because he didn’t feel he should pastor with our child living like that — not that every pastor has to do that). Seeing the young “perfect” families has made even an older lady like myself grieve in despair, because I can’t go back and live my life over again.

    All I could think was, “What if I had lived my life exactly as these young ladies, would things have turned out better?” I’d lie in bed at night with tears streaming down my face, wondering what I’d done wrong (possibly everything), and how I could have missed these truths that these young ladies had mastered (we prayed about every decision, but if my husband and myself had missed these truths, what were we doing in the ministry?).

    I finally stopped going to several blogs and feel better now. The condemnation was fierce. The obvious truth dawned on me: these ladies’ children were not yet grown. They haven’t walked where I have walked. They should not offer “magic formulas” for perfect children. (I used to do that when I was their age.)I did not need to receive their condemnation.

    My “idol” when I was young was Edith Schaeffer. Her children did not turn out to be perfect. Her books were great, but left me feeling that I could never measure up. I think she should have been more diligent to let us know that she didn’t always do everything she suggested at all times.

    I guess, Stacey, we older ones need to be open with the younger ones, and admit that sometimes children make their own choices, sometimes we used a packaged dinner to save time, sometimes life is not always ideal or perfect. This way, we will not tempt others to sin by idolizing us.

    And, it is wrong to be dissatisfied with the life that God has given us, but sometimes books and blogs can do just that to us.

  20. Christy, the Notable Blogger says:

    Thank you for your insight! God bless you!

  21. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Civilla,

    While I appreciate what you are saying, I think we have to be careful to not judge whether or not someone is sinning because another may be tempted to covet what they have. Idolatry rests in the heart of the idolater.

    Anyone can covet just about anything. We can’t live our lives in fear, hiding what God has done in our lives, because it “may” cause someone to covet what we have. We are called to live our lives to the glory of God, testifying of His goodness. While I would agree with you that an excessive focus on material things or on how “flawless” our lives are would be an issue of deception and pride, and that is certainly sinful; hiding God’s blessings, or the things He has taught you, does not make us humble.

    I really like what you said here:

    “None of us is perfect at every single thing. Some excel as patient mothers, some as extraordinary cooks, some as great crafters, etc. We can learn different things from all of these different women, but very rarely will one woman excel at all of these things at the same time. We need many mentors, not just one “perfect” person.”

    This is crucial to remember. God has gifted each of us in different ways because we are all different members of one body. I can’t sew, so about 9 years ago I hired someone to come in and teach my two oldest girls to sew. It would have been nice if I had known someone at church who was willing to teach them. I could have taught their daughters something else, co-op style. We can all work together.

    You also said:

    “These “perfect” women frequently have advantages that these very young ladies don’t have…”

    I’m not sure who these “perfect” women are that you are referring to, but I think we need to be careful about judging others (and possibly their motives). None of the things you mentioned are sinful (except the implication of the “obedient husband”), and while nobody should brag, we shouldn’t imply that others should hide the various ways God has blessed them.

    I think it is important to remember that we should always give God the glory. That’s the bottom line. If we try to take credit for what God has done, we are sinning. We should be careful of how we communicate God’s blessings in our lives, taking care that we are not boastful or proud; but we should not be fearful to testify of God’s work and blessing in our families. These are good things and it can encourage others and spur them on to good works.

    While I understand the frustration of having made mistakes in my past, and in the lives of my children, it is all part of the sanctification process. God is in control and He uses even my failures to His glory. I can’t pretend my failures didn’t happen – that won’t heal my hurt or my depression. I must give them to Jesus and pray He will be redeem my failures and use them to His glory!

    I speak these things in love, knowing that none of us is perfect – all of us fail in more ways than we know. But God is God and He IS perfect! He will not fail us. We must use all of the gifts He gives us in humility and to His glory! Not hiding our testimony under a bushel or burying our treasure in the ground for someone to trip over. To God alone be the glory!

    “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:7-11, NKJV)

  22. Brandy says:

    Stacy,
    I hope that it is alright that I posted a link on my blog to this post. I just loved this article and I think it is such an issue amongst Christian women. Satan wants to use this area to destroy healthy female friendships!

    Thanks for the words of wisdom:)

    Brandy

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