I did not believe Kimm Crandall when she wrote in her recent book, Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood, “This book will not weigh you down with another list of things to do but aims to free you by reminding you of what’s already been done for you” (14). Come on. Being a book geared towards moms certainly elicits a list of some sort. Doesn’t it? Actually, what I’m confessing is that Kimm has done the one thing I thought would never happen in literature geared toward and for motherhood: she’s written a book that is truly christocentric and completely cruciform. We are the listening, hearing, receiving audience and Christ—His life, death, resurrection and ascension—is the subject; and it should not be any other way. Seriously, no lists!
The book is 114 pages long and broken into ten chapters. As a stay at home mom, I know that books and reading (in general) can seem daunting when there are so many things to do around the house and people (big and small!) to take care of. But don’t be daunted. Each chapter is broken into easily accessible and digestible sections (confession: short enough to read during “potty-time”, if one is so lucky to get even that much privacy). This brevity and accessibility is one of the book’s inherent strengths; Kimm, a mother of four, understands that you can only get so much time to yourself and has structured the book just so. Gospel bites to feed your soul throughout the day.
The book’s flow is another of its strengths. It follows Kimm’s life and the road that brought her to an understanding of what Christ has done for us that is centered on the distinction between Law and Gospel. She grounds her message, in other words, in the practicality and life-changing implications that the Gospel often has on the one who hears (Matt 11:15 et al). Kimm does not attempt to give us, the reader, a heady theological discussion that remains aloft in the realm of ideas. Rather, she points in specific ways to the One who actually saved her life and continually saves her, the One who gets low with her in the very muck and mire of every day life, no matter how bad or how good she/we think she/we is/are.
Kimm is infectiously candid. She decorates the book with anecdotes from her own personal life as a mom, some of which may shock you–not because you would just never do such a thing but because her freedom in sharing them is so impressive. Of course, she is obviously not trying to shock or be provocative; her transparency is clearly motivated by a desire to drop the veil and expose the thing for what it is, or rather expose the truth of who and what we are, mothers or not: sinners in need of rescue. No matter how beautiful our façade, the truth is often quite ugly. Kimm’s sharing from her life creates an atmosphere where the reader can, along with Kimm, admit the depths of their brokenness and need; this is the crucial first step in a proper understanding of the Gospel.
A real eye-opening experience for me came early in reading chapter three, “God’s Love for Mothers.” After describing the “chaotic” routine of getting four kids to bed, Kimm writes (quoting her at length),
I manage the chaos and do the routine, sometimes sweetly and sometime not. I read to the kids, but often quickly and in monotone. I sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ because it’s what we’ve done since they were babies. I do love them, but this seems like the best I can do with all of their needs and complaints when I’ve been up since 4:30 a.m. It’s not a perfect love; it’s my love. It’s what my kids know of their weak and sinful mom.
Some evenings I put the kids to bed and am soon overcome by tears of guilt and shame. I imagine that, because of my sin, my children must feel so unloved, and that I must not be good enough because I love them so imperfectly. Other evenings I put them to bed and pat myself on the back, thinking what a great mom I just was and basking in the artificial glow of my self-righteousness (36, emphasis mine).
When I first read this, I was amazed at how Kimm had lifted a page straight out of my diary. I only feel like a good mom, worthy of love from my children and worthy of the title of mother from God, if my actions coincide. That is, if I’ve stayed calm, if I’ve created the right peaceful environment, if I’ve tenderly shepherded them through the day even into their beds. Then, and only then do I feel worthy to be their mother and to receive their love. But the reality is this, and Kimm strongly hints at this conclusion: my children love me as I am, in all my brokenness and frailty. And much more than that, and the point of the section in Kimm’s book, is that God loves me and counts me to be worthy of the title of “Mother”–apart from my ability to earn it. Because of what Christ has done for me and my being united to Him by faith, His perfect record is now my perfect record, and there is nothing I can do to add to or subtract from that. Like Kimm, I am freed from the burden of parental perfection and freed to love my children the best that I can.
If you haven’t deduced it yet, I highly recommend this book to all moms out there. Christ in the Chaos is a true beacon of freedom for the mom who, more nights than not, rests her head on a pillow of guilt and failure, and covers herself with a blanket of fear that everything is riding on her shoulders. I should also add that this book is not only for moms but for anyone: men and women, fathers and mothers. For I have to ask: is there someone out there that does not need to hear the message that Christ is for them despite their works and with them in the midst of the chaos of life? In fact, a better title for the book may just be: Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Everyday Life.