Become a Spiritual Parent
What is disciple making? David Mathis calls it “spiritual parenting.”1 He says, “It is personal attention and guidance from one spiritual generation to the next.”2 If there’s no similarity between motherhood and discipleship, we’re doing it wrong. Titus 2 describes this woman-to-woman disciple making like this:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3–6)
When it comes to having children, spiritual ones are the only kind that last. A biological mother is as barren as a twig if her children are not her spiritual children. And a barren woman may be as fertile as the Nile with her spiritual sons and daughters.
Sometimes the way God grows us up is by forcing us to teach others.
Back when my oldest kids were babies, I attempted a number of knitting projects. My grandmother was a wonderful knitter and crocheter. She had taught me a little bit when I was a girl, but she passed away when I was sixteen and wasn’t around to help me develop my skills. I bought a knitting book as thick as the Bible and set to deciphering the codes of knitting language. It was pretty rough, and in the end I was stuck with choosing only the simplest of patterns because I didn’t have a teacher who could show me over and over in person how to do the stitches. I ended up completing some simple items that were hard won. Titus 2 shows us a different picture.
Titus 2 Discipleship
A Titus 2 disciple has an older woman there to tell her to take a deep breath when she feels offended by a passage of Scripture. She has someone sitting with her through the tension and skillfully handling God’s Word before her eyes; in other words, she has a master knitter on hand to patiently show her the stitches of life in Christ. This older woman is passing on easy recipes to feed a crowd so that hospitality can start to grow, and giving suggestions for schedules and organization in the hopes that a well-managed home will be freed up for the work of the ministry. She has a keen eye for spotting all the ways God is already at work in this younger disciple and points them out. And she’s doing all these things tailor-made for the woman in front of her—shoring up her weaknesses, giving thanks for her strengths, and in all things holding out Christ and his Word.
Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach
Sometimes the way God grows us up is by forcing us to teach others. Maybe we’re longing for that ideal older woman of Titus 2 to shower her wisdom down on us. But perhaps God wants to use that longing as the catalyst that drives us to become the older, wiser woman we wish we had. We never learn quite so well as when we teach. In the end, our goal is simply this: to make Christ the center and goal of every relationship to the glory of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says:
The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion. All the time we thought we had enjoyed a direct relation with men and things. This is what had hindered us from faith and obedience. Now we learn that in the most intimate relationships of life, in our kinship with father and mother, brothers and sisters, in married love, and in our duty to the community, direct relationships are impossible. Since the coming of Christ, his followers have no more immediate realities of their own, not in their family relationships nor in the ties with their nation nor in the relationships formed in the process of living. Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator, whether they are able to recognize him or not. We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through him, through his word, and through our following of him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves.3
Bringing Christ into every interaction and every relationship is the work of disciple making—not because we actually need to bring him there, as if he wasn’t there already, but because we become dulled to his presence. We think we can see things rightly and grow without him. We act as though our relationships and interactions happen irrespective of him, when in fact nothing happens irrespective of him. Disciple making is helping others to see Christ for what he is: before all things, holding all things together, all in all. And in helping others, our own faith is made sight.
1. David Mathis, “The Cost of Disciple-Making,” Desiring God, accessed July 13, 2018, www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-cost-of-disciple-making.
3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan,1979), 108.
This article is adapted from (A)Typical Woman by Abigail Dodds.
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