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Spiritual Motherhood: A Lifelong Calling

 

Two of my children have flown the coop. They’re soaring now far from home. A day’s drive away, there are no quick visits for lunch, dinner, or shopping. I miss them desperately.

Our youngest is just two years away from college. We’re soaking in the moments with him as he fluffs his wings yearning to take flight.

Our family is really close – a miracle from God.

God has very graciously allowed me memories of days when our home swelled with the antics, laughter, awesome personalities, perspectives, and love of our children . . . when our family unit was whole and under one roof. The door swung open continuously, friends pouring in, laundry piles mounting endlessly, and life bursting through our home. Those were precious times.

It’s much quieter now. I don’t like quiet for very long.

When we do our job right as moms, our kids say “goodbye” leaving us to embrace adult life. That’s what we want. It’s the best thing for them.

 

Seeing them thrive makes me really, really happy.

Yet this phase of life has been much more painful than I ever thought it could be. It’s a big adjustment switching gears and learning how to be a mom to adult children.

Today, I thought it might be important to remind you (and myself) that motherhood isn’t a phase or stage. It was never intended to be. God gave us mother’s hearts. That calling lasts a lifetime – with our own children and with others. Yes. With others.

I recently came across a term that really resonated with me. Spiritual mother.

In this sense, a spiritual mother is not a biological mother. Her purpose isn’t to take the place of a biological momma. She’s a Christian woman who invests herself in the lives of young Christ-followers. She’s an encourager, teacher, role model, guide, trainer, and source of wisdom and love. She prays for her spiritual “offspring” and is deeply passionate about helping them reach their God-given potential.

During the past five years as my children left home, God surprised me with some new opportunities – sweet opportunities to nurture, love, and mentor young adults as a spiritual mother. I can tell you for certain there are a lot of wounded hearts in this world. Those wounded hearts need someone to lovingly help them walk, then run, on strong legs of faith.

For those who have never experienced a healthy family dynamic or experienced a loving relationship with their biological mother, a spiritual mother can fill in some gaps and soothe some mighty big wounds.

In the Bible, God makes it clear he wants us to be fruit-bearers. Spiritual fruit bearers. First in ourselves, then nurturing others so his family grows to maturity. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this or not, but there’s an overwhelming need for spiritual fathers and mothers to invest in the lives of young people today.

For those of you who have never had children (and those whose children are now adults), let me remind you how desperately you are needed as a spiritual mother. I’m being serious here. Biological motherhood is NOT a prerequisite for spiritual motherhood. Having your own children does not exempt you from being a spiritual mother to others.

Whether a child comes from a good home or not, there is a special place in their lives for a woman who is willing to pour wisdom, practical knowledge, and love into them.

Our daughter has benefited from her relationship with a sweet spiritual mother in the town where she lives. She’s been filling the gaps for a momma who lives ten hours away while nurturing our daughter in her faith. She is such a blessing to both of us.

We are all called to be spiritual mothers to the “children” in God’s family. It’s a calling we never outgrow because there’s always a need for spiritual mothers who will come alongside young adults, point them in the right direction, and help them realize God’s created intent for their lives.

Spiritual motherhood doesn’t require perfection or the ability to quote endless passages from the Bible. Your authentic faith, love, obedience, transparency, and enjoyment of God will teach volumes.

Who are you spiritually mothering today? If the answer is no one, I guarantee you someone is out there wishing they had a spiritual parent to invest in them. You have so much to offer. Ask God to help you find that person.

Answering the Call to Be a Spiritual Parent

I never wanted to be a spiritual mother—except to my two sons. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise that God placed me in this role. I regularly asked Him to use me for His purposes, and He desires to grow the body of Christ to maturity. Simply following His lead brought me to a place of nurturing and training others.

My experience has showed me how crucial the need is for spiritual parents. The apostle Paul said of the early church that there were many guardians in Christ but not many fathers (1 Cor. 4:15), and we still lack fathers and mothers today. That’s why we have so many spiritual orphans in the body of Christ.

A spiritual parent is one who helps another grow to maturity. Though the primary goal is spiritual maturity, often many other areas of a person’s life must also be addressed.

God prepared me for the task of training others through my role as a mother. I found that the things I did to bring my sons to maturity became a pattern for mentoring those God brought into my life to develop spiritually.

What is involved in being a spiritual parent? Your first responsibility is to be led by the Holy Spirit. God will bring those people into your life He wants you to mentor and direct you in the process.

Second, have genuine Christlike love. Love is what causes a natural parent to sacrifice for his child. Spiritual parenting may not involve the same issues, but you need to be willing to give of yourself (1 Thess. 2:8). Your love will prompt you to spend time with your mentees as well as to pray for them and to consider what they need to grow and mature.

Third, seek God for His vision and purpose for them. When you have that vision, you will be able to see past where they are to what they can become.

Then the Holy Spirit can speak through you to activate their anointings and calls and to encourage them to walk in them. As Anita Renfroe says in an article titled “Honoring the Other Mothers,” “When women who are not bound to you by relational duty look into your life and tell you that you are gifted, you tend to believe them.”

Fourth, provide necessary training and correction in an attitude of acceptance and love. Healthy growth requires pruning, but damage will occur if it is done the wrong way. Help your mentees develop spiritual disciplines, and continually encourage them as they progress (1 Thess. 2:11).

Fifth, transmit a hunger for God. Spread a spiritual banquet in front of those you mentor by sharing what you yourself are learning, what God is saying to you and how He is working in your own life.

Finally, be an example that can be followed. Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1, NIV). You will make mistakes, but God will cover them if you quickly repent and apologize.

You don’t have be a parent in the natural to be a spiritual parent. Paul had no natural children, yet he was the greatest example in the New Testament of a spiritual father. The victories and defeats you have experienced have prepared you to help someone else mature.

How do you become a spiritual mother? Be available to the Holy Spirit and obey His prompting. Not every person who comes into your life to encourage will be one you bring to maturity, but be open to what God asks you to do.

You can and should be one who brings life to others. The process may be costly, but the rewards for eternity are great.

Third Leadership Principle: Become a Spiritual Father or Mother

We are in a crisis. Thousands of followers of Jesus are lacking spiritual fathers and mothers. In my book “Authentic Spiritual Mentoring,” I give story after story of young men and women in our generation looking desperately for spiritual mentors or spiritual fathers and mothers. The need is very serious. And young leaders need to be taught that they can become a mentor to others. A lack of mentoring is a missing key to building effective leadership teams.

My favorite definition of a spiritual mentor or spiritual parent is: A spiritual father (or mother) helps a spiritual son (or daughter) reach his or her God-given potential. It is that uncomplicated and that profound. Biblical mentoring is simply helping another believer in Christ take the next step ahead in their life as they learn to become more like Jesus.

Just as we raise our natural children, we must train everyone in our church and ministry to become spiritual parents. I will never forget the experience of being a father for the first time. My wife, LaVerne, and I had never been down that road before. I faithfully attended prenatal classes where I learned how to coach. When the contractions started, reality hit me, and I hit the panic button. We were going to have a baby! (Well, okay, LaVerne was, but I was on the team.) I wasn’t ready! I was too young! I wasn’t experienced! I wanted to tell LaVerne, “Couldn’t you just put it on hold for a few months until we are ready for this?” That was not an option. It was time, and she gave birth to a baby girl.

Twenty-two years later, I walked down the aisle with this “baby” girl at my side and gave her away to a young man to be his wife. We raised her to give her away. Now she has the opportunity to be a parent and prepare the next generation.

One of the greatest catalysts to maturity as a Christian is to become a spiritual parent. And the only way for a young man or woman to become a spiritual parent is to have children, either by adoption (fathering someone who is really a believer but needs to be discipled) or by natural birth (fathering someone we have personally led to Christ). As we open our hearts to a few believers and met together on a regular basis to pray and learn together, we become a spiritual family. It’s that simple.

Jesus took twelve men and became a spiritual father to them for three and a half years. He knew that Kingdom values were caught more than taught. Though He ministered to the multitudes, He spent most of His time with his disciples, who changed the world. The Lord expects us to do the same. (Matt. 28:19-20)

If you never had a spiritual father or mother, you can give someone else something you never had, a spiritual parent. You don’t need to be perfect, just faithful and obedient. If we wait until we think we are ready to be the perfect parent, it will never happen. Just begin. Start somewhere.

There is a tremendous need for spiritual parents today. Joshua had Moses; Elisha had Elijah; Timothy had Paul. Whether you are young or old, I have a question for you; “To whom are you being a spiritual parent?”