It was the end of August 2012, and I was seven months pregnant. My husband, two daughters and I loaded up a U-haul truck and watched Chicago disappear in the rearview mirror. We drove west 700 miles until we hit Nebraska. We were on a grand adventure to serve my first call, a solo pastor position of a rural congregation.
I still remember the Skype interview with five members of the Executive Board. The whole day leading up to the interview I was filled with anxiety about knowing the appropriate time in the interview to let the cat out of the bag. They would have to know I was pregnant, and I was convinced it would be a deal breaker.
Fast-forward to a little over a year into the call, when I discovered God was surprising us with a fourth baby. In my shock and awe of God’s timing, I was once again filled with anxiety about how to let the congregation know I would need a second maternity leave. My second maternity leave in under two years. In my first two years as their pastor, nonetheless.
For the longest time I had guilt about scheduling meetings around tucking little ones into bed. It felt inconvenient that dinner as a family trumped non-emergent evening care. I was putting in well over 40 hours a week, and yet there was still so much that I wasn’t able to do. Admittedly, most of which were things I had dreamed up. I had to learn to let good ideas die, and visions of programs and projects not see the light of day. There were meetings and appearances that I just had to say no to, because there were not enough hours in the day/week/month/year.
I began to worry that my family was a burden. I saw my family and congregation competing for my time, and I just didn’t have enough to go around. I felt guilty about the time I didn’t have to give to my congregation, but over time I have come to realize that being a mom makes me a better pastor. In fact, my girls have taught me that being a mom isn’t a burden; it’s a bonus! I’ve learned to see my family and congregation not at odds with one another, but working together to expand the Kingdom of God. While there are a lot of reasons moms make great pastors, here are the top 3.
Reason 1: Being a mom has made me a compassionate disciple
In Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes when he realized the true meaning of Christmas. When I became a mom, my heart grew at least three sizes. The sharp, rigged angles softened in all the right ways. Love, mercy and grace became real, as I learned to embrace and embody the image of God that I bear.
Growing up evangelical, we didn’t talk much about God’s feminine attributes, and when we did they were relegated to the Holy Spirit. We must have skipped over the passages where God is described as a mother, because I certainly don’t remember reading them in church. Even today, I wonder if some would send me packing if I prayed to “Mother God” during the pastoral prayer.
Motherhood has not only made me a more compassionate disciple, but it has helped me reflect more fully the image of God. While I’m certainly not saying only mothers reflect a full image of God, there are unique ways in which we are all designed to reflect our Creator, I am saying that mothers are able to reveal a piece of God’s identity that gets neglected.
While the love that I have for my girls is imperfect, it is all-consuming, breaking my heart and filling it full at the very same time. God is like a mother comforting her children (Is 66:13). Although my capacity for mercy falls short, I have shown it to my children when they have disobeyed, made mistakes and disappointed my expectations. God is like an eagle, hovering over her young, spreading her wings to catch and carry her young (Deut 32:11). Despite my flawed ability to extend grace, I am always loyal, faithful and tethered to my girls. My identity will always be influenced by my role as their mother. God is like a woman who cannot forget the child she nursed (Is 49:15).
Sometimes my girls don’t know what they are asking for, and need someone to help them find what it is they are looking for. I have learned to understand an unspoken language. There are times when I talk with people who don’t know what it is they are seeking, what it is that is hurting them, or what it is that they have found. Being a mom, I am in-tune to these needs, and I’m able to extend compassion for all people, no matter life circumstance. While I am a broken image, I pray that God’s love, mercy and grace are shining through the cracks.
BONUS: I take my girls to the retirement home, and it brightens the resident’s day. They sing songs, dance and bring energy wherever they go. On Sunday mornings, our baby is passed back and forth between adults and youth, men and women. She makes everyone laugh as she chatters and toddles around.
Check back tomorrow for reason 2!
First published on the Evangelical Covenant Church's Commission for Biblical Gender Equality Blog.