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A Call to Spiritual Motherhood

Elisabeth Elliot: My dear Mom Cunningham schooled me not in a class, or seminar, or even primarily by words. It was what she was that taught me. It was her availability to God when He sent her to my door. It was the surrender of her time and offering to Him, for my sake.

Lisa Barry: While in college, Elisabeth Elliot met a woman she referred to as Mom Cunningham, who became a mentor and prayer supporter of Elisabeth's. She was fulfilling the command in Titus 2, where the older women are challenged to teach the younger women on important issues. It's a ritual that isn't practiced much anymore. People are so busy. When an older woman's children finally leave the nest, so often does she, flying off to Arizona or Florida where life seems to begin again. Is the idea of mentoring extinct? Let's give it 15 minutes worth of consideration as we embark on this Friday edition of Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: Jesus said, "Come to Me all of you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest. Put on My yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, continuing my talks today on an older woman's mandate.

One of the things I do believe the Lord wants you and me to learn from Him is our responsibility to younger women. It is a yoke. Jesus says, "Put on My yoke and learn from Me." The yoke I think is the picture of the double-ox yoke, where you've got two oxen that are forced to work together because they are under the same yoke. I think that's the metaphor that Jesus is referring to.

Let's remember that Jesus bears the yoke with us. It may seem too difficult at times, but He says, "Put My yoke on and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." I hope I'm speaking to some gentle, humble, older women today, as well as the rest of you listeners. May we be humble in heart so that we may find rest for our souls. "For My yoke," says Jesus, "is easy and My burden is light."

I have a leaflet called "A Call to Spiritual Motherhood," which I'm going to read for you today.

"In 1948 when I had been at Prairie Bible Institute, a very stark set of wooden buildings on a very bleak prairie in Alberta for only a few weeks, I was feeling a bit displaced and lonesome one afternoon when there came a knock on my door. I opened it to find a beautiful, rosy-cheeked face framed by white hair. The woman spoke with a charming Scottish brogue. 'Are you Betty Howard? Oh, you don't know me, Betty dear, but I've been praying for you. I'm Mrs. Cunningham. If ever you'd like a cup of tea and a Scottish scone, just pop down to my little apartment.

"Of course, she told me where she lived and went on to say that my name had been mentioned in a staff meeting. She never said how. Was I thought of as a misfit at Prairie Bible Institute? I wonder. The Lord had given her a burden for me. Many were the wintry afternoons when I availed myself of her gracious offer and we sat together in her tiny, but very cozy, basement apartment, while she poured tea for me and I poured my soul out to her. Her radiant face was full of sympathy, love and understanding as she listened. She'd be quiet for a little, and then she would pray, and looking up, cheer and strengthen me with words from the Lord.

"During and after my missionary years, she wrote to me until she died. Only God knows what I owe to the four Katherines. Katherine Cunningham, that's the lady I'm talking about; Katharine Gillingham Howard, my own mother; Katherine Cumming, my housemother when I was in college; and Katherine Morgan, the widowed missionary from Columbia who gave me the push that sent me to Ecuador. These and several others have not only shown me what godliness looks like--many have done that--but have significantly graced my life by obeying God's special mandate to older women.

"The apostle Paul tells Titus that older women ought to school the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, temperate, chaste and kind, busy at home, respecting the authority of their own husbands. That's from Titus 2:4,5. My dear Mom Cunningham schooled me not in a class, or seminar, or even primarily by her words. It was what she was that taught me. It was her availability to God when He sent her to my door. It was the surrender of her time and offering to Him, for my sake. It was her readiness to get involved, to lay down her life for one anxious Bible School girl. Above all, she herself, a simple Scottish woman, was the message.

"I think of the vast number of older women today. The statistical abstract of the United States says that way back in 1980, 19.5 percent of the population was between ages 45 to 65, but by 2000, it will be 22.9 percent. Assuming that half of those people are women, what a pool of energy and power for God they might be. We live longer now than we did forty years. The same volume says that the over 65's will increase from 11.3 to 13 percent. There's more mobility, more money around, more leisure, more health and strength.

"Resources, which if put at God's disposal, might bless younger women. But there are also many more ways to spend those resources, so we find it very easy to occupy ourselves selfishly. Where are the women, single or married, willing to hear God's call to spiritual motherhood, taking spiritual daughters under their wings to school them, as Mom Cunningham did me? She had no training the world would recognize. She had no thought of such. She simply loved God and was willing to be broken bread and poured out wine for His sake. Retirement never crossed her mind."

If some of my listeners are willing to hear this call but hardly know how to begin, here are some suggestions. First of all, pray about it. Ask God to show you whom, what, how. Second, consider writing notes to or telephoning some younger woman who needs encouragement in the areas Paul mentioned. Three, ask a young mother if you may do her ironing, take the children out, baby-sit so she can go out, or make a cake or casserole for her.

Number four, do what Mom Cunningham did for me. Invite somebody to tea. Find out what she'd like you to pray for. I asked Mom Cunningham to pray that God would bring Jim Elliot and me together. Pray with that lady. Number five, start a little prayer group of two or three whom you can cheer and help. You'll be cheered and helped, too. Six, organize a volunteer house-cleaning pool to go out every other week or once a month to somebody who needs you. Seven, have a lending library of books of real spiritual food. Eight, be the first of a group in your church to be known as the WOTTs: Women of Titus Two. See what happens. Something will.

Here's a quotation from a minister from the 19th century:

"Say not you cannot gladden, elevate and set free, that you have nothing of the grace of influence, that all you have to give is at the most only common bread and water. Give yourself to your Lord for the service of men with what you have. Cannot He change water into wine? Cannot He make stammering words to be imbued, filled or charged with saving power? Cannot He change trembling efforts to help into deeds of strength? Cannot He still as of old enable you in all your personal poverty to make many rich? God has need of thee for the service of thy fellow men. He has a work for thee to do. To find out what it is and then to do it is at once, thy supremest duty and thy highest wisdom. Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."

I do want to add this suggestion. Please don't start another meeting in your church. That's the last thing you need. But maybe it would make sense to just post a sheet of 11x8 paper on the bulletin board with WOTTs--Women of Titus Two--at the top. Let women sign up if they're willing to be available to do any of those things that I've suggested. You might be surprised that there are really young women hoping and praying for spiritual mothers. You can be one.

Lisa Barry: I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a mother who was never too busy to help out. No matter what time of day or night I'd call, she'd answer and act as though she wasn't inconvenienced in the least. That taught me an important lesson now that I'm a mother myself. And just before I got married I was able to meet one-on-one with a spiritual mentor who helped me establish disciplines and who encouraged and prayed for me. Such relationships I wish every young woman could have, but to be honest, there aren't very many women out there willing to sacrifice the time.

If you're an older woman listening today, I hope you'll let your church know that you'd be available to be a mentor to a young mother in your congregation. And if you're a young mother, I hope you'll mention to the pastor that you'd enjoy such a relationship too. Whatever it takes to assist in your growth, we want to be able to provide it. But we won't be able to do much if it weren't for your prayers and gifts to this ministry. They keep everything running smoothly. And, did you know that your gift keeps Gateway To Joy alive and well in your area? Thank you for your investment in Gateway To Joy. Here's our address:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501. That's Gateway to Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501. Or, toll-free 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Web address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.

Monday Elisabeth begins a series on the shaping of a Christian family. This is Lisa Barry, and for all of us here at Gateway To Joy, have a great weekend and God bless.

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