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Lessons from Mary on Mothering

“No man is poor who has a godly mother.” Abraham Lincoln

Like so many things, we Protestants – in seeing the extreme of (in this case) Mary worship or Mary veneration in some quarters of the Catholic church – some of us have gone to the other extreme and thus know little of her, and have learned little from her. The fact is – she was chosen out of all of the women alive in her day – to mother the very Son of God. It is my conviction that Mary was chosen for this task because God saw that she had the heart and the spirit and whatever else He deemed necessary to be able to pull off such a task (all of that of course came from Him via her relationship with Him). God did not choose her because she was perfect, but rather because He knew she would respond and adapt by His grace and strength and would time after time submit to His will as hard as it would sometimes prove to be.

Before we learn from her mothering of our Lord and Savior, I do want to say that any fantasies we might hold about how glorious her task was need to be adjusted. Mary’s lot was not to walk around with a halo around her head in a bubble of joy and ecstasy. Rather as the godly seasoned man Simeon prophesied to Mary, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thought from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34,35

I submit to you that Mary’s mere 33 years of mothering Jesus Christ was anything buy ecstasy. I believe she died a thousand deaths as she watched the rejection and envy and hatred of her son intensify over those last three years to the point where His enemies finally arrested, beat, scorned and crucified Him like some low life criminal. And yet I would remind you that the fruit of her mothering continues to grow and spread and impact millions of people all over the world. I think she would readily say it was worth it!

God’s desire and intent for every mother is that you too might have the privilege of dying to every right the American Association of Mothers says you have, so that the fruit of your death might be life not only for your children, but also for all those they will touch.

Having observed Mary’s life and mothering over the years as I’ve meditated in the gospel accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry, I’d like to share five principles that if mothers can embrace them will enable them to impact not only their children, but many people that their children will touch and impact as well.

Here’s the first one: Recognize that the evil one hates your children and wants to snuff them out as soon and as completely as possible. In Matthew 2:1-8 King Herod hears of some Magi arriving in Jerusalem and he becomes very troubled when he learns they are searching for the “King of the Jews”. He finds them, tries to convince them that he too wants to worship this King; and then urges them to come back and tell him where he can find him. In vs. 9-12 they find Jesus, worship Him with great joy and reverence, and then having been warned by God in a dream not to return to King Herod – they head for home in a different direction. In vs. 13-15 an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him to flee to Egypt with his family because Herod is out to destroy this “King of the Jews”. In vs. 16-18 Herod finds out he has been tricked and in utter rage has all the male children two years and under of that region killed.

Now Satan is not mentioned in this passage, but why would a powerful king be afraid of a little baby and then decide to kill a whole slew of baby boys in his own kingdom - if he didn’t have a little demonic help? Often in scripture and in life when you see a lot of angelic activity like we see in Matthew chps. 1 and 2, you can know there is also a lot of demonic activity behind the scenes. Revelation 12 sheds more light on this reality.

Satan and his demons have always hated babies and they would have them all killed as babies or children if they could. Satan lives to destroy and thus is aptly called “the destroyer” in the book of Revelation.

One thing I have noticed in parenting articles and books over the years – even written by Christians – is a glaring neglect of this reality. Perhaps the authors don’t want to alarm parents or to seem too negative or gloomy. But if we have a real enemy who can inflict real harm, how compassionate or understanding is it to not alert mothers to this reality?

If as a mother, you have any desire at all for your children to follow after Jesus, you must expect and be alert to the reality of spiritual warfare. It is part of your ever expanding and never ending job description!

I believe Mary early on realized what Jesus and thus she was up against in terms of spiritual warfare. And by the way at some point Mary functioned as a single parent because Joseph her husband is never mentioned again in the gospels after losing Jesus as a child in the temple when He was around 10 years old. Since Jesus had five brothers and at least two sisters, Joseph had to stick around for at least as long as it took to bring that all about. But conceivably that could have all taken place in 10-15 years.

Mothers if you want to be a mother that God uses to shape and impact your children (and even grandchildren), you must learn to see and engage and overcome the spiritual warfare that comes with the territory of raising children for His glory and purposes. As soon as your children are old enough to understand and resist and overcome, you must begin to help them do so by the Lord’s power and strength (see Eph. 6:11f).

Thankfully Jesus came “…to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8), and one of the ways He does that is through your godly mothering. May the Holy Spirit train you to be His instrument in this regard!

OK – a second principle, Make becoming a woman of faith one of your highest life goals. Other than love, there is no higher quality or virtue you could pursue than faith.

Remember what Elizabeth said to Mary, “And blessed (happy) is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:45 (my emphasis). Mary believed God’s word through an angel even though nothing like this had ever happened in human history. And she was greatly blessed by God as a result of her faith.

The apostle Paul declared, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Some like to fuss about whether this “word of God” is the scriptures or His more specific and personal word to us. I think it is both. But the key is that through whatever means, you mothers recognize that God has spoken to you, you write it down, you bank your life (and your child’s life) on it, and you never lose sight of it. Circumstances will inevitably at some point seem to defy or deny it. But faith builds and strengthens and protects when we are able to be clear on what God has said and refuse to believe or think otherwise.

My children’s mother has found consistent journaling to be one way of not losing sight of what God has said/promised.

Moms – this could be your greatest battle - - “believing in the dark what you have heard in the light” as Keith Green used to sing about back in the day.

Moms who believe God and stand on His promises need not turn to manipulation or control or nagging or any of the other fleshly things that hinder the impact you were meant to have in the lives of your kids and beyond.

May the Lord ever deepen your faith and use it to move mountains in your mothering!

Third principle: Learn to watch for and discern God’s peep holes into the destiny of your child.

God has given you mothers a special and unique ability to observe things on your child or that happen to your child or that are said about your child and use them to understand how God has shaped your child and what He has shaped him or her for. This ability is crucial for you to be able to effectively pray for them and prepare them for what lies ahead.

Think about the various ways in which Mary’s son’s destiny was being revealed:

- The angel Gabriel – “….you shall name Him Jesus…He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High……”Luke 1:31-33

- Via the shepherds report of their encounter with an angel of the Lord – “When they had seen this, they made known the statement (see vs. 9-11) which had been told them about this Child.” Luke 2:17

- Via Simeon – Luke 2:30-32 & vs. 34,35

- Via Anna – Luke 2:38

- Via Jesus’s response about Himself when they found Him in the temple – Luke 2:49

Very interesting that Mary didn’t initially understand all these things, but she “….treasured all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:51

Mothers especially with multiple children can easily be distracted or too focused on their children’s bad habits and vices that they lose the forest for the trees. May the Father give every one of you mothers reading this the grace to see beyond the obvious to what HE wants you to see and know about your child’s destiny.

Fourth principle: Know that for your child to fulfill their destiny, suffering will be inevitable. Yours is not to prevent it, but to be by their side in the midst of it.

There is no record of Mary every trying to stop Jesus’s return to Jerusalem, His arrest, His unjust trials, His various beatings or His crucifixion. I think she knew it had to be. I think she knew somehow He was destined for this, though like all the rest of the disciples she didn’t fully understand it until after He was raised from the dead and begin to appear to her and the others and connect all the dots.

But she was one of the few there at the end “…standing by the cross of Jesus..” (John 19:25).

Moms as gut wrenching as it can sometimes be, (though few will ever experience what Mary did), if you are not careful you can become over protective and actually get in the way of the maturity and character that God is seeking to produce through the very afflictions and suffering you are trying to prevent.

One of the primary ways we grow in Christ likeness is through trials and suffering. Sometimes the higher the calling, the greater the suffering. Your children need you beside them as they learn to endure these necessary, but difficult times in their lives and development. May the Lord use you to help them endure their suffering well!

Fifth principle: Realize that Jesus has told all who would seek to follow Him, which hopefully includes your children, that they must hate their fathers and mothers to be able to be His disciples.

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother…..he cannot be My disciple.”Luke 14:26

There will be times where their obedience hurts and confuses their mother. Ultimately it is for their good and for your good. But it won’t feel that way. One example of this with Jesus and Mary was when she and His brothers wanted His ear, “While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You. But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50 The text seems to imply He did not go to them and give them His ear at that time.

If your children truly follow Christ, He will make sure they honor, respect and care for you when you are older like Jesus did on the cross in his command to the apostle John to care for His mother (see John 19:27). But inevitably they will have to make decisions along the way that you will not understand and will be initially hurtful and confusing.

As you observe destiny being played out in your child’s life, you need to know Moms that Jesus has a higher call and claim on their lives than you do. You are just a steward of them. He is their Lord, Master, Shepherd, and Potter. He is worthy of their utmost devotion, self denial and sacrifice.

Mothers play a crucial role in the development of their children’s destiny and calling. May the Lord give each of you renewed faith and vision and confidence in Him that “Faithful is He who calls you and He also will bring it to pass.” I Thessalonians 5:24

Happy Mother's Day Mothers!!

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