A mother is a key facilitator and keeper of our identity formation in Christ. Here's how four women are learning to embrace and appreciate their role as mothers in the nitty-gritty of everyday life based on figures set apart in the Bible.
Mary Was an (Extra)Ordinary Woman
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth.—Luke 1:26
When God selected Mary, He was looking for heart. God set out to find the precise woman who would give her heart to him, completely and wholly. He wanted a woman with whom he could entrust his perfect son. This was going to be no ordinary woman. Or was it?
Mary was not a woman of status and means. Her family was probably considered "blue-collar" by the societal and cultural standards of her time. In Luke 1:48, she is described as "humble" (NASB), indicating a lowly position. She did not come from a place of influence and power. It appears that she was simple, pure, and young. Not a typical portrait for the mother of a king.
Yet God began the Jesus journey with the selection of the finest woman of that time. Theologians and historians believe that Mary was a young woman around the age of fourteen or fifteen. Since she had recently become engaged to Joseph, a carpenter, it is thought that she had just come into an age and body that the culture would define as a woman. While we can accept her youthfulness, it would be her heritage with which people would struggle. Even during that era, Mary did not fit the image of the mother of a king. Her background and simplistic life did not qualify her for the role. She was a Galilean, from an area known for its despicable ways. (How dare we believe that anything good could come from Nazareth! See John 1:46.) Mary was the unexpected selection in a journey that no one ever quite understood. For you see, the world was looking for a king to come from earthly royalty. God wanted his son, the King of kings, to come from a humble woman so that the entire world could relate.
Religious and political figures expected a king to be born of powerful, prestigious, and wealthy lineage so he could rule with authority and history behind him. God wanted King Jesus to come from a place where heritage and affluence could not buy him his authority. God simply wanted his son to embody the characteristics of his own heart. He wanted the world to recognize that his son's value came from being God's son. Nothing more. Nothing less.
God also wanted to instill in Mary that her value came from being God's daughter. This lesson is similar with children, but not exactly. They need to move through the world knowing that they are deeply connected to their mother, where their identity is rooted in something familiar and comfortable. The one difference is, they also need to anchor their identity in God, and put Him first. A mother is the facilitator and keeper of that identity formation. Today's women struggle with the reality of their lives and their limitations. Too often they believe they are not good enough because they cannot provide all that the world says they need to give, including what they ought to give their children. Through Mary, God showed that what the world says is important isn't necessarily so; she was living proof that heart trumps heritage and substance rules over status.
Loving God Was Her Priority
Show me a woman who keeps her focus on Christ the way Mary did on her God, and I will show you someone who has 20/20 spiritual vision. This type of sight enabled Mary to maintain passion for her faith, purpose for her life, and a heart for her God. We see Mary giving God her life to do with as he desires. We see her "pondering" (Luke 1:29; 2:19 NASB), thinking her way through her motherhood moments.
At the end of her son's life, we see her being steadfast and faithful in spite of her son's pain. Mary's success is that she quickly learned God was in the business of using the unlikeliest of people to reveal the most extraordinary truths of His heart and character. Mothers can see a turnaround in their parenting lives when they focus on God to define who they are. It is an amazing moment when women realize they do not have to live under the limitations of their past or their heritage. I once had a mom come and speak to me before a conference we were doing for mothers and daughters. She seemed very anxious and nervous. I pulled her to the side to see if I could calm her down.
"Am I going to learn how to be a good mom at this conference?" she asked.
I told her that I thought she would learn many things, including the heart of being the mother God wanted her to be. I then asked her, "Are you worried you are not a good mom?" The woman responded immediately, "I came from an abusive home, where my mom did not want me. It took me years to get up the courage to decide that I wanted to be a mother because I didn't want to repeat my background with my child."
"Have you parented differently than you were parented?" I asked.
Horrified at the question, the mother responded, "Absolutely!" "How have you done it differently?" I gently questioned. I had a purpose in mind, but I needed her to list her strengths before I could intervene.
The mom began to immediately list all the ways she was parenting her daughter. It was clear she had worked very hard to give her daughter the emotional things she herself had needed as a child but had never received. As she began to wind down, I asked if I could point out something to her. She nodded.
"It is apparent you have worked very hard to mother your daughter differently than the way you were mothered. You have been intentional in loving her well, meeting her needs, and remembering the things that really matter. It seems as if the biggest enemy you presently have is the way you define yourself: you define yourself by your past instead of your God."
Her eyes looked intensely into mine. I could tell she was listening with her heart. I continued:
"God wants you to release your fear to Him. You cannot define your motherhood by how you were parented, but instead by the power of God to be what you need, when you need it. God will honor your heart's desire to raise your daughter in a manner that glorifies Him, but you must let go of your fears; they are getting in the way of you experiencing joy in motherhood."
This woman had heart. She had a passion for being a good mom. More than anything, she didn't want her daughter to ever go through what she had endured. And God would honor that desire.
Like this mom (and most others), I wanted to put my heart and soul into being a good mother. Because I'm a woman of deep passion and conviction, I do everything I do with all that I am. If I am wrong, I am 100 percent wrong. If I am right, I am passionately right. No lukewarm temperature on this mother's thermometer!
As a mom, I have made more than my share of mistakes. I have said things I never should have said, done things that experience would have me do differently, and reacted when I could have responded. In the midst of all my weaknesses and failures, however, the one thing my kids know is that I love them with everything I have. I believe that is one of the reasons they have been able to forgive me, be patient with me, and love me. They have known that my heart was always for them, in spite of my limitations.
I believe God selected Mary because she had a heart after his. She possessed a passion that status, lineage, and power could not touch. And she knew that God looked at her passion and love for him. It would be for this reason alone that God would give her favor and blessing.
Excerpted from Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You. Copyright © 2012 by Catherine Hickem. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.