The Bible study verses from Chapter 1 of The Mission of Motherhood really grabbed me and made me Pay Attention. One, in particular, forced me to confront something I've long been avoiding. Sally asks us to read Titus 2:
Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, (4) so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, (5) to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
Let me back up a moment. A woman for whom I have a great deal of respect once told me that she will never give advice. Despite the fact that she has a large family that includes older children and certainly qualifies as a midlife mom, she will never teach other women and she will never suggest to them a certain way to do something. She said that she would never endeavor to offer someone else mothering or homemaking advice since she's a work in progress and she can't be sure that she's doing it "right." Her oldest children haven't turned out perfectly, so she believes she isn't qualified. Furthermore, she said, she'd never endeavor to write a book. In her judgment, authors of mothering books have imprudent audacity. She volunteered this perspective right around the time my second book was published. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. For about two years.
After her comments, every time I set about to write or even speak casually to someone else, I checked myself. I wanted to be sure I wasn't teaching anything or even suggesting anything. I was determined to follow her good example and refrain from instructing anyone except my own children ever. In hindsight, maybe she meant exactly what she said: that she couldn't do it or she wouldn't do it. I took it to mean that I shouldn't do it, even unintentionally.
One day, recently, someone local asked me if I'd teach a parenting class to mothers of newborns. Ladies, I've had nine newborns. I don't think there's anyone in my neighborhood with more firsthand newborn mothering experience than me. But I disqualified myself, because I was holding myself to my friend's standard: don't offer anything unless you are sure you know all the answers. Using my friend's criteria, there would be no books. No classes. And surely, no blogs.
Every once in awhile since my friend admonished me, Titus 2 would pop up and I'd have the sense I should read it carefully and ask myself some hard questions. Then, I'd stuff that sense. All I could hear was the voice of my friend.
I talked to Sally before undertaking this 31 Day project. I'm so incredibly grateful for that conversation. Furthermore, I'm grateful that throughout my mothering experience, Sally has had the courage to write and speak and profoundly influence my family life for the good. While we didn't address my Titus 2 hesitation directly, she did speak to the biblical mandate during the course of our conversation. And then, there it was in the first chapter. If I were to be true to the mission, I needed to read it and pray about it.
So, yesterday, in the shower (where God often speaks--it's usually quiet, my morning offering is taped to the glass, and well, I'm vulnerable in there), it hit me. When I was a brand new mom, 24 years ago this week, someone gave me a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding in the hospital. It literally changed the course of my life. What if the founding mothers, who were young enough to be nursing, decided that they couldn't offer their guidance to anyone else because they weren't qualified? They didn't know how their children would turn out. Those women were between their late twenties and early forties and they stepped out and taught the younger women (and probably some older women, in some cases).
The founders of La Leche League were of my mother's generation. I wasn't breastfed. My husband wasn't breastfed. Most of my friends weren't breastfed. It was a dying art. Good, faithful women at a church picnic revived it. They sacrificed in a huge, courageous way and blessed generations, but I was silenced by false humility when someone asked me to help a handful of local moms.
This whole stumbling block might seem silly to you, but to me it is a symptom of my tendency to too easily believe someone is wiser than me and I'm doing it wrong. For two years, I've been walking around believing that somehow it was sinful to write a book of encouraging meditations and prayers for other mothers. I believed that my blog would offend if it ever seemed to "teach." Furthermore, I bought into the false prophecy that I should never offer advice again, because that was only to be done by people who were sure their homes and husbands and children were "good enough."
Read the verses. God doesn't say that. He doesn't say "qualified women train younger women." He doesn't say "mothers whose grown children are all gospel perfect train younger women." He doesn't say, "Be sure your theories are proven, perfect, and failproof before you open your mouth." He also doesn't say, "Do this teaching if you feel like it, if you have spare time, and if you are unafraid that someone will criticize you." He says do it.
It's part of the mission. Mothers have a mandate from God to encourage and enable one another by training each other in the ways of a good and faithful woman.
Until recently, I told myself I didn't qualify as an "older woman." Then several twenty-something moms kept telling me I was a Titus 2 woman (and I don't think they were calling me the "younger woman" in the verse). I have a hunch it's time that I accept that I am, indeed, older. We have to have the courage to reach out to one another in our weakness and our vulnerability and to trust that God can take our feeble offerings and our honest expressions and do good things with them. There is a biblical mandate to genuinely share.
I've been writing for twenty years or so and I've never been comfortable being didactic. I think my style will always be more an offering of my thoughts for whatever they may be worth and a sincere hope that the reader will be blessed some way. I think that, mostly, I write because I feel things and they want out through my fingers. I've learned I rarely feel things unique to me and sometimes the blessing is merely articulating. Every once in awhile, I learn a lesson. I'd like to believe that I live out Titus 2 by expressing what I've learned, not because I've got it all together or I've figured it all out, but because we're together on this long journey and I'd like to help someone else up the same hill.
So, perhaps it is my mission to offer my perspective and write about my experiences (including my mistakes). Maybe God can use me, imperfections and all. Thankfully, He is very specific about exactly what to teach. We are to teach "younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited." That about covers it, I think. It's part of our vocation to pass on the ways of godly womanhood, as best as we can, despite our imperfections.
Are you thinking about the mission of motherhood, too? I'm going to join The Nester for 31 Days. I'm going to host a 31 day "retreat"here to remind myself (and anyone who wants to come along) of the mission of motherhood and matrimony. If you want to do your own 31 Days on anything you choose, head here and join! If you want to retreat from the noise of the 'net for a month and focus your own sweet home and family, grab a “Remind Myself of the Mission” button and curl up with a candle, your Bible, and this good book! Let me know your thoughts below. We can help each other hear His mission. You can add a Remind Myself button by cutting and pasting the code below.
Click here for the whole series.