Someone once called me “one of those sheltering moms.” It was years ago when my ears took that phrase in, and my mind disseminated her meaning, and my heart later wrestled through the phrase’s implications. My children were young, and I was inexperienced, and each day seemed an uncharted trek through myriads of parenting decisions and possible unintended consequences. I’m sometimes slow on the uptake, but I discerned later that she’d spoken the sentence to undermine my already shaky confidence. She did not intend to pay me a compliment.
Her barb scared me. What if I was being the wrong kind of mother? What if decisions I was making were going to harm my children, keeping them from later being able to bravely engage their world for Christ? What if I wasn’t fully understanding (and of course I wasn’t!) God’s plan for daily mothering? What if I disciplined a temper tantrum wrongly? What if we decided on the wrong form of schooling? What if I should let them watch that edgy TV show at their age? What if? What if? What if?
One thing I did know, though: confused and inexperienced as I was, I knew that I wanted only to please my Father as I raised the children He’d entrusted to me. I knew that I wanted to pray through each decision and trust He’d guide me, not allowing my choices to harm the souls He’d placed in my arms. I knew that I wanted to be for them as God was for me, a sheltering — not smothering, that’s different, and a post for another day — aide in the storm of all this world would hurl at them.
Barbs morphed into resolve
As I prayed about what God would have me to take away from her confidently-given critique, the fog surrounding her remark cleared. In the end, He used her words to strengthen my resolve. I wanted more than anything to imitate His ways of parenting. I wanted to be a mother to my children as He is a Father to His children. And I knew that, when unsure about how to do that, He’d not left me guessing.
He’d given me a book to read about how He fathers me.
As I searched His Word in relation to her particular jab, I knew that I wanted to take seriously the role God had given me — I wanted to be an intentional helper, and a refuge-maker, and a grace-giver. I became more sure that, as the Lord is likened to an eagle spreading her sinewed wing over her nested chicks, I wanted my young ones to know a home of sure refuge.
“For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.” (Psalm 63:7)
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.” (Psalm 36:7)
“… in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” (Psalm 57:1)
” He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)
A Guide to guide me
I decided anew that every mothering decision, even if it meant I’d incur the disdain of others, would be filtered through the grid of:
Does this choice honor God, and does it guide my child toward a life of adoration for Him?
I resolved that, when unsure about parenting decisions:
- I’d go to the Word to discern how the Father fathers me.
- I’d pray for wisdom in a world which undervalues Christian motherhood and is torn asunder by misunderstanding about the high and beautiful calling of child-bearing.
- I’d seek guidance from Christians wiser than myself (whether in person, or in book form), not from TV talk shows or check-out line magazines.
- I’d continue to pray a prayer I’d been praying already: that God would grow my children to “love Him deeply, follow Him closely, and affect their own generation profoundly for His glory.”
- I’d pray that, despite all my mothering-insecurity, He’d use me to be a person of refuge and He’d use our home as a shelter from the stormy blasts to come.
As you find yourself in the motherhood trenches, and yearn to:
- discipline your temper-tantrum thrower in a godly way,
- choose wisely the activities your school-ager participates in,
- have godly wisdom to navigate the “mean girls” (or boys) years,
- guide your teenager to trust God’s love and rise above strangling peer pressure,
get to know the Father through His Word. Pray to Him! There are no shortcuts. Learn of the Lord, and seek to imitate His care for His children. Ask Him to grow you in wisdom and patience and love. Ask Him to guide you as you nurture those for whom your mothering wings have been gifted. He’ll never not provide for you, for He specifically chose you for them. In every season of life, seek Him!
For as they grow older, the decisions seem in many ways to grow more intensely important, and the wisdom needed to guide them more acutely desired. More than ever, I now pray fervently for them, and seek to help them know His will for them, and hope to guide them in ways that soften their heart toward Him. As I now stand eye-to-eye with the teenagers given me by God (and still often feel inexperienced), one thing has changed. Now, I don’t mind if you call me “one of those sheltering moms.” I’m honored by the phrase.
For I’m honored to shelter my children in the shadow of my wings, just as my Father shelters me in His.
Painting: Mother combing Sara’s hair, Mary Cassatt, 1901