Discipleship seems to be a buzzword these days, a popular trend in Christianity, almost something glamorous or a platform you have reached if you can say you are discipling someone. If you are the discipler and not the discipled, you know more, have a closer walk with God, and must train those who have not come as far as you.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Discipleship was a thing long before we had Christian bookstores or e-stores filled with books on how to disciple. Jesus not only commanded us as His followers to disciple others but showed us through example how to do it. It is important to take note in Matthew 28:16-20, at what point Jesus gave this command. It wasn’t immediately following His baptism or after His victory over Satan during His 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. Nor was it after His Triumphal Entry. This command came after He had spent three years discipling twelve men, one who betrayed Him in the end, the rest not always understanding or appreciating the daily teaching. It came after He had been run out of His city and accused of cohorting with the Devil. And after He had taken the lowest position possible by washing His disciple’s feet, gracefully accepting betrayal, suffering beatings and mocking, and finally a cruel, inhumane death. Why choose this point to ask His followers to disciple others?
Because discipleship is not glamorous, it is real life in the trenches, messy, and doesn’t always turn out the way we expect. Discipleship looks a lot less like two well-dressed people sipping coffee in a café with open Bibles and cordial discussion. It looks much more like two people doing life together, yes, having those open Bible discussions and finding out that each one is a fallible child of God, in need of humility, struggling with sin and self. Anyone who has been in a discipleship relationship has discovered that the one being discipled often has much to offer to the one doing the discipling. Such is the case when discipleship is part of motherhood.
Discipleship in motherhood is as real life, in the trenches as it gets. Where else is a person’s flaws and self-focused moments more on display than at home. It can lead mothers to question their ability to disciple their children. “How can I teach my child about Jesus when I lose my temper and yell at him?” “I am not qualified to talk to my kids about the fruit of the Spirit because I was not kind or gentle today.” These are lies that Satan wants to use to keep us from the work God has given us. We must remember that God Himself commanded us to make disciples, the same God who knows all our failings. The point is we cannot make disciples on our own. We must rely on Him alone.
After our moments of sin (some days many more than others!), we must humbly go before God in confession, seeking forgiveness from Him, and then humbly seek our child’s forgiveness. More often than not, children are quick to forgive if we as mothers will admit when we have been wrong. Discipleship in motherhood looks very much like Colossians 3:12-15 (ESV), “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you so you must also forgive. And above all else, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
The Holy Spirit uses toddlers and teens alike to convict us and grow us to be more like Jesus. Younger children seem quicker to overlook our failings as mothers than teens. Teens call it like it is. I remember the day one of my daughters said to me, “You are really good at not complaining, but you like to gossip.” Ouch! One day I was admitting to God how little self-control I had in how I reacted and spoke to my family. Moments later, my daughter said, “All of your emotions are triggered too easily; I never know, I feel like I have to tread lightly around you.” Discouragement comes easily in the ministry of motherhood, perhaps because we don’t always see it as a ministry. Too often, I find myself counting the unpaid hours, replaying the sibling conflicts, and grumbling over their grumbling. When I get my focus off myself and look to Jesus, I see my perfect example. I have always said that Jesus gets motherhood, the endless interruptions, the thankless sacrifices, the rejection, the constant reminding. I must run to Him with all of it, leave it at His feet, and tune in to the voice of the Holy Spirit through Bible reading and prayer, and jump back into discipling with both feet!
What does discipleship in motherhood look like, practically speaking? First of all, you have to know your children, their personalities, their strengths, and weaknesses, what makes them tick. There is no one size fits all approach. The most important thing you can do for your kids is to pray for them fervently. There are many resources available to help keep you on track with that. My personal favorite is The Power of a Praying Mom by Stormie Omartian. There is also an e-book and Spanish edition available. This book is great because she includes prayers for you as a mother and for your children.
The second thing is to talk! Deuteronomy 6:4-7 is the perfect scripture to advocate discipleship in motherhood. We must teach them what the Bible says, and we must start when they are young and continue through the teen years. Our children are having information and belief systems thrown at them like no other generation of children has experienced. We cannot eliminate the electronic noise from their lives, but we should be diligent to monitor and guide them in the proper use of it. And then we need to walk our talk!
As Christian mothers, we are in this thing called discipleship together. Let’s cheer each other on! Comparison and judgment will not help us reach our goal of raising the next generation to love and serve Jesus. And lastly, the outcome is not in our control. Ultimately we must trust our kids to God’s sovereignty. Soli Deo Gloria!