Saturday, November 12, 2011

My New Occupation: Spiritual Mother

I feel a little like Deborah, the prophetess, warrior, and judge whom many call the mother of Israel. And with that, perhaps I should explain myself.

Gustave Dore's interpretation
of the prophetess Deborah
I am physically barren; in biblical terms, this means that up till now there has been no fruit and no multiplication in my household. This sometimes feels like a grave injustice, an assault against my God-given feminine instincts, as it also feels for many women who desperately yearn for motherhood but never experience it. Yet it is certainly not the worst lot in life. Others have far more difficult circumstances, like struggles for freedom from the horrors of sex-trafficking and the need for clean drinking water or an AIDS vaccine.

But barrenness is the place from which I can truthfully speak, and so I sometimes do.

Tonight, this struggle points me to a woman I have never met but hope to chat with one day. Her name is Deborah, and her story is recorded in the Bible in the book of Judges. She was married, but there is no record of children. And someone else was likely helping with her household duties, since Deborah spent her time righting others' wrongs, prophesying of God's faithfulness to Israel, warring in battle, and trying to convince a man like Barak to find his courage. All in a day's work--right, ladies?

In the last month, I have temporarily joined a church staff during an interim period. It was a natural progression after serving as a pastoral intern at our church. This happened when two of our lead pastors moved on to another call and holes sprung up, desperately longing to be filled, at least that is what my heart said.

So now when I go to work, people call me pastor. This is shocking and crazy to me, but as one friend said in an email: "Of course you would struggle with a title that's been so male-dominant. Only with time will you (and frankly, others) get used to it. But pastoring is the gift you have. Teaching. encouragement. spiritual leadership. These are the giftings of a pastor, and that you are."

So I gulped and dove in and for the most part, nothing could be more natural. I have wondered where this is all going in terms of my future, but no matter what the future holds it will include teaching, encouragement, and spiritual leadership. Along the way, something surprising is happening.

The focus in my life is not on my barrenness and my monthly cycle, but on the fruit that can be born for God's Kingdom. I pastor, and I have the privilege of watching God work. I encourage, and God gives the increase. Ministry is becoming much less frightening and a thousand times more life-giving. And the other day I had a eureka moment: I was in the office and making hospital visits and counseling and preparing to teach, and I thought to myself, this is what mothering is all about. No matter what turn my fertility takes, I am a spiritual mother.

Truthfully, I answer to almost anything. But if the shoe fits--and the spiritual giftings, too--perhaps we should start calling each other who we are, regardless of our job titles. The occupation blank on my next medical form just might be filled in "spiritual mother." And it would be a high privilege to be lumped in with Deborah, a woman with a song in her heart and a God-ordained purpose guiding her every step.

Read Deborah's story and song here

Your turn. What is your occupation at present, whether homemaker, business person, pastor, caregiver, seminary student, etc.? And based on your spiritual giftings, what is your spiritual occupation?