THE PRIESTHOOD OF MOTHERING

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“Now I know you are a mother,” my father says quietly as he watches me lean over my firstborn baby’s incubator the night before her heart surgery, whispering prayers and singing “Jesus Loves Me” in broken verse.

It wasn’t the decorated nursery or the nine months of anticipation or the little pink clothes folded neatly back home that had convinced him. It was the desperate petitions of a bewildered woman who had entered almost unknowingly into that Priestly Vocation of Motherhood.

Alan Cole, in his commentary on the book of Exodus, explains that a priest is someone set apart for a special relationship with God and for the service of God. A priest is to be both God’s representative for another person or people, and God’s representative to another person or people. He stands between heaven and earth, in a sense.

I think that being a Christian mother is an invitation to the Priesthood.

Some of my earliest memories of own my mother are of her sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and the Harper’s Study Bible open before her. She had a spiral notebook where she kept a cryptic record of her prayer requests for the day. Page after page. Occasionally as I grew up, I would steal a glance at the list when she was gone. Oh, my word, I would say. If those requests weren’t literally coming true in my life!

The effectual prayers of a Christian mother….

It’s what we do. We are Earth’s advocates to Heaven on behalf of these little souls who have entered our lives.

And we are Heaven’s advocates to them….

I remember the day I read these words with completely new eyes in my own Bible. Paul writes to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” And later, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation….” (2 Timothy)

The effectual teaching of a Christian mother.

Where else had Timothy learned the Sacred Writings from childhood? I picture little Timothy on his mother’s knee, or Grandmother’s, hearing the Story of God’s dealings with man over the centuries. How it had all started in the Garden…how it had all gone wrong…how God had first called Abraham…and then a whole people…and then sent his Son.

The first and best Catechism is the Story God has given us.

I’ve made it my ambition to teach each of my children the Whole Council of God by way of the Story before they graduate from elementary school. I’ve seen my children hiding in the corners when I read them the story of Noah, begging me to stop. And I’ve seen them dancing around my living room I when told them about redemption through the narrative of Ruth.

And I’ve seen them hurt.

I remember the first day of a new school for my firstborn daughter. She ran out the doors into the small crowd of mothers and fellow students shouting, “She has my name! She’s Grace too!”” pointing to another little first grader. This other student turned away in horror and started running to her own mother screaming and waving her arms. It was a terrible moment for me. Just frozen there. I could see that it was unfortunate for her that she had to be identified with my daughter, who clearly had special needs even then. But it was my own destiny to already have to absorb the pain. By smiling calmly and slowly leading my own Grace away by the hand, I saved everyone there from further hurt.

The effectual suffering of a Christian mother. (Colossians 1:24)

And it never ends, this calling to the Priesthood. My mother reads my blog and says, “Honey, I asked my prayer group at church to pray for you.” She’s worried about me. Of course she is. She’s a mother.

She’s heard all my sad stories and smiled at all my happy ones and sent books to encourage me and articles to challenge me to think clearly in this confusing world and goodness knows what else!

But most of all, she’s simply been the best apologetic argument for faith. She’s kept walking, kept loving, kept praying, and kept believing for almost ninety years. One of her grandchildren looks at her wrinkles and asks whimsically, “Why is your face wrecked?” She laughs. Gray hair is a crown of glory, she thinks.

And the little blue car she still drives around in has this for its license plate:  1 Corinth 15

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

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