When I was growing up, my family took a two-week camping trip along the Oregon coast, and we visited many scenic parks and landmarks — including several beautiful lighthouses.
While these lighthouses were no longer functioning and had been turned into tourist destinations, I was enchanted by the idea of a lighthouse warning ships away from the rocks, helping captains pilot their crafts into safe waters.
The Job of Lighthouse Keepers
Due to electricity, most lighthouses are now automated, but years ago, a lighthouse keeper had to light the lamps punctually at dusk each night and keep them lit throughout the night. Just to get to the top of a lighthouse, a keeper had to ascend a flight of steep steps. Some of the tall lighthouses may have had as many as 200 steps! Note what I discovered about this process of lighting the lamps in reading about a particular lighthouse called Sea Girt Lighthouse in New Jersey:
Preparations for lighting the beacon began well before dusk. The keeper first inspected the Fresnel lens and its many prisms, which were cleaned that morning. The lamp that produced the light was checked and the supply of fuel refilled. The wick was trimmed and lighted. The weights, which dropped down the tower shaft driving gears that caused the lens to revolve, were unlocked, hand cranked up to the top and a new descent started.
To ensure lamps did not go out, keepers had to check the lights at intervals during the night. On stormy nights, they had to continuously ensure the light was beaming.
Keepers lived at the lighthouse and worked seven days a week. They were not only responsible for lighting the lamps, cleaning the lamps, and maintaining the lighthouse, they also had to take weather readings and document these, as well as maintain the house and grounds of the light stations. Keepers had to work through blizzards, hurricanes, and other storms — putting their own lives in danger for others. They also had to be prepared to respond to emergency situations such as fires (which were a constant threat) and shipwrecks.
Mothers Are Keepers of the Home
In looking at the job of a lighthouse keeper, we can gain a better understanding of the role of a godly wife and mom described by Paul in Titus 2:3-5:
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one can malign the Word of God.
How, you might ask, is a lighthouse keeper like a mom? In praying about this topic and asking God to help me understand the role of a mom, I was struck by a particular word that popped out at me when reading the verse. Although the word isn’t in the New International Version, you will find the word “keeper” in other translations, such as the King James Version. In the KJV, instead of saying that a woman should be “busy at home,” it says that a woman should be “keepers at home” (v. 5). In fact, in Greek, the word is actually “oikourgos” and means “keeper-at-home” or “housekeeper.”
What exactly does a “keeper-at-home” do? To understand this term, it is helpful to look at the definition of “keeper,” as given here by Dictionary.com:
a person who guards or watches, as at a prison or gate
a person who assumes responsibility for another’s behavior
a person who owns or operates a business
a person who is charged with the maintenance of something
a person charged with responsibility for the preservation and conservation of something valuable, as a curator or game warden
and a person who conforms to or abides by a requirement.
Wow! In relation to the task of mother, are you seeing how many of these characteristics are those that a mom does every single day?
As a “keeper-at-home,” a mother lives on the job (on call 24/7), must keep up with the maintenance of home and care of children, and sacrifices herself on a daily basis to ensure her family is protected and cared for. She, essentially, is the guardian of her children and her constant work and effort keep the household running, or “lantern beaming,” so to speak.
To clarify, being a “keeper of the home” doesn’t necessarily mean women can’t work outside the home. We understand from reading elsewhere in Scripture that the roles of women were varied, and we need to seek God for His will for our life. However, as women, we have been given the role of running our houses and taking care of our husbands and children. Therefore, we have been given abilities unique to our gender that help us in that role — whether as stay-at-home moms or working moms.
So, continuing on with this idea of a lighthouse keeper to describe what we do every day as moms, we can also draw a few other ideas related to this idea of being a “keeper-at-home”:
1. We don’t all have to mother the same.
One of the ideas that stood out to me as I was doing some research on the job of a lighthouse keeper is that each lighthouse station was slightly different. Each lighthouse station had its own signature blinks to help mariners identify the light and was made unique from the other lighthouse stations to further help sailors determine where they were. Similarly, we, as moms, don’t have to all mother the same. As a mom, I often get caught up in comparing myself to another mom and feeling superior or inferior to another mom based on how I do things in comparison to how she does things.
However, we should draw a firm line on the principles that the Gospel outlines for godly wives and mothers (which I will get to in a minute), but we can execute tasks with our own unique style. One mom may be really active and connect with her kids through outings and trips to the park and museum. Another mom may prefer to connect with her kids through quieter activities like playing board games and reading books together.
One mom may cook home-cooked meals every night and another may have the pizza place on speed-dial. As moms, we often make up lists and create expectations for ourselves that the Bible doesn’t mention specifically. Instead of comparing ourselves to other moms, we can feel the freedom to mother our kids in our own unique style, consulting God about the ins and outs of our decisions, knowing that as long as we are looking to Him to lead us — that we don’t all have to mother exactly the same.
2. We have to follow the manual.
While the keepers had varied responsibilities depending on their station and each light station was slightly different, they still all followed the same manual given to them by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. As moms, we, too, though we don’t all have the same personalities or style as moms, have to seek God’s will for ourselves and our children not only by seeking Him in prayer — we have to live by the manual.
Quite interestingly, in Titus, when the apostle Paul instructs the older women to “teach the younger women,” he uses the Greek word “sóphronizó” which means “to recall to one’s senses, admonish.” Paul urged the older women to essentially call back some of the women who were just drifting along and living the way the world did, not considering what it meant to be a Christian. In addition, he was correcting some of their attitudes toward religion. They preferred to follow certain myths and rituals, rather than live out the guidelines of the Gospel.
We can be challenged by this in that we, too, as moms often will adhere to what we knew growing up, we emulate by seeing someone else, or we learn from the culture — but being an effective mom is, in fact, looking to see that we are doing what the Bible says in regards to motherhood and not simply drifting along with societal expectations and norms. Paul exhorted Titus to teach the elderly women (that they might teach the young women) what it meant to be a Christian woman in behavior and dress — that they might best represent the Gospel.
Similarly, for us, being the best mom we can means looking to the Word of God for our cues on how to raise our children — and not the world. Titus 2 tells us that a godly wife and mother looks like the following: loving our husbands and children, being self-controlled and pure, being busy at home, kind, and subject to our husbands. This is certainly not easy to read because it goes against the ideas of what it means to be a mom and wife taught by our society.
However, as commentator Paul Kretzmann advocates, these ideas that Paul was passing on weren’t merely his own ideas, but actually, the will of the eternal God communicated in this letter. And so, even though these truths aren’t necessarily those that are easy to live out or always fun to embrace, we see that they are those that are given to us as the guidelines by which to operate our “light stations.”
3. We have a duty higher than ourselves.
A keeper performed his tasks not just because he loved them, but because his job required it — and lives were saved when he performed his job well. As mothers, we, too, have a higher reason to do our job in that God calls us to love our husbands and children (v. 4).
The lives of our children, as well as those looking on, will not only be enhanced but possibly saved, when we take seriously our calling as mothers. The Bible says to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). The conduct described in Titus 2 is not only to produce a certain result in ourselves and our families but to display Christ to others and bring others to Christ (v. 5).
This isn’t telling us to put on a fake show, but it does point out that we may turn others off to the Gospel when we act in ways around our children that are not in keeping with its principles. While the verse isn’t saying that we have to generate perfect behavior from our kids to give others a good impression of the Gospel or act perfectly ourselves (we are going to fail at times, and there is grace for that), what it is saying is that our good treatment and training of them and their subsequent response to our love and guidance will show the world what can and will happen when we have Christ within us and put the principles of the Gospel to work.
In telling us that the older women were to “urge,” or as some translations say, “teach,” the younger women to love their husbands and children, we understand that the wives didn’t just feel a natural affection for their families all the time. This was a love that they had to learn. While loving our children will come naturally to us on some days, there will be other days when they frustrate, anger, annoy, and overwhelm us.
Even on those days, we are instructed to love them — and this love isn’t merely an affection, but a training in the right direction and desire to see them grow not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally. Proverbs 13:24 tells us, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” When we love our children, we do more than simply display affection towards them, we guide them in the right way to go.
The Important Role of a Mom
I love what a high-profile football coach said at a press conference on what he considered his greatest success in life: bringing his own three boys to salvation. What a perspective! Not his number of wins as a coach. Not his impressive salary. He considered his greatest accomplishment to be the investment of his life into his boys’ lives so that they could come to know Jesus Christ.
Obviously, he’s not a mom, but his words challenge us as moms: As mothers and keepers of our homes, what are we allowing our kids to watch, to hear, to talk about? What environment are we creating? What are we leading them towards?
Titus 2 admonishes us to love our families and watch over our homes — not only for their benefit but so that our conduct is in keeping with the Gospel. Similarly, Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us we are to teach our children about God and His Word when we sit down, walk along the road, lie down, and get up.
The mother of Charles Spurgeon prayed for her son and deeply impressed him with her own advocacy for him when he was a strong-willed young person of 14 and 15 who hadn’t yet decided to devote his life to Christ. In particular, he remembered her praying for the souls of her children, saying, “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” He later reflected, “How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come?”
Spurgeon was moved by his mother’s pleading for his soul but did not accept Christ until one Sunday morning, drawn to a small Methodist chapel, he heard the simple words of a pastor declare that he could be saved by looking unto Jesus Christ. And, at that moment, Spurgeon put his faith in Jesus Christ. The words of the pastor inspired him, but his mother’s intercession for him lay the groundwork for his decision to accept Christ.
When we are tempted to doubt our own effectiveness as moms or neglect to pray for and guide our own children, they miss out. Just as a lighthouse keeper is essential to his lighthouse station, we are essential to our children and homes and have an important role to play in molding our kids and teaching them the truths of the Gospel.
In the wear and tear that comes with daily life and the care of children, we may forget the high and holy calling we have been given to love and guide our children — but Scripture reminds us of the important role of mom and “keeper-at-home.”
May we always remember the impact a godly mother has on her children and strive to be the best mother, or “keeper,” that we can.
Ever feel unappreciated, worthless, or overwhelmed as a mom? This post is adapted from Part 2 of the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters,” Part Part 3: What It Means to Train Our Children, and Part 4: Strength for the Stressed-Out Mom (updated from original version).
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*Updated and adapted from post published April 20, 2019. Click on link to view original post and listen to accompanying podcast.