I vividly remember the moment I first experienced the tension between a call to mother and a desire for the call to be a mother. I was holding my friend’s precious and tiny two week old daughter in church on a hot July day. As I held her, I wondered both how someone so small could cause my shoulder to ache so greatly but also how to make sense of an undeniable hope sparked to hold my own newborn. This tension of desire and reality has led me to deeper understanding for God’s design for embodied womanhood lived in light of the call to follow Jesus.
Not everyone feels so strongly upon holding an infant, and candidly, before that experience neither had I. But in those few moments before I nervously gave her back to her mother as she started to squirm, I felt exposed before the Lord and myself. More than anything, I was left with a question I have wrestled with since, “What would I do if this desire to nurture did not return to its proverbial box, especially as a single woman?”
A few months later, I would be confronted by another shift in my understanding of nurturing. This time I wasn’t cradling a newborn that seemed heavier than my shoulder muscles could support, but instead I was cradling the confessions of women bearing burdens that I thought would crush my heart. A similarly exposing question, surfaced, “What would I do with this opportunity to nurture these women to wholeness in Jesus’ name and in Jesus’ way?”
As I made sense of what the intersection of extended singleness and vocational ministry might look like, God used these tender opportunities to drive me to search for the meaning of what it meant to be a female image bearer, whether that resulted in physical motherhood, spiritual motherhood, or a combination of both. I knew in my mind that for new covenant believers, spiritual not only physical children are blessings, but at times the fear of the Lord withholding a call that bears it imprint on my very body, seemed like too much to consider.
One day, the Lord mercifully drew me to see Genesis 3:20 in a new light,“The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.” I had not realized that this call, this blessing, this distinction of Eve to mother the living was declared post-fall. It was an invitation to embrace and recognize the intentional design for women to nurture life even as it gave freedom to recognize that this nurturing work will happen in a broken world until Jesus Christ returns to make all things new.
Since then, mothering has not taken the shape I hope it does one day. Even in the midst of seeing the valuable stewardship of singleness for my good, God’s glory, and the tangible building up of those around me, I am still tempted to doubt that the fruit of my stewardship of mothering is as valuable as those of my friend’s still growing family. But as I nurture the covenant community I have been placed in and give my hopes to one day be a mother to the Lord, just as exposing the thousandth time as it was the first time, I have found comfort and confidence in who God is and what he has done.
As in Genesis 3, the Lord continues to expose sin but he also clothes his children with righteousness by his mercy. The Lord calls to us in our hiding and he redeems our desires. The One who crafted those who would bear his image is himself the fullness of the beauty and goodness we see echoed in the nurturing work of women in the church.
In fixing my eyes on the one designed me to nurture, a new question surfaces in my heart these days, “How will I commend Christ through the nurturing work he gives me this day?”
Antonea Bastian is a Minister at Mosaic Church of Richardson. She enjoys iced coffee, long walks, Jesus talks and exploring her newly adopted hometown of Richardson, TX. You can find her on twitter at @antoneabastian.