We can’t escape May without talking for a minute about mothers. For the past two weeks I’ve seen a barrage of social media posts extolling the virtues of motherhood. Stylized, picture-perfect moments of love and admiration for a) someone’s mom or b) the wonderful blessing of being a mom.
But sprinkled in between all the positive posts are the reminders that some (maybe many) women struggle with Mother’s Day and the idea of motherhood. They feel like they don’t fit in, don’t qualify, or don’t measure up to the ideal of “mother.” A few friends even shared infographics wishing Happy Mother’s Day to those who have lost children, have lost mothers, have strained mother/child relationships, or yearn to be mothers.
Perhaps when we think about Mother’s Day and, more importantly, the role and responsibility of motherhood, our perspective is too narrow. The older I’ve grown and the more I’ve learned, the more I’m convinced that motherhood is broader than the act of having biological or adopted children in an immediate family unit. I believe all women engaged in the cause of righteousness are mothers in Israel.
What I Learned from the Avengers
Last week I sent an unexpected text to my 15-year-old son. Wanna skip school this afternoon and see Avengers: Endgame with me at 1:30? Would you miss anything important? To which he promptly responded, Why? But sure. (Clearly, checking my kid out of class to hit the theater is not my normal MO).
As we sat in the mostly empty theater watching the action and eating chocolate, I couldn’t help drawing parallels to real life, especially (since my mind has been focused on Mother’s Day this week) to the role of women in the winding-up scenes of the movie. I don’t think I’m revealing any spoilers to say that in the movie there was a battle. Avengers like to fight. But I loved that at one point in the struggle, when all seemed lost, a group of female warriors stood, side by side, ready to take on the enemy.
You and I and all the women trying to fight the evils of our day and create a safe, beautiful world are those Avengers. We work tirelessly to make a world where good prevails and individuals thrive. If that’s not the role of motherhood, then I don’t know what is.
Deborah: A Mother in Israel
There is a great story in the Old Testament about a brave, courageous woman named Deborah. As a prophetess and judge in Israel during the reign of the judges, Deborah gave advise and led an army of Israel into battle against the Canaanites. With the spirit of prophecy (described in Revelation 19:10 as “the testimony of Jesus”), Deborah counseled Barak that with the Lord’s help, they could win the battle.
Barak trusted her judgment so thoroughly that he responded, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go” (Judges 4:8). Deborah did go. And following a miraculous battle (where, incidentally, another woman name Jael heroically killed the leader of the opposing army), Deborah sang a song of praise to the Lord for the “avenging of Israel” (Judges 5:2).
Interestingly, in this song, Deborah refers to herself as a “mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7) though there is no mention of her having biological children of her own. Having children seems to have little to do with her role as a mother in Israel. Instead, she claimed the title in relation to her efforts to lead the Israelite army in righteousness and influence a nation for good.
What Does It Mean to be a Mother in Israel?
Certainly, being a mother in Israel encompasses the role of raising up children to the Lord within a family unit. It means sacrificing time and other pursuits to teach gospel principles in formal and informal settings. It involves showing, by example, how to follow Jesus Christ in a world that either doesn’t understand or willfully refuses to accept His authority and grace. It means doing everything you can to care for the young lives entrusted to your care.
But it means so much more.
I have known plenty of women who, for one reason or another, have never married or mothered children of their own. But they are no less mothers in Israel than the women with eight or ten children who have devoted their lives to full-time motherhood. That’s because they are disciples of Jesus Christ who, in everything they do, influence others for good. That’s the role of a mother.
I have also known women, myself included, who at times worry that they are failing at motherhood. Any number of circumstances can spark these feelings of inadequacy. But they don’t have to define our status as mothers in Israel. The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ and, more specifically, our role as mothers within God’s plan, is that we can start fresh every day with a renewed desire to live up to the title of mother.
All Women Can Choose to be Mothers in Israel
Motherhood is an eternal calling. It is not limited to the here and now. It is also not limited by past behavior. All women can choose to be mothers in Israel today. Here’s how.
- Share light with those within your circle of influence.
- Teach the truth, with conviction, to everyone.
- Defend the powerful role of womanhood without denigrating the complementary role of manhood.
- Look around your community and become “the one” who lifts and builds and encourages young children, lost teenagers, or floundering adults who need a mother figure in their lives.
- Mend strained mother/child relationships. Maybe your relationship with your mom or one of your children could use some work. Or maybe you could help someone else mend a relationship in their life.
- Love your own children and others unconditionally, even when they choose a different path.
- Trust God when motherhood looks different than expected.
- Stand against darkness “at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9).
Righteous Women are Mothers in Israel
President Russell M. Nelson taught, “We need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.”
All women have the potential to be the women President Nelson described. And when we live up to our potential in this most important task, we are true mothers in Israel.