I learned how to mother from the Apostle Paul. Ironic how he, a man, taught me, a woman, who also happens to be childless, how to be a mother. This is not to affirm the gender identity crisis that our current culture is struggling to figure out. Hear me out.
A Fatherly Model
All throughout the Epistles that the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to write, we hear him speak tenderly to the churches to whom he is writing. He tells them of his love for them, encouragement to endure in ministry, the importance of living a holy life, and how to bear the weight of suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Paul himself was also childless, however he had spiritual sons and daughters all throughout the first century world. One of those spiritual sons, Timothy, left home at 16 to learn under the fatherly leadership of Paul. The time and life shared together made Paul and Timothy an unstoppable force in ministry as Timothy was discipled by Paul before being sent out on mission to pastor. Discipleship was a way of life in the early Christian church. The discipleship process would morph into something incredibly familial as the traits of the one being discipled would take on personality and physical characteristics of the discipler. Spiritual family was being formed. Thousands of generations of God’s family were being shaped by the discipleship process. They literally became family for each other. As I have watched Paul be a father, a spectacular representation of God the Father to these churches, I have learned how to spiritually parent the next generation by making disciples.
One of those sweet spiritual children came to visit me in the darkest hour of my life. She, like Timothy and Paul, was able to encourage, speak truth, and help me endure the lowest point of my Christian walk thus-far. In 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul asks his young spiritual son to come see him, for Paul realizes that he is coming to the end of his life here on earth. Paul has a few needs. He asks Timothy to bring his coat that he left with some other men. He had a need… he was cold.
Before my sweet daughter came to see me in my time of desperate need, I asked her to bring a heart that would be willing to bear my burden with me. The moments where I felt as if I were perishing, she was there to wipe my tears, weep deeply with me, and strengthen me in prayer. She didn’t give me advice. She didn’t tell me to pick myself up by the bootstraps and get on with my life. She simply got in the trenches of my mess that I had created for myself and was the hands and feet of Jesus. This is what God promises us in Mark 10. A family. She, my sweet Olive, was the ear of Jesus. The arms of Jesus that held me when I cried. The hands of Jesus that wiped my tears as I wept. The presence of Jesus as she patiently listened without offering any words.
I’ve taken for granted the gift of being known deeply by another. I have failed miserably in spiritually parenting those whom God entrusted me to spiritually parent. Just like any parent fails in rearing their children, I suppose. Yet, the Lord brought one that I have spent years walking this journey of faith with to my side when I needed it the most. His grace was sufficient for me in my weakness.
If you have never raised spiritual children, if you have never grafted one into your family in order to build a spiritual family, I challenge you to start discipling a younger believer. Don’t be afraid. You will not labor in vain.
Olivia, thank you for bringing me my coat. I love you, sweet daughter.