While this post is somewhat about motherhood, it’s more about mothering. And while I will be talking about my perspective as a mother, I hope there is something here that will encourage you— whether your mothering is in the biological realm, the spiritual realm, or both. To embrace our God-given design as lifegivers is a joyful expression of who we were created to be.
I’m a mother of five and a grandmother of eight. I’m fortunate that my own mother was able to come stay with us when a new baby arrived. Having her there to help in all sorts of ways made those first crazy days survivable. As terrifying as it was to bring that new little person home from the hospital, it was nothing compared to watching Mom drive away and knowing I was now on my own. When my own daughter began having children, I couldn’t get that airplane ticket fast enough. Every passenger between Houston and Nashville knew that I was going to meet my newest grandbaby! From my experience of being both on the receiving and the giving end of this special kind of caretaking, I can’t help notice some similarities with our role as spiritual mothers as well.
We all know the intensity of a newborn’s cry for food. Eating is serious business! But a new mama needs to eat as well. Remember that early fog? When you feel like you just ran a race and want nothing more than to sleep, unless that something more is food? Labor and delivery were only the beginning of this marathon! Having mom there to shop and cook and do the dishes and make all our favorite meals was more than just help: it was nourishment for our weary, hungry souls. The last thing on my mind when I was a gazillion-weeks pregnant was making things look pretty, yet here Mom was: putting the jam in a pretty dish, folding napkins, and making our time around the table a celebration.
When my own house was full of little ones, my older children knew the best part of having a new baby was the meals from our church friends. Every night was like Christmas as these dear saints blessed us with dinner (usually with plenty of leftovers!). I will never forget the morning that Miss April brought over a platter of freshly fried chicken. I don’t remember why she was there at 10 AM, but I do remember that those drumsticks didn’t make it to dinnertime! After spending a week with my daughter last month, I was reminded how much hungry kids can eat. What fun to bake and cook for a crowd again!
If you are in a spiritual mothering relationship, you know that one of the best ways to care for your daughter is through the word of God. It is her food and she needs to eat. Sometimes we model that by showing her what a beautiful feast looks like: a specially prepared Bible study or devotion, a lesson from our own life that we can share. Sometimes we show up with that “emergency meal” and remind her that no Christian can survive on a starvation diet. “Here, let’s read this Psalm together. I’ll start…” Jesus, our bread of life, reminds us, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4.) When we truly understand this, we understand that discipleship is an invitation to a feast.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
As much fun as it would be to spend all day cuddling the newborn, there was work to be done. Mix some energetic youngsters with a mud puddle in the back yard and you can imagine the results! There wasn’t much time to sit down in between doing the dishes, folding clothes, sweeping, and helping the toddler with Play-Doh, doing math homework with the third grader, and reading stories to the 5-year-old. Whew! My daughter Katie’s job was simple: sit in this chair and feed the baby. I’ll take care of the rest. I was reminded why my own house always seemed so well managed when my mom was with us. While I was sitting down, she wasn’t.
In Titus 2:3, Paul instructs us— the older women— to teach what is good. The Greek word kalodidaskalos means “a teacher of good things.” We see that our teaching involves people (husbands and children) and a place (our home). As women we may not all have the former, but we do have the latter; that’s a wonderful place to start! Think about how you can encourage your spiritual daughter in her home. How can it be a place where souls are nourished and restored? How can it be a place of peace and order, able to serve those who live within its walls? In real life this can look like an experienced mom showing a young mom how to organize the bookshelf and the toys. Or an accomplished hostess teaching a young woman how to decorate a table to facilitate fellowship and conversation. Sometimes it means getting up to your elbows in laundry and bailing someone out in a crisis. What can you take off her list? How can you serve her in love?
Everyone has a story to tell. New mothers generally aren’t shy about sharing theirs! Woman to woman, isn’t it a privilege to be given a glimpse into the wonder of this life-changing event? It’s fun to hear the details, the humor, the tension, the pain, and ultimately the joy that awaits. In those quiet moments, I loved seeing my daughter grow into her new role as a mother, seeing her look at baby Emmeline the same way I looked at her. Their stories were just beginning and I was given the chance to witness it.
As spiritual mothers, we can likewise listen to our daughter’s story. We can be that person who hears. We can ask questions, ask her to define, and ask her to explain clearly. We don’t rush to offer advice before truly understanding the context and circumstances. Even then, maybe we just listen some more. We know that no matter where she may be in her journey, her Heavenly Father delights in her. We know there is growth up ahead and we are privileged to play a small part.
As “teachers of good things”, this doesn’t mean that we are always good nor that life is always good. Not every home is lovely, not every birth ends in joy, and not every relationship is as it should be. While we yearn for what is “not yet,” we are given the grace and peace for the “now” by our loving, good, Covenant creator. Our bonds may not be as physical mother and daughter, but we have an eternal connection as sisters in Christ. In your Titus 2 relationships, enjoy the chance to build the body of Christ, connecting woman to woman, across the generations. Together we serve and love one another. Together we grow.
About the Author:
Renee is passionate about teaching. She loves nothing more than to gather around God’s word with the women of Christ Church in Katy, Texas. She has taught high-school writing and literature and now mentors Classical Christian teachers through the CiRCE Institute. Serving on the advisory board of Covenant College is another joy. Since she has 5 children and 7 grandchildren around the country, Renee’s suitcase is always ready for the next trip. Closer to home you can find her baking, weightlifting, or trying one of Houston’s new restaurants.