Motherhood on Mission

By Kathy Ferguson Litton

“I wanted to change the world, but I couldn’t find a babysitter,” said a mother.

Motherhood creates the most powerful universal connection of every tribe, tongue and generation of women on this planet. Once a child has been placed in your arms and you are pronounced his mother, your heart is never the same. In fact it is ruined — ruined by intense unmatched love and commitment.

From this transformation, we are able to make profound heart connections in diverse, unique and even wordless settings.

Recently while watching my three grandchildren play in an urban fast food place, I observed this scene:

The play area was full, not of children, but homeless people warming themselves from the Denver cold. My three blonde-haired grandchildren enjoyed the run of the play area while unconsciously becoming joyful entertainment for the homeless audience, men and women alike. As only another mother might notice, one woman said to my daughter, “You busy mama.” She noted their age-range. Kate sat down with her and chatted, a 31-year-old woman from comfortable economic strata connecting with a 50 plus-year-old homeless, toothless woman about their children. Their only common bond: mothering.

During hut-to-hut ministry in Malawi, I experienced a similar universal connection. While I couldn’t understand her words I knew what was in the heart of a young mother nursing a baby with three other children huddled nearby.

Missional living is acting on the understanding that every moment, every day and every person is a context where I have the chance to connect people to the story of the gospel.  We need to seize the opportunity motherhood affords us by being vigilant for places, moments and feelings that Jesus needs to be inserted in.

Whether it is in an airport when you spot a young mother struggling with two toddlers plus luggage or learning of a neighbor’s miscarriage, we must take our mothering experience and see it as a platform of gospel-driven moments.

Empathy and commiserating help to open a door but we must have gospel intentionality to become missional mothers.

A casserole is not enough—mothers need Jesus.

Things that tend to hold us back:

Feeling that I’m not the mother-of-the-year. No one has a perfect record as a mother. Among the most common universal feelings we share? Inadequacy. Knowing this should DRIVE our passion to be missional as mothers – we know what haunts her soul. Our own feelings of inadequacy will remind us of HER powerful need for Jesus.

We think once we are out of “fill-in-the blank” stage of mothering we will begin to “do” ministry. THAT stage IS the place of ministry AND the prep for ministry. In the highs and lows, successes and failures and plenty of mundane and ordinary moments. The mission field is the pediatrician’s office or in the carline. Or even in the drug rehab facility where your daughter resides.

Little reserve, especially if your season is still very much in the trenches.  I watched my daughter who has set of twins and a single under four go serve a neighbor with triplets who hit a wall with her multiples. It was a rare kid-free day for Kate. Yet when a desperate mother called at her breaking point she needed to go to her. Even with little emotional reserve to spare God supplied. You truly have little to spare but God will multiply your strength.

I’m too old to relate to a young mom. No, the exact opposite is true. She is hungry for you. While lots of mothering techniques have changed (a nursing app, what’s that?) she knows we “have been there done that.” Your words of affirmation, encouragement and presence are like gold. But you must be present. Do not underestimate this.

A judgment zone. Yes, here is the dirty little secret– we can be very hard on each other. Which really flies in the face of reason—if we understand this overwhelming assignment why would we judge? We must step into each other’s stories with the tenderness of Jesus Christ. We offer grace for failings and hope in struggles.

Mothering is a transformational common human experience, one that we can pour Jesus Christ through. Be intentional.

And you won’t need a babysitter.

Which of these barriers do you relate to the most?

Published January 28, 2015

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Kathy Ferguson Litton

Kathy lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband Ed, pastor of Redemption Church. Both lost former spouses in car accidents, and God uniquely gave them new love and life together in 2009. Kathy enjoyed 26 years of life and ministry alongside Rick Ferguson. She has three children and ten grandchildren. Presently she serves as Director of Planting Spouse Development.