By Aliyah Lauren Jacobs
I have never wanted to birth my own children, so when I met my husband and he told me that he never wanted children either, it was a match. That decision has never changed for us, even on nights when we lie chatting about our futures and our older years. We are both ordained pastors in full time ministry, and living with our decision to not have children is easy, but it’s not simple. It’s not simple because we are often ridiculed, pointed fingers at and disrespected. Our decision is not taken seriously, and we are often greeted with, “you will change your mind, just wait.”
While my heart stands in conviction about our decision, I have grown increasingly aware of the invisible line that appears to exist between women with children and women who have chosen not to have children, especially in communities of faith. What adds to this reality of difference is the fact that I am an egalitarian, working in the field of gender equality advocacy and research. This almost makes me a minority that appears threatening to some. Yet, I have to follow my hearts convictions, I have to live with where I have been called.
I have learned that God’s heart may be fatherly, but it is also a heart of nurture, passion and compassion. He birthed the world from His mouth and we became His redeemed seed at our birth on the cross. He carries us on His chest and makes us to drink of His life. He always is and always will be hiding us in the shadow of His wings, just like mother birds do. He speaks to us about this brooding that He does, over our lives and He sacrificed so much so that we could be born from His blood.
A NURTURING HEART
Though I may not bear a birth of blood and see a new born life emerge, I have come to face the image in the mirror of myself, the one that is maternal. To be restored to Christ, means that I have had a heart transplant, resulting in the desire to nurture and nourish those I am called to serve. I am called to spiritually mother and when I first heard that call, it was unexpected. Yet, as spiritual mothers, we dry the tears of the very men and women looking to us to help them face a fatherless home or absent mom. We help those yearning to overcome abandonment and neglect, drug addiction, abuse and just plain weariness or the pain of a purposeless life. My spiritual mom, for example, was a woman who was penniless, but she shared her home with me when I was coming out of an abusive relationship and she helped me believe in God’s love again. She gave the speech at my wedding and she only added to my life in ways I am eternally grateful for, even though I still have my earthly parents.
Just recently, my brother and his wife gave birth to their first child. From the moment I found out that my sister-in-law was pregnant, God birthed a fire in my spirit to pray for this beautiful niece of mine. The fire to pray and invest in her life has only grown. I love this child without end and I am prepared to invest in her life. To say I was filled with excitement for her arrival is an understatement, I was over the top excited and when I walked in to the hospital room on the day of her birth, I was already in love with her. My swollen soul felt so much love for her that I felt as though my soul of love was carrying me, creating a field of spiritual love that could pull her in.
Around the bed stood friends and people who knew me, so when I walked in I was greeted with a confession that they were all waiting for me to arrive to see my response. They sat with their tongues in their cheeks, trying not to smile or wink at one another, it was as though they were waiting for me to crack. The comments flew, the words flew and all around me, I felt as though I was clinging to the inner knowledge that I love my niece and so many other children I have met.
As I look at my niece, I wonder at the extreme love I have for her, I don’t think I will ever forget the moment I first held her, or touched her toes or her hands. I will never forget her grey eyes trying to make sense of the world. I will never forget her hunger for mother’s milk, or the air of sacred intensity that filled that hospital room and I will forever be her aunt, connected by blood and the years ahead. Yet, in that moment I also felt bound by the words of the mothers who sat waiting for my response to this precious life. Somehow, because I am the empty womb woman, they imagined and confessed that I would be cold towards maternal love or nurturing. Yet, the pain I felt at their words only meant that their thoughts were glass fragments of untruths.
I may not birth my own children, but that does not mean that I won’t have children. Having children is a prophetic word God has given me over and over again, along with the promise that my husband and I will have descendants who would fill the nations. God has promised us spiritual children, lots of them, but we are still anticipating the many more who will still come from across the nations. And I have learned that birthing a child requires stewarding that person’s life, with the promise to honor, to discipline, to speak truth and so much more.
With the years of ministry, we have mentored others, seen some come and go and had others stay. We have worked submitted to the Holy Spirit for each and every persons’ life who was entrusted to us for that season or for longer years. I have had to make a conscious decision in prayer, to disregard the harsh words of others and to ignore the finger pointing. It is hard and sometimes I struggle with it, but I understand that though they may not see my deep love for others, especially my niece and mentees, it still remains. That is something that cannot be taken from me, it is part of my identity.
Spiritual moms are moms too, just often unacknowledged and not always seen. We are in some ways the maternal other, but the truth of our calling remains echoed in this Spanish proverb: “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy”. Our influence is echoed in the darkest nights, without praise or sight, and our influence is great because through our hands and hearts we lead others to the greatest Healer and Nurturer, Yeshua the Christ. Our breasts are wet with tears, our lips with heartbroken prayers because we love those entrusted to us into our arms with the love of a mama.
Lauren is a woman who dislikes labels, but wears author, gender equality activist and minister quite comfortably and sometimes all at once. Lauren and her husband Tim are proudly South African but often venture beyond border control into the field of the world where they teach, preach and serve to build up leaders in various congregations. She is actively involved in advocacy against gendercide, and for the increase in female literacy globally. She loves red shoes, chocolate and Instagram, in that order. You can follow her on Instagram here or check out her website here.