It was a joke on my high school volleyball team; the other girls called me “Mom.” I was the 16-year-old on the team who always packed extra socks, extra sports bras, extra snacks—even extra shoes. If any of my teammates forgot an essential item before practice or a game, they came to me.
In high school and college, I helped lead small groups of younger women, talking with them about Scripture and God and asking them about their spiritual journeys. Now that my husband is a pastor, I continue to disciple women through our church, and have more than once been called a spiritual mother. The label, though unexpected, has felt surprisingly apt—I have loved many of these women like daughters and cried and prayed with them like family.
Just last year, my husband and I welcomed our daughter, Ella, into the world. She was born just a few days after Mother’s Day, five days past my due date. Throughout these last twelve months, I have been learning what it is to be a biological mother, with the daily ins and outs of practical care and laughter and tears.
And do you know what I’ve learned, through these three decades of my life and the various roles I have carried, officially or unofficially?
I have learned that it is love that makes a mother.
Whether our children are biological, adopted, fostered, or spiritual, love is what gives us that role of influence in another’s life. We are mothers because we love, and love is paired, so often and necessarily, with sacrifice. Christ’s life showed us this reality perfectly:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NIV).
Love and sacrifice. It was love that led Christ to come to earth, and it was love that led Him to—and through—the cross. As women made in his image, we are called to love and serve those in our care, whether they are our physical or spiritual children. But truly loving and sacrificing for others is costly, in small and large ways. I gave away a lot of socks on my volleyball team—socks that were never returned to me. Leading small groups in high school and college cost me a lot of time. Discipling women as a pastor’s wife costs me a great deal of emotional energy. And those first few weeks as a new mom to Ella cost me more than I thought was possible in pain, sleep, and diapers. Love is costly. That is why it is so precious.
But I cannot love others fully and sacrificially on my own. And in this way, it is Love that makes us mothers. Love Himself: Jesus. He is the one who modeled the truest love through His life, death, and resurrection. And He is the one who is able to fill us up with the time, the energy, and the emotional health that we need to love others well. Apart from Him, our wells of love run terribly dry, and fill up instead with bitterness, frustration, and discouragement. But through Christ, we can be filled up with His love. In fact, it is the only way to truly love: to live a life of love is to live in God (1 John 4:16). When He lives in us, it is then that we are able to love our physical and spiritual children with a love that is unending, because it stems from God.
This is a day to remember that it is love that makes a mother. Love gives us the place of influence in others' lives; we need not be biological mothers to fulfill the role. Whether we are biological mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, or spiritual mothers, our love and sacrifice enables us to impact the next generation for Christ’s glory.
And ultimately, it is a day to remember that Christ is the source of that love, and that in Him, our love will never run dry. Happy Mother's Day!
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