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. — Proverbs 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 that 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, our 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 the 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 (it’s nearly as hard as a child, believe me), 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.
My Sister, My Friend
I love the way women friends have with each other. When I gather with a group of women friends, inevitably someone begins to rub someone else’s back. Hair gets played with. Merciful, tender, caressing, healing touches are given. Men don’t do this with each other. It is unique to women. When women gather, they ask meaningful questions. They want to know how you are. Recipe swapping is all well and good, gardening hints helpful, but women friends unabashedly dive into matters of the heart.
My mom mothered me. But she isn’t the only woman who has. My sisters certainly did. Some of my elementary school teachers did. My neighbors did. These days I receive it from the gentle, tender acts of kindness offered to me from the friends God has given me. The gift of friendship among women is a treasure not to be taken lightly.
Women friends become the face of God to one another — the face of grace, of delight, of mercy.
The capacity of a woman’s heart for meaningful relationships is vast. There is no way your husband or your children can ever provide the intimacy and relational satisfaction you need. A woman must have women friends.
It is here, in the realm of relationship, that women receive the most joy and the profoundest sorrows. The friendships of women inhabit a terrain of great mystery. Movies like Beaches or Fried Green Tomatoes or Steel Magnolias try to capture this. In these movies the friendships endure testing and trial; they deepen and they last. The men in the lives of these women may leave, but their girlfriends do not. Although often quoted in weddings, Ruth was speaking to a woman when she said,
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. — Ruth 1:16
There is a fierce jealousy, a fiery devotion, and a great loyalty between women friends. Our friendships flow in the deep waters of the heart where God dwells and transformation takes place. It is here, in this holy place, that a woman can partner with God in impacting another and be impacted by another for lasting good. It is here that she can mother, nurture, encourage, and call forth Life.
Little girls have best friends. Grown women long for them. To have a woman friend is to relax into another soul and be welcomed in all that you are and all that you are not. To know that as a woman, you are not alone. Friendships between women provide a safe place to share in the experiences of life as a woman. Who but another woman can fully understand PAP smears and mammograms, PMS, the longing to bear a child, and living in a world that feels run by men? It is a great gift to know that you see as another sees, an immense pleasure to be understood, to enjoy the easy companionship of one you can let your guard down with.
Friendship is a great gift. One to be prayed for and not taken for granted. If you do not have the kind of friendship you long for, ask God to bring it into your life, to give you eyes to recognize it when he does. When God gives a friend, he is entrusting us with the care of another’s heart. It is a chance to mother and to sister, to be a Life giver, to help someone else become the woman she was created to be, to walk alongside her and call her deep heart forth.
Friendships need to be nurtured and guarded and fought for. We need to call one another without waiting to be called first. We need to ask how our friends are doing and really listen to their answers. Listen between the lines. We love our friends by pursuing them — calls, little presents, cards, invitations to play, to go for a walk, to go to a movie. We offer our hearts.
My friend Dena realized a few years ago that I liked presents. When I’m out and about, I’ll often see a little something that I think a friend would like, so I pick it up and surprise her with it. Small things. Simple things. So Dena started giving me little presents. I loved it! Then I clued in that for Dena, what she liked best wasn’t presents at all but the gift of time — the most treasured of all commodities. I still give her little presents every now and again. I can’t help it. But when I’m able, I give her hours.
We need to pay attention to each other, really see one another. That truly is the greatest gift.
Excerpted with permission from Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by Stasi and John Eldredge, copyright John Eldredge and Stasi Eldredge.
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Whether or not you are a biological or adoptive mother, who in your life do you mother? Who are your female friends who mother you with attention, care, affection, and who see you? Are you longing for deeper friendships like I am, to enjoy that deep connection from other women that’s so fulfilling? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full