God has gifted us with family whether it’s through a personal family, within the structure of the church, or with dear friends. In her book What Is A Family?, Edith Schaeffer answers the question in this way: “A family is a formation center for human relationships. The family is the place where the deep understanding that people are significant, important, worthwhile, with a purpose in life, should be learned at an early age. The family is the place where children should learn that human beings have been made in the image of God and are therefore very special in the universe. In other words, one is not simply to sit with a set of sentences to teach by rote memory, while every action and example is denying the words. The sets of words to be taught should be the true Word of God. The Bible tells of the things which children should be learning at an early age in order to find out how human beings are to treat other human beings…”
I think motherhood and discipleship go hand in hand. I love how the apostle Paul uses the words “little children” and “true son” in many of his epistles to show the familial love he had for his disciples and to encourage us to develop that same love for those who come into our sphere of influence. The following are some things God has taught me over the years about what I call “spiritual mothering”, which applies to discipleship as well:
Do not set limits for your children or others based on age, ability level, and education. In our homeschool, my spiritual immaturity (as a new believer myself) allowed me to identify with my children as we studied the Bible. We learned together despite differences in age and reading abilities; we studied and discussed Scripture so all could participate and grow. I am amazed at how even infants will respond to God’s Word! Paul discipled Timothy despite his youth and taught him strong doctrine (1 Tim. 4:12-16).
Realize that every person has a unique relationship with God. He made Man to be His image bearer (Gen. 1:26), to reason and have intellect, will, and emotions. A believer’s sanctification and good works were ordained before time began! As spiritual mothers, we need to encourage our children to seek the strengths and desires God has given them without directing them to areas of our choosing.
Spiritual mothering requires humility. Our children are not perfect just as we are not perfect. We all struggle with indwelling sin and fail multiple times. Peter instructed, “all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time…” (1 Peter 5:5-6). Our children are not our trophies to gain the commendations of men. God uses our spiritual mothering to shape not only our children but us. Elisabeth Elliot said, “The process of shaping the child… shapes also the mother herself. Reverence for her sacred burden calls her to all that is pure and good, that she may teach primarily by her own humble, daily example.”
Spiritual mothering requires communication. This area, I fear, is being lost among our children amid the influence of social media and cell phones. God created us to be relational beings; that is revealed throughout Scripture. Even in Genesis 1, the Trinity was communicating during creation, ordering something to be and then declaring it “good.” The need to communicate has not ceased, but we are finding ourselves more likely to “talk” through Instagram, Facebook, or a text message than to talk face to face. Talking to our children is not truly communicating; we need to learn to talk with them. In Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp writes, “The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another.” Understanding what a child (or teen or adult) is thinking is foundational in developing a relationship. Young children need to learn to communicate instead of being ignored or given the impression they are a “bother.” What a treasure we miss when we brush off the attempts of our children to converse with us. Parents who fail to engage in meaningful conversation with their children may affect the future, leaving their children to grow and mature without having the ability to adequately communicate their thoughts and feelings.
Prayerfully seeking God’s leading to be a godly mother (or mentor) is one of our greatest responsibilities. Children have hearts that are alien to God, so should we not expect struggles? I simply looked at my life before coming to Christ and it helped me to understand my children’s behavior! Our children need the same grace that we received to come to faith. May we work with a grace-giving passion that the gospel be known to all generations.
Bible Study Tip
After the Comprehension stage is the Interpretation stage. Once you’ve gathered all the information from the text and have it outlined, write out the passage in your own words. In this first step of the Interpretation stage, you’re transitioning from taking information in to processing it. As you summarize, see if you can note the main point or points of the passage.
Links in this section are Amazon Affiliate links to books we find helpful
by Gloria Furman
There’s no such thing as “just” a mom. Despite the routine tasks and mundane to-do lists, motherhood is anything but insignificant. God has designed motherhood as part of his greater plan to draw people to himself―instilling all women, whether called to traditional mothering or not, with an eternal purpose in nurturing others.
In this book, Gloria Furman searches the Scriptures for the mission of God in motherhood. She opens our eyes to God’s life-giving promises―promises intended to empower each and every woman as she makes disciples in her home, in her neighborhood, and around the world.
This book is applicable to both physical motherhood and spiritual motherhood (i.e., discipleship). Another great book by Gloria Furman that’s geared more toward physical motherhood is Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms.
Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions
by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
What should you say when your five-year-old asks about his dying grandma? Or when your seven-year-old wonders if the devil is real? Or when the sixth graders in your Sunday school class are talking about a tragedy they heard about on the news? When it comes to the dark and tragic aspects of our world, it can be hard to know what to say and how much.
Mother/daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson will carefully walk you through difficult conversations, one topic at a time. Speaking from personal experience, informed by child development research, these two moms offer practical insights and age-appropriate guidance. Talking about tough topics may not be as hard as you think, and, more important, you’ll see how these conversations can lead to meaningful discussions of God’s unchanging goodness.
Another recommended book written by these two authors is Give Them Graze: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. Elyse Fitzpatrick has authored over 20 books and offers a lot of helpful insight and wisdom as a biblical counselor. You can view all of her books on her Amazon author page.
This year’s Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference was scheduled for June 11-13, but due to current events, it has been rescheduled for April 9-11, 2021. So save the date! Click here for details about TGCW21. You can also listen to over 150 talks from the previous four women’s conferences (2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018).
For the Kids
Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids
by David Murray
Exploring the Bible leads kids ages 6-12 through the Bible one day at a time over the course of a year. For use alongside any Bible, this workbook will help them see the overarching story of God’s Word and lay the foundation for a lifetime of discovering truths about God, humanity, and the gospel. Each weekly entry includes daily Bible readings, prayer points, a memory verse, discussion questions, and space for sermon notes and reflections.