My grown-up boys have a particular smile that I see whenever they come to the house, and I start hauling food out of the refrigerator. It’s a combination of, “She really can’t help herself, can she?” and “Well . . . I might be persuaded to eat a sandwich.” Even though I can’t keep a houseplant alive, mothering has developed in me a nurturing and a practical need-noticing that I’m not sure I could have learned any other way.
Gloria Furman celebrates both mothers and mothering in her latest book, Missional Motherhood, and she immediately grabs her readers’ attention with the truth that there is so much more to this nurturing life than the quest for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe and the indoctrination of perfectly-behaved children.
The heart of the matter for all mothers is . . . our hearts. Our brokenness, our mixed motives, and our innate selfishness get in the way of our ability to realize all that we dream of when we envision our call to mothering. Missional motherhood is a term that embodies this “glad-hearted, life-giving” work of pouring ourselves into the life of another. For this reason, it is not an exaggeration to say that all women are called to be mothering someone, whether it’s biological or adopted children or the spiritual motherhood that comes along with discipling others into a growing faith.
Gloria begins by taking her readers on a fly-low-hang-on-for-dear-life tour of the Old Testament in which she touches down at high points in the biblical narrative that demonstrate obstacles to missional mothering as well as the magnificent outcome of an others-centered life. The covenants, the Promised Land, the shadow-realities that point forward to the Promised One — all the plot twists of the biblical narrative are sign posts that reveal our need for a relationship and a righteousness that will compel us to kick ourselves out of the center of the universe — and to do so with joy.
It turns out that we and our adorable offspring are “Word-dependent” creatures (Deuteronomy 8:3) to whom God has graciously given a Living Word. The glorious message of the Old Testament is amplified in the New Testament with the invitation to consume God’s Word and to live out its precepts, not from compulsion, but out of the desire of our new hearts.
Whenever I read Gloria Furman’s writing I smile a lot. It’s fun to read words that absolutely resonate with the song that is singing its way through your own daily life. But beyond this, Gloria has a delightful style that is velvet on steel, but makes room for quirky word-pictures [“a nice, tall glass of perspective”] and whimsical lists of prepositional phrases and hyphenated adjectives that remind me of E.B.White’s prose. The journey through the book is full of wisdom in the big picture as well as in the interstices, and I have been enriched by these particular pondering points for my understanding of “the everyday ministry of motherhood in the grand plan of God”:
- Service to others — diaper changing, salad making, mini-van driving — is “acceptable worship done unto the Lord.” It is, therefore, holy.
- The choosing that Joshua challenged Israel to accomplish is still necessary today in every individual heart. We mothering-souls cannot choose delight in the Lord for our children or for those we mentor. Therefore, we must “teach it, suggest it, exemplify it, and affirm it.”
- Like Israel, we must not allow ourselves to become distracted by the glitter of lesser gods. It is our calling to see and savor the supremacy of the one true God.
- The concept that Christ created motherhood for Himself is perspective altering because it impacts on the meaning of life, on our understanding of the centrality of God and His right to design motherhood, and on our ability to demonstrate to a consumer-oriented world the sufficiency of Christ alone.
- Although nurturing women have multiple messages in our brains and coming off our lips at any given moment, our main message is the gospel. This changes our delivery of all other messages and puts an end to all other yardsticks — including the mummy comparison trap.
- The cross is central to all we do. I enjoyed Gloria’s use of the adjectives “cross-shaped” and “cruciform” to describe our nurturing and our victory, reminding readers that our mothering/nurturing is all done through our weakness, but because of the cross, “we nurture life in the face of death.”
- Missional motherhood puts gospel glasses on our near-sighted spiritual eyes, resulting in a long-term encouragement that transcends present circumstances. This long view is more of a pick-me-up than a second cup of coffee, more helpful than complaining, and more lasting than the endless tallying of our own accomplishments.
- Missional mums are not super-mums. However, we fulfill three supernatural roles in our families and in the Kingdom of God. We serve in a priestly role as we, like Daniel, pray for lost sheep; we serve in a kingly role as we lead and encourage others toward righteousness; we serve in a prophetic role as we hear, obey, and speak truth. Of course, this is only possible because of the profound truth that Jesus serves in those three roles for us in order to deal with our most urgent need: our sinful brokenness.
If all this sounds overwhelming . . . that’s perfect. Come empty-handed and open-hearted and receive grace for making the sacrifices and doing the everyday, mundane work of faithfulness. Mother is a verb centered in following God, trusting the Spirit’s leading — and then nurturing others through a power that is not our own.
This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.
I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.