I can still remember how much I dreaded Mother’s Day.
I remember what it felt like to ‘mute’ friends on social media when they shared a few too many pregnancy–update photos.
There were too many bedrooms in our new house. There were too many needles involved in the prospect of IVF. There were too many years on the clock.
Perhaps what bothered me the most, though, is that ‘mother’ is not just a job or even a title, it’s an identity. It was an identity that felt closed to me. Motherhood felt like a rite of womanhood, one that I was missing out on, one that rendered me incomplete, unfeminine. This isn’t just an attitude unique to a uniquely self–reflective age, either; even in the Bible, we have many examples of infertile women in acute distress because they could not fulfil the role they felt they were made for.
Yet, the Lord always enables us to fulfil the role He has made us for. And in his providence, there are many women who never bore babies but nevertheless bear the title ‘a mother in Israel’: a true nurturer among God’s people. There are many Proverbs 31 women who never married or ran their own household. In Matthew 12:49, hearing that Mary was waiting to speak to Him, Jesus looked over the crowd of His followers and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ We have entered a family which Jesus is very clear supersedes that of the earthly family into which we born. Don’t misunderstand: the natural longing for biological children is a form of acute suffering for many women, and I would never want to minimize that pain. But is God a liar when He says, in Psalm 37:4, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart’? No: He redeems our desires, centres them on Himself, and gives us abundant fulfilment.
Infertility in the Bible is always presented as an opportunity for God to do something wonderful. Every single time. All the women of Israel we see struggling to conceive, and crying out – Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Rachel, Elisabeth – went on to have children who heralded great changes in God’s master plan. Why? Because in showing that He could intervene in doing what seemed impossible for these women, and accomplishing great things through them, He foreshadowed that He would do the actual impossible, and accomplish the greatest of all things. A virgin would conceive, and bring forth a Son, and He would be called Immanuel. God walking among us; God in human skin. The difficulty of birth from infertility pointed to the miracle of divine birth from virginity.
Not every woman who experiences childlessness will have this kind of miracle. Very often, God chooses to do a ‘new thing’ when we would prefer our own desire, our own solution. But as ‘God among us’ was a miracle, so ‘God through us’ is as well. What the Almighty can accomplish through a woman who offers Him her broken heart has no bounds. (Chapter 1, A Mother who is Happy)
I’m writing this blog post as I reflect upon my new book, 10 Women Who Were Spiritual Mothers. It sounds like an odd book title, doesn’t it? But here’s the reason: this isn’t just a book for women who have given birth. It’s a book for women. It’s a book for the woman in the pew who prays for God’s family around her, like Anna, the widow in the temple. Who provides for them like Dorcas. Who teaches and nurtures them like Priscilla. Who serves them like Ruth. These are the mothers and sisters Jesus recognizes as His nearest and dearest. They are not – you are not – cut off from your God–given role. This is a book, yes, for the exhausted and discouraged mum, but also for the faithful single woman who feels unseen and sidelined. In the Lord’s family, Mother’s Day is for you too.
This book is a pep talk for those in the trenches of toddlerdom. Looking at Emily Colson’s challenges and Monica’s persistence will remind you of what is possible even for those mothers of us who feel, well, a little too human most days. This book is a love letter to those suffering infertility, child loss or feeling single and stuck. Lisa Harper’s happiness, Amy Carmichael’s dedication and Katherine Parr’s influence will point you toward how the Lord can fulfil your deepest desires. For those of you looking for how to be useful, look no further than Sharon Dickens’ mentoring strategy, Sarah Edwards’ hospitality and Patti’s practical friendship. And to those women who can’t take another step – see how Elizabeth Prentiss and Julie McAddock kept going in the Lord’s strength and found untold riches.
And all of us women, single or married, fertile or not, can sit at Jesus’ feet in every chapter and see how He guides, feeds, and examples us in even this most female of pursuits… How happy I am to know that my unthinkably compassionate, all–knowing, patient and capable Father picks me up and carries me …
And all of us women, single or married, fertile or not, can sit at Jesus’ feet in every chapter and see how He guides, feeds, and examples us in even this most female of pursuits. One of my very favourite verses is Isaiah 46:4, ‘Even to your old age I am he, and to grey hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.’ I don’t know about you, but this mother often feels about as wise and mature and capable as her own four–year–old. How happy I am to know that my unthinkably compassionate, all–knowing, patient and capable Father picks me up and carries me, and will do it no matter how old I get! And He too will give us the strength we need to ‘parent’ the children He has appointed us – those in our own home, and those in His great family.