Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Matthew 12: 48-50
Mother’s Day is a tricky celebration for the Church. On the one hand, we want to rightfully honor those who have sacrificed to raise us. On the other hand, we need to be sensitive to those who have lost mothers, lost children, dealt with infertility, or been raised by abusive or absent mothers.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the above passage, what it means to be not only a physical mother, but a spiritual mother as well. Jesus’s reply expands our thinking about family without denigrating his physical mother. After all, Mary had the job of raising a Savior (and one who made it a habit to hang around his Father’s house without telling anyone). In fact, themes from Mary’s Magnificat are found in Jesus’s teaching (and in James’ letter). Mary was more than a physical mother, feeding him, teaching him to bathe and speak and have good manners. She did the will of God and proved herself a spiritual mother as well.
I think of the women in my life who have been my spiritual mothers, beginning with my physical mother, who spent her days teaching me about God and demonstrates with her life what it means to follow him (and who continues to minister to me at all hours of the day and night when I call needing her). I’ve also had school teachers and Sunday school teachers and youth leaders and mentors throughout college and work. I have mentors in my church, even if it’s not an official role–women who demonstrate to me what it means to follow Christ in everyday life, women who take the time to walk beside me, encourage me, minister to me. These are women who do the will of their Father.
There are mothers from the Church’s history who continue to teach us. I remember one summer lounging by the lake we visited every year reading a biography of Susannah Wesley, the women who raised John and Charles. I did my thesis on Ruth, who ended up in David’s and in Jesus’s ancestry. When I questioned my purpose in life following graduation from seminary with my masters in theology (and landing the prestigious job of front desk medical receptionist), I found challenge and comfort in the writings of Jeanne Guyon. We have examples in the missionaries Amy Carmichael, Florence Young, and Elisabeth Elliot or the writers Fanny Crosby and Anne Bradstreet or theologians like Lady Jane Grey. Don’t forget Lydia and Priscilla from Paul’s time, or Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois. Or the women who ministered to Christ.
As we approach Mother’s Day, I’d like to honor all these women in my life, the women of my Church family. They’ve set examples for men and women alike of a Christlike life. I hope to be counted among them.