I started writing this post about a month ago, and I stopped writing and almost forgot about it. But yesterday I read from the October 8th, 2012 issue of Christian News a response to Christianity Today’s “50 Women You Should Know.” As a response to CT’s list that included the false prophet Joyce Meyer, CN came out with their list of the Most Influential Women. Among the women mentioned were my mother and my grandmother who both had a significant number of children. I appreciated that article, not so much because it mentioned my mother and grandmother, but rather because it hit on an issue, which we would do well to remember. It hit on the issue that there are concrete vocations that God has created and in which He is well-pleased.
So I was motivated to finish this post about family and motherhood. We can make a giant list of Christian vocations, that is, if we define vocation in a broad enough way. However, the vocation of motherhood is a vocation that we know from God’s Word that He has actually instituted. I hope this post will give encouragement to all Christian women and really to all Christians.
Why is motherhood so important? That’s simple. God ordained it. God gave Eve to Adam, and He told them to be fruitful and multiply. His blessings to women have never stopped since. For the sake of explanation, I would like to share some information about my mother and family.
My mother truly is a gift from God. In fact, her name is Dorothy. If God blesses me with a daughter, I will point her to her grandmother as a great example. She nurtured me with my daily bread and with the Bread of Life; she taught me the gospel. She raised me in the true faith and teaching of Christ. She submitted to my father, because God told her to, yet she did not trust in her submission. She trusted God who justifies her through faith in His Son, and who promised her that He would save her from sin and death as she bore the task He gave her to bare and rear all those children.
From my mother, God gave me ten brothers and one sister. I love all of my brothers. I could not ask for better fraternal companionship and loyalty. I miss each of them every day, and I look forward to the day that I can see at least one of them and enjoy the friendship I too often took for granted when I was young (pardon my personal sentiments and “shout outs.”). It is so appropriate that my parents decided to call my one sister Mary. Mary is not only the name of my sister. Mary is also the name of another mother, whom I call blessed.
Mary is the name of my God’s mother. If God blesses me with any daughters, I will show them Mary as a great example. She submitted to her husband, because it was God’s will. And all the while, she trusted God who justified her through faith in His Son and her Son who suffered for her sin. She trusted her Son, Brother, and Lord, who put Himself under the same law that justly condemned her. She did not find herself worthy, but She trusted in the same God who promised to save her through childbearing. She did not show Him all her marvelous works as if that would grant her anything. Instead of that, she confessed that God exalts the lowly. St. Cyril of Alexandria confessed that she was the God-bearer. This was not to exalt Mary to some kind of divinity. No, this was to emphasize that the Man Jesus was true God. So because Christ is the Life of all the living, Mary, by the grace of God, received the title given to Eve by her husband Adam after he heard the promise of her seed. The title she received was the mother of all the living.
And the fruit of her womb Jesus is my Brother because He not only claimed my flesh, but He put Himself under the same Law that justly condemns my flesh. Being condemned in my place, He proved Himself righteous for my sake when He was raised and vindicated by the Holy Spirit, who judges the world in righteousness. He called me by my name, just as I learned at such at young age:
I am Jesus’ little lamb.
Ever glad at heart I am.
For my shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my needs and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.
He united His Name to mine – and thus the whole Trinity’s Name to mine – when He baptized me, and through faith in His Name, I share the companionship, the love, the loyalty, and the care of my Brother Jesus Christ. Jesus is my Brother and my Lord, and the Brother born of Mary remains the basis for the love and companionship I share with all my earthly brothers and sister.
And for those who are barren, even for those women who never get married, through faith in their Lord Jesus Christ, they bear much fruit, because that is what God has promised. Listen to the Holy Spirit who speaks through the prophet Isaiah (54:1-8):
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the LORD has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.
The barren and childless should not concern themselves with how much service they might give their God. Their service is made perfect when God’s strength is made perfect. And God’s strength is made perfect through weakness (2 Cor 12:9). It is through suffering that He produces endurance and hope, and hope does not put us to shame (Rom 5:3-5). So for you women who say, “What about us who don’t have children,” stop kidding yourself! You have God’s promise. He blesses you more than you can imagine. Don’t look at God’s blessings in terms of outward circumstances. Take God’s promises for what they are worth, because Jesus tells you what they are worth. You who trust your Savior Jesus – even counting the God-given gift of your family as nothing that can save you – remember Jesus’ promise that you will receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).
We have the promise of these blessings hidden under persecution. The persecution is not simply outward beatings and ridicule. It is a spiritual attack. But all the while, our faith finds its sustenance not in its own perseverance, but in the death and resurrection of Christ, in His obedience which in and of itself bears abundant fruit. This was the obedience He gave fully to His mother and earthly father, the obedience that He rendered to His eternal Father even unto death. This is the obedience He credits to us by His resurrection, and which He applies to us by His gospel through faith in His Name.
My mother is saved not because of all the children she had. She is saved because of the promise in which she trusted, the promise of God that she will bear fruit, fruit that is pleasing to Him for the sake of Christ’s obedience. And by such promise, she is saved through her childbearing (1 Tim 2:15).
Therefore we don’t despise childbearing for the sake of man-made vocations. Rather, we extol childbearing as a great gift and noble calling. And we take comfort and have confidence in God’s promise that those who are united to Jesus Christ the Vine will bare abundant fruit (John 15:5).
May God bless all Christian mothers and comfort all Christian women who trust in the God who justifies the ungodly and never breaks His promises.