Erin Hawley, Law Professor at the University of Missouri and wife of newly elected U.S. Congressman Josh Hawley of Missouri, discusses her new book, Living Beloved: Lessons from my little ones about the heart of God.
TRACI GRIGGS: This is Family Policy Matters, a radio show and podcast from the North Carolina Family Policy Council. Hi, Traci DeVette Griggs, Communications Director at NC Family sitting in this week for John Rustin. For many of us, it seems life just gets busier and busier. The magnitude of responsibility and daily tasks can often seem even overwhelming. Our guest today extremely busy and accomplished in her own right, has some thoughts on how young parents can find lessons of peace, contentment, and joy through simply observing their own children. Erin Hawley is a graduate of Yale Law School, a law professor at the University of Missouri, a prolific writer, a former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and if that’s not enough, she’s a politician’s wife. Her husband, Josh, just won one of the most contentious U.S. Senate races in the country. And that makes me exhausted just reading all of that. Professor Hawley joins us today to discuss her new book, Living Beloved: Lessons from my little ones about the heart of God. Erin, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
ERIN HAWLEY: Thank you so much for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
TRACI GRIGGS: So tell us what it means to “live beloved.”
ERIN HAWLEY: That is the new book and the reason I really chose that title is because it’s one of the traits I see most decidedly in our two small boys. So we have a boy, Blaze, who’s three, and another son, Elijah, who is six. And I love how these two boys sort of live out of their relationship with us, as parents. The researchers say that the young children, infants, don’t even realize that there’s a distinction between them and mom and that’s why they get so anxious when their mother is not around. And as they grow up into toddlerhood, you still see this sort of living out of relationship. If they’re with their parents, they’re completely happy. We took the two boys with us a lot on the campaign trail, which is an interesting endeavor to take two toddlers with you campaigning. But I was so impressed by how well they handled it, as long as we were together as a family, as long as they had that relationship and that stability. They really could be joyful and trust in things and just live boldly and courageously because they knew we sort of had their back and we were who they were depending on. So I love that example of children just living out of relationship and I think that’s something that God called us to as well, is to live beloved, to know first and foremost that we are His chosen and precious children regardless of what we do or do not accomplish on any particular day.
TRACI GRIGGS: Tell us a little bit more about what possessed you or what compelled you to write this book.
ERIN HAWLEY: So for me, the transition to motherhood was sort of a rocky one. I had been a lawyer, a law professor as you mentioned, and then suddenly I’ve got this little infant that they sent home from hospital without an instruction booklet and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. And my, sort of, mentality through school and through my working life had always been just to try harder and to succeed in that manner just by putting in more hours and more effort. And then when you have children, you realize that simply trying harder doesn’t necessarily work or at least it didn’t work for me. So then we had this small child and our oldest boy had had acid reflux so he would cry and be unsettled at night. And I remember just kind of wondering like, you know, God is sovereign and God is good and He could have made this so much easier. He could’ve made babies to sleep through the night. Why didn’t He and what do I have to learn in this circumstance and situation? And one thing that the Lord really showed me and comforted me with was my own kids. And he just sort of refocused me and call to mind the verses in the Gospel where Jesus is talking to his disciples and he’s speaking with them and they’re arguing and jockeying for position and arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And I loved Jesus’ response. What He does, He calls a smallest child to Him. I picture a toddler, but he calls a small child to him and he says: This, this is what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, and in other places he says that in order to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to become like small children. So God I think, encouraged me to see in my kiddos this exuberant joy, their desire for relationship above all else, their trust, their ability to really rest and all of these characteristics that I think God wants to see in us as well. And kids are comfortable with the tendency. As an adult, I don’t necessarily like to be dependent on someone or something. But the fact is, I am dependent on God and I think He wants us to acknowledge and live out of that certainty that He is for us.
TRACI GRIGGS: In your book, you talk about engaging in a performance mentality. But when it comes to parenting, talk about it. What does that mean as far as being a parent and also what kind of effects can that have on your kids?
ERIN HAWLEY: That’s a great question. I think it’s easy for those of us who are Type A—or not Type A— but to sort of transfer… we wanted to succeed at work, we wanted to succeed in marriage. We’ve worked really hard at whatever profession or whatever job we have. And I think it’s really easy then to transfer that to being a mom and to motherhood as well. I read an interview once, they were talking about the different things that can become idols to us and they listed obvious ones such as, you know, fame or money or position or your job status, those sorts of things. But they also listed well-behaved children. And that really brought me up short because I think it is easy to transfer our performance based mentality that we might’ve had with working, also to our family life. And God tells us that that is not where we get our value or worth. It is not how well our children behaved that day—although we want them to behave well—but it is because we ourselves are beloved children of God and that’s our identity and that’s our worth and when we realize and recognize that, we’re free to love and to be the kind of parents that God wants us to be because we’re not hung up on how we’re performing.
TRACI GRIGGS: Erin, how can moms and dads rest in their relationship with God and enjoy their children and their lives, even when things can seem overwhelming? Do you have some tips for us?
ERIN HAWLEY: Oh goodness. The first thing I would say is I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. But again, as God sort of focuses my eyes on our kiddos, I see them just have the ability to rest out of a firm relationship. And so they’re able to… Our youngest kid can sleep absolutely anywhere, on the bus, on the campaign trail. He can sleep in my arms. He can sleep anywhere. And the reason he can do that is he’s fully confident that I’m holding him tight and that I will catch him and that I’m there for him. And I would just encourage moms and dads, parents, as you’re feeling overwhelmed, just to accept God’s invitation to become childlike yourself and to claim all of those promises that God gives us, that he will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He guides us as we come and He guides us as we go. That He is all sufficient. All of these promises that we know, but we seen our kids just that sort of childlike abandonment without all the work and worries and they don’t worry about many of those things. I think God calls us to that as well, just to really rest in Him.
TRACI GRIGGS: So you talk in your book about outrageous requests, particularly how our children’s outrageous requests of their parents can teach us important lessons about prayer. Talk about that a little bit.
ERIN HAWLEY: Sure. Our oldest son, Elijah, was probably three at the time and we were coming home from a visit to his grandparents, Nana and Papa’s house, and arrived at our home on a late summer evening. So it’s probably about 9:00. And Elijah hadn’t really seen the moon because his bedtime with so early, or at least hadn’t remembered seeing it. So, he gets out of the car and just looks at the sky with awestruck wonder, just stares for a minute and he starts to jump a cute little toddler jump where your feet up barely lift off the ground, and he jumps and he jumps and then he looks over at me, sort of exasperated and says: Mom, I can’t get it. Will you get it for me? I just loved in that sort of off the cuff request, that Elijah thought, not only, that I would get the moon for him, but that I could. He had a sort of confidence in me as a mom that I could get anything for him and that I would desire to do so. And I think in Elijah’s literally asking for the moon, we see God’s heart for our own prayers that we can ask for the really big things because he’s the God that makes the impossible possible and we can ask for the deepest desires of our heart, the things that seem too difficult for God because they’re not too difficult for God. And we can ask for those and we can also ask—I think our children show us—for the really small things. Everything from, you know, another snuggle, another bedtime story, another glass of milk. All of those small things that our children ask us for, I think God also wants us to talk to him about, to offer him the small things as well because He cares about those smaller things, in addition to the large things.
TRACI GRIGGS: How do you, in your mind then, distinguish between being childlike and being childish?
ERIN HAWLEY: I think you’re keying into the distinction. So when Jesus talks about children and how the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of such as these, I think he’s talking about those sorts of traits that are childlike, like the childlike ability to trust, the childlike ability to rest in relationships, to have spontaneous joy, to offer praise for the smallest things. When my youngest son found a goldfish in a car seat the other day and I was overjoyed! It’s so good, Mama! And it’s just this sort of exuberant embrace of life and living out of a relationship, I think, are some of the characteristics that Jesus may have been talking about when he called his disciples to become childlike. And those, of course, as you pointed out, are distinct from childishness, not the temper tantrums, although God doesn’t want us to be honest with them. But those sorts of traits that stem out of a close relationship and his desire to be with Him, rather than our human nature side.
TRACI GRIGGS: So as a woman who has it all, certainly by worldly standards, with both a successful career, a beautiful family, um, it sounds to me like you would highly recommend children. I know some successful women have their doubts about whether or not that’s a move that they should make. What kinds of words of wisdom do you have for them?
ERIN HAWLEY: Okay. Well, first, I quibble with “having it all.” I think we all have what God’s given us and we try to do our best with it. So, I didn’t know about the description. But I do know that our life is very full and that is a huge blessing that I’ve learned much more from my two boys then they have from me. And for me, at least, motherhood has been transformative, spiritually. I grew up as the daughter of an alcoholic and, as we discussed, sort of had a performance based mentality and was constantly looking for my worth out of my performance. And that’s not all bad. It’s not bad to work hard, but it does… was simple for me when I was getting my entire work and value out of that. So it’s just been really refreshing and sort of a new insight to watch my children and to realize that I love them completely and unconditionally regardless of what they do. And that’s how God the Father loves us and He calls us first to believe in Him and to be His children and it’s only out of that identity that He calls us to be involved in the work He has for us. We’re first and foremost His children and, for me at least, seeing my own kids has really refreshed and provided spiritual transformation and my own journey into becoming childlike again.
TRACI GRIGGS: Alright, so before we close, I just really have to ask you: Your life is about to be ramped up onto a more national stage. And you guys will be making the move to Washington D.C. So talk about that a little bit. What are the challenges that you think you’re going to face and how are you going to continue to apply some of these principles in this whirlwind you’re about to step into?
ERIN HAWLEY: That’s a great question. I think for Josh and I, the priority is just keeping that family unit stable. And that’s why we will likely move to D.C., so that we can have more time together as a family. And we want the boys to have as normal of a life as possible there. We have a church committee already in D.C. We both live there separately and then after we were married, so we’re looking forward to reconnecting to community, hopefully surrounding our boys, our family, with people who believe in the Lord and in community and in family and just keeping the boys and ourselves as rooted and grounded as possible. And there is something really, very humbling about having toddlers, as you mentioned, they are not easy to control and that’s a wonderful thing. But there’s something really refreshing about having toddler boys because they remind you that it’s not about appearances. I’m sure they will keep us rooted and grounded as well.
TRACI GRIGGS: Erin, where can our listeners go to get a copy of your book, Living Beloved: Lessons from my little ones about the heart of God?
ERIN HAWLEY: It’s available everywhere. You can get an Amazon. I think it’s also at Wal-Martand Target, so pretty widely available. And then I also have a website at ErinMHawley.com.
TRACI GRIGGS: Erin Hawley, thank you so much for being with us this week on Family Policy Matters.
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