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Raising a Modern Day Pharisee


I hold many titles in my life: daughter, wife, friend, chauffeur, cook, housekeeper, and occasionally the handyman or lawn care worker. But few titles carry the weight of implications and responsibilities as that of mom, mother, mama and mommy. For most of my life, there was not much I desired more than to be a mom and to have children. My husband and I have had our fair share of struggles on our journey to having children through infertility, miscarriages, and ultimately the loss of our second born son. The journey has had many ups and downs, so I can relate to the broad spectrum of where many of you may find yourselves.

As our dreams and hopes came to fruition, I’m not sure that any amount of advice given or book read could have prepared us for our new reality. No sleep, crying babies, sheer exhaustion and the demands of newborns. Then came the seasons of disobedience, talking back, sassy attitudes and the like. Many times along the way of my journey into motherhood, I have questioned whether or not I’m cut out for this. Am I really equipped to raise these children to be respectful, to love one another with brotherly affection, to train them, lead them and shepherd their little hearts toward Jesus? Isn’t there someone so much more qualified? I have to be honest, many nights I lay my head on my pillow and replay the day’s events. I pick apart and analyze each little turn of events, each reaction, each situation. I think about all the things I should’ve done differently, how I should’ve responded to certain things or how I should’ve taken more opportunities to make the most of each teachable moment. I am hard on myself and chances are, I am not alone.

On a bad day, I can be more focused on my children’s behavior rather than their heart.

As I boil it all down, I can find myself so focused on the things I do and don’t do. When my focus is solely on what I have to offer, it becomes about me and not about what Christ has already done and accomplished for me. I have giant hopes and subtle expectations of being “that mom.” You know the one I’m talking about, right?? The one who always seems to have it all together, perfectly balancing every area of her life. Newsflash….. “SHE” doesn’t exist! We can all find ourselves feeling inadequate, unsure and insecure at times.

stg image for jaime (1)What I began to self discover through this process of weeding out my own issues, is the tendency to place these same grandiose expectations on my children. If only they would obey, be respectful, be kind, do well in school, get good reports from the babysitter, and “do” all the right things, THEN we will have arrived. The truth is, on a bad day, I can be more focused on my children’s behavior rather than their heart. I can be more focused on how they act and how other people perceive them. I can put too much emphasis on WHAT they DO, rather that WHO they ARE. Does this sound familiar?

It sure sounds a whole lot like the people Jesus spent a lot of time addressing in the Gospels. When taking a good, hard look at my own life, I can see my tendency to act just like the Pharisees acted. I can struggle with wanting to do and say all the right things, while my heart is hard and cold. As a pastor’s wife, I feel the weight of that added responsibility to say and do all the right things all the time. After all, people are watching, right? I can’t help but imagine how the Pharisees processed their title and responsibility as the religious leaders of their day. People looked to them and their leadership as the authority of knowing God and His Word. Failure, vulnerability and admittance of wrongdoing or sin probably felt taboo or unacceptable. Jesus even addresses this in Matthew 9:12-13 as He responded to the Pharisees saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Pharisees were certainly considered the religious elite, but having all the right answers seemed to have masked their inner, deeper need of a Savior.

Admittedly, I can struggle with all those same things. My pride and insecurity are what drive the insatiable craving to “be perfect” and have it all together, and if kept unchecked, it will be the inheritance I hand down to my boys. It raises up huge red flags in my heart, because the absolute last thing I want to do is raise children who are insecure little Pharisees that think that what they do and don’t do is somehow the ultimate token for success. My boys need a Mama who is willing to admit her need for Jesus when she messes up and to be a model of grace. They need a Mom who takes the time when there is disobedience or ugly attitudes to get to the heart of the matter and ask good questions, not have a yucky heart herself.  My boys need a mom who can admit that she doesn’t have all the answers, but that she knows a God who is all-knowing, all-sufficient and has given us everything we need to live a life pleasing to Him in His Word. My boys need a mom who is secure in who she is in Christ, so that they can find their identity and security in Him, not in the things the world deems as successful. My boys do not need a perfect mom, they simply need a mom submitted to Christ.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that NO ONE MAY BOAST.” Ephesians 2:8-9

My boys do not need a perfect mom, they simply need a mom submitted to Christ.

In Christ, there is so much freedom when we realize that it’s not about being good enough and having it all together. I want my home to be infiltrated with the one true Gospel and that is that I have absolutely nothing to offer a Holy God. I am dead in my sin, and my very best efforts to earn my way back to God fall immeasurably short every time. It is only through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross and rising again to conquer sin and death, that there is any hope for both my life and the lives of my boys. As we rear and raise our children, may our biggest hope and prayer be that even through our failings and shortcomings as parents, the one thing that would be seen is that we ALL need Jesus. Through Him alone, we are declared righteous. This very truth changes everything.


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Image credit: Aman Singh, Creative Commons


Jen Rumley


Jen Rumley is a wife to a pastor hubby and a mom to three little boys on earth and one in Heaven. She is learning to break free of the shackles of insecurity and people pleasing, and grateful for a God who is patient in her struggles with pride and selfishness. She loves all things people, especially over coffee and good food, but cherishes her alone time that she sneaks in ever so often. She is a recovering control freak and is learning to embrace the thick dust that often lays piled up on furniture in her home, along with dried food smudges left by kiddos. If there were two things that she hopes her life would be marked by would be that she loved God and loved people well.

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