Today I want to relate the aspect of mothering in a spiritual way. With Mother’s Day approaching, I thought of this devotional I wrote years ago for a church Mother’s Day event. In so many ways as mothers, we teach. The Apostle Paul instructs his prodigy, Timothy, to spiritually teach believers in the new church: by the example if his life, by word, by love, by faith, by integrity, and by reading scripture, giving counsel, and teaching.
— First Timothy 4:12 and 13 says, “Teach believers with your life, by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading scripture, giving counsel and teaching.”
I see this applying to us at mothers as well. God has given us a high calling to help shape a life he has shared with us. I think He gives us practical instruction in these verses on how to that. Let’s look at this instruction in parts.
By Our Lives:
Children constantly watch us, and they learn by default from our example. They pick up and copy our smile, frowns, words, and actions. Beth Moore in her book, “Breaking Free,” quotes a story that she found inspiring, taken from a book entitled, “It’s Always Something,” by Gilda Radner…
“When I was little, my nurse Dibby’s cousin had a dog, just a mutt, and the dog was pregnant. I don’t know how long dogs are pregnant, but she was due to have her puppies in about a week. She was out in the yard one day and got in the way of the lawn mower, and her two hind legs got cut off. They rushed her to the vet, and he said, “I can sew her up, or you can put her to sleep if you want, but the puppies are okay. She’ll be able to deliver the puppies.”
Dibby’s cousin said, “Keep her alive.”
So the vet sewed up her backside, and over the next week, the dog learned to walk. She didn’t spend any time worrying; she just learned to walk by taking two steps in the front and flipping up her backside again. She gave birth to six little puppies, all in perfect health. She nursed them and then weaned them. And when they learned to walk, they all walked like her.”
I think there are many lessons in this story, but I want to pull out the fact that what has crippled us as adults will have effect on how our children walk through life. How we walk will be how they learn to walk. I think this story reminds us of just how much little ones learn from the actions of a parent. We exert influence as mothers. Let’s submit that influence to God asking him to help us in how we live, to give the best blessings to our children by the example of our lives.
We teach by our words. Words make up the very basis of our communication with each other and pertain greatly to how we experience the world.
In Genesis God spoke creation into being. In the gospel of John, John writes of Jesus, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Also in the New Testament, God’s word is described as being alive and active.
As children of God, I think our words–in a much smaller portion–are alive and active as well. Words have the power to bless and the power to curse. I think back on some of the greatest hurts in my life, and they often originated with words, the spoken intent of another person. In looking back, I also see that some of the greatest blessings have come through encouraging words of love, spurring me on like nothing else. Our words are important. They create, or they destroy.
Our demeanor reflects on our children as well. Demeanor is defined in the dictionary as: outward bearing, behavior, manner, to conduct. I think of this as the outward manifestation of what dwells within us. It escapes like air from a burst balloon—uncontrollable and unpredictable. Who we are inside comes out in our demeanor. We teach our children by our demeanor. If we see some unpleasant things escaping from our lives, taking form in our demeanor, we can submit those to God. He is in the business of transformation. None of us are perfect, but the more we look to Him, the more we become like Him.
One of the three lasting gifts mentioned in the second book of Corinthians is love, it is also the greatest. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is he said, “Love the Lord your God, with all of your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt. 22:38 All the guidelines for our lives are summed up in this statement. Loving someone else equates to the hardest labor we will ever perform but also the most rewarding, for love transforms not only those who are loved by us, but also our own hearts as well.
The Gospel of John says that we know love (are able to love) because God first loved us. If we want to love our children, the best we can, we must first understand that God loves us. Our identity and love originates from God loving us first.
Faith seen in people who have influence over us inspires our choices. I remember getting up in the middle of the night as a kid, trying to creep quietly down the creaking steps from upstairs, to get a drink of water or use the bathroom. More often than not, I would spy my mom asleep in her chair with an open Bible on her lap. I knew that she had been up reading God’s Word and praying. Out of all the images that stick with me, of my mom, these remain crisp in my mind.
We teach by our faith. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 There is no better way to strengthen our faith that by reading God’s word and letting it be at home in our hearts and minds.
Integrity teaches, naturally. It is defined as: moral soundness, wholeness, completeness, the quality or state of being, -unimpaired.
In speaking of David, the Psalmist says in Psalms 78: 70-72, “He chose David also his servant and took him from the sheepfolds, from following the ewes’ great with young. He brought him to feed Jacob his people and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them by the skill of his hands.”
I resonate with the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted.” I think that speaks about being at peace with where you are in life and about integrity. The quality of your heart and your potential to bloom is not hindered by your circumstances. The quality of David’s heart equaled the same as a shepherd of sheep as a shepherd of people. God called David a man after God’s own heart. I pray that can be said of me, of us – that we can be called women after God’s own heart. Integrity comes as we seek God, to have a heart like His.
Read Scripture, Give Counsel, and Teach:
Finally, Paul exhorts Timothy to read scripture, give counsel, and teach. I think one of the best gifts I ever gave my children was the gift of spending time reading with them before bed. Most nights, when my boys were small, I would read to them. Sometimes our reading would take the form of a classic tale, a fantasy, or a Bible story. Reading in itself opens up the pathways for all other learning. But reading the scripture, not only helps children develop their capacity to learn, it reveals the truth of God’s word to their hearts. The Bible instructs us to, “Hide God’s word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him.”
A quote I like by Strickland Gillilan says, “You may have tangible wealth and gold, caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I, you can never be. I had a mother who read to me.”
My mom read to me as well, some from the same books that I kept and was able to share with my children. If we make time to spend with our children in this way, I think as they grow, it opens up opportunities to share counsel and teaching in their later years. Reading together is a simple communicative form of intimacy that leads to a level of greater intimacy as children age. So, I encourage you to take time to read, because it not only builds your child’s intellect, it builds truth and a common platform of shared time and experience in which to stand on when counseling your children. —-
My children have grown into men now, but these same strategies still apply, just in a little different way. There never really comes a time in our lives when we stop mothering.
If you are a mom or stand in a mothering role in someone’s life, I hope something I’ve shared encouraged you today. May you have a blessed Mother’s Day weekend! J