As large as the role is that our mothers play, the word mother is more powerful when used as a verb than as a noun. All women are not mothers, but all women are called to mother. To mother is to nurture, to train, to educate, to rear. As daughters of Eve, all women are uniquely gifted to help others in their lives become more of who they truly are—to encourage, nurture, and mother them toward their true selves. In doing this, women partner with Christ in the vital mission of bringing forth life.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6 NKJV). This verse is not a promise about faith. It is not speaking of training a child to follow Christ or promising that if you do, the grown child will continue to follow him. Sorry. The proverb is about raising a child to know who he is and to guide him in becoming ever more himself. In the way he should go. Not in the way you would like him to go in order to validate you as a mother and a woman. It speaks of teaching a child to live from his heart, attuned to it, awake to it, aware of it, and when the child is grown he will continue to live a life from the heart. It is about seeing who a person really is and calling him out to be that person.
The impact on a life that has been seen and called out is dramatic and eternal. The nurturing of life is a high and holy calling. And as a woman, it is yours. Yes, it takes many shapes and has a myriad of faces. Yes, men are called to this as well,. But uniquely and deeply, this calling makes up part of the very fiber of a woman’s soul—the calling to mother.
I am reminded of a courageous African-American woman who was thrilled to purchase her first home. After moving in, she came home from work to find drug dealers doing business on her front steps. It seems her new home was smack dab in the center of their “territory” in Los Angeles. She wouldn’t stand for it. Head held high, finger wagging, she “mothered” them to higher aims. She mothered them out of their sin. She mothered them into becoming the young men they were meant to become.
You can mother other people’s children. In truth, the world needs you to. My friend Lori’s house was the center of activity while her girls were still in school. Their friends loved to hang out at her house. She offered them life. She counseled them. She encouraged them. She mothered them with love and strength. She also baked them fabulous treats. She has played and continues to play a major role in many young women’s lives, impacting them for good, calling them forth to become who they are meant to be. We think of a woman C.S. Lewis describes meeting in heaven in his book “The Great Divorce”. A Teacher is showing him around the place when they encounter a woman of stunning beauty.
“It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”
” She seems to be… well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on earth are two quite different things.”
“… And who are all these young men and women on each side?”
“They are her sons and daughters.”
“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”
“Every young man or boy that met her became her son—even if it was only they boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”
“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”
“No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”
We mother each other when we offer our concern, our care, our comfort. We mother each other when we see a need and rise to meet it, whether it is a sweater for a friend who is chilly, a meal for a struggling family, or a listening ear for a friend who is hurting.
All women are called to mother. And all women are called to give birth. Women give birth to all kinds of things—to books, to churches, to movements. Women give birth to ideas, to creative expressions, to ministries. We birth life in others by inviting them into deeper realms of healing, to deeper walks with God, to deeper intimacy with Jesus. A woman is not less of a woman because she is not a wife or has not physically borne a child. The heart and life of a woman is much more vast than that. All women are made in the image of God in that we bring forth life. When we enter into our world and into the lives of those we love and offer our tender and strong feminine hearts, we cannot help but mother them.
— Captivating: Unveiling the mystery of a woman’s soul