Ever since my second son was born, I’ve been in a “loaves and fishes” season of writing. I write when my sons are napping, or after they’ve gone to bed, or while they’re in childcare at the YMCA. I have an hour here or an hour there, but almost never a long stretch of time. These writing sessions are small and rushed, so I present them to God on a wing and a prayer, begging Him to take my little offering and multiply it.
This writing in the margins has made my life very full, in every sense of the word. It’s full with activity, but it’s also full with life. Writing is the thing that fills me up. After a productive writing session, I have more energy to care for my kids than any other time. As Sarah Bessey recently wrote in her lovely post on motherhood and calling, “The truth is I’m a better person in every way when I’m doing the work I feel called to do.”
This season, this calling, this pace–it all came to mind when I read a blog post this week about mothers in the Bible. In it, Kevin DeYoung noticed that women were at the center of the Exodus: Moses’ mother, Moses’ sister, Moses’ adoptive mother, and the Hebrew midwives. In fact, the story of Exodus is “moved forward by women, and specifically women looking after children.” For DeYoung, this was a great reminder of the important role of mothers.
And I agree.
But it got me thinking. The Exodus is an affirmation of motherhood, but it’s also an indictment. Those women weren’t doing regular mom stuff. They weren’t suburban soccer moms carting their kids to VBS. They were literally risking their lives, and the lives of their families, to follow God. If you’re going to look at those women as your model for biblical motherhood, then get ready to have your categories exploded.
I decided to check out other mothers in the Bible to see if they were just as radical. This is what I found: The mothers in Scripture leveraged their influence in powerful ways. Some for bad, but some for incredible good:
– Mary sacrificed her security and reputation to become the mother of Christ. She raised Jesus, and followed him to his death, even after the disciples fled in fear.
– Hannah raised the great prophet Samuel, who was instrumental in the life of King David
– Lois and Eunice–the grandmother and mother of Timothy–were the chief influences in Timothy’s faith, long before he became a key leader in the early church
– Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist, but she also walked alongside Mary in her own calling.
And don’t forget leaders like Deborah, Joanna, Lydia, and Priscilla. Scripture never mentions whether these women had children, but since each of them was married it is very likely that they did.
Each mother’s story was different. There is no mold to point to as THE model of biblical motherhood. But there is a pattern, which is this:
Their influence extended beyond the walls of their home.
For some, this meant modeling a godliness that equipped their children to be prophets, pastors, and kings. For others, it meant they weren’t only mothers. Some of these women led God’s people, or supported Jesus’ ministry, or helped launch the early church.
All of that is our model for biblical motherhood, and here’s why that diversity matters:
A lot of mothers feel restless, and they feel guilty for feeling restless. They’re at home with their kids changing diapers, doing laundry, and cooking dinner, and some part of their soul yearns for more. So they feel guilty, because Christians should be “content in all circumstances.” They interpret their restlessness as some sort of spiritual gap.
And that could be true.
But it might not be.
That restlessness? It could be the Spirit.
You might be a Eunice, or a Hannah. Your high calling might be motherhood alone.
But you might also be a Lydia or a Deborah, and that restlessness might be the voice of God.
If that’s you, I want you to know this: you’re not a bad mom for feeling restless. And you’re not a bad mom for pursuing a calling in addition to motherhood. I have mom friends who write, teach, mentor, lead ministries, organize fundraisers, adopt orphans, rescue slaves, support refugees, advocate for the poor, serve oversees, or live in neighborhoods where they can be a light. I know moms who are doing truly radical things, and it doesn’t make them worse moms. It makes them better.
I am a better mom because I am not only a mom. When I use my gifts to serve the Kingdom of God, it not only fills me up, but it models to my children the kind of commitment and sacrifice and holy ambition that is essential to following Christ.
This is not about selfish ambition or escaping the mundane responsibilities of parenting. This is about mothering with courage–true courage–because biblical motherhood is not a sanitized version of American motherhood. It doesn’t mean cussing less, or taking your kids to church on Sunday, or reading the Bible before bedtime, while maintaining an otherwise comfortable suburban life that looks just like every other family on the block. Biblical motherhood is radical. It’s different. It won’t always make sense to the world. It means taking risks and doing things that aren’t always safe.
But you know what? This, for me, has been the secret to abundant life in a season that sucks you dry. God has multiplied my little loaves and fishes to feed others…and to feed me too.
If you’re a mother who’s feeling restless, maybe it’s time to pray, and to dream. How might you step into your calling? How might you step into the legacy of Mary, Lydia, or the Hebrew midwives? What stands between you and brave, biblical motherhood?
If God is stirring something in you, be strong and courageous. The God who uses mothers to change the course of history, He goes before you.