Magazines 2022 Jul - Aug When discipleship comes home

When discipleship comes home

07 July 2022 By Stephanie Christianson (Pass-the-Mic Columnist)

Inviting our children to trust in the Lord. Guest column by Stephanie Christianson

Before I became a mom, I associated motherhood with newborn snuggles, teeny-tiny baby clothes and sleepless nights. Months into my motherhood journey, I now add discipleship to this growing list.

discipleship comes home

Last year, as a faculty member at Horizon College and Seminary, I was completing typical faculty tasks –prepping a lecture on inter-generational trauma among Russian Mennonites and editing syllabi. For me, these academic endeavours were an expression of my discipleship – how I was following Jesus and coming alongside my students to help them do the same.

These days, I read my baby son The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland, and sing him little ditties I compose. I rejoice when he learns something new like rolling over. Did I leave discipleship at the door of my 12-month maternity leave? Or could these moments also be an expression of my discipleship?

As a certified theology nerd, I have been thinking about the calling of motherhood theologically. I’ve been examining what I think about God and how I want to live that out in the context of my relationship with my son.

Being a mom is shaping both how I disciple and how I am discipled.

During this season I have come to see my son as my main disciple. Granted, he is only months old, and it makes sense to wonder if it is even possible to disciple an infant.

I think it is not only possible, but necessary.

Being a mom is shaping both how I disciple and how I am discipled.

My husband and I read my son a story from The Toddler Bible each night. Right now, I don’t have to answer his "why" questions, but I am bracing for them, internally gritting my theological teeth when I read him the story of the ten plagues in Egypt or Jesus being tested in the wilderness. How will I explain these things once he is old enough to ask questions?

I firmly believe no question is out of bounds. This must include questions from inquisitive children trying to make sense of the beautiful yet complex tapestry of Scripture and the world around them.

We also pray with our son before bed. Some prayers are natural – we thank God Grandma could come visit and ask for a good sleep (please, Lord!). Some are more difficult – How do I pray with my boy about the war in Ukraine when I don’t even want him to know war exists?

Yet, I am convinced of the need to model for him what it means to come before God’s throne with our hearts laid bare, even if he can’t understand these words yet.

Being a mom has also shaped my own discipleship journey, now marked by a sort of trust I’ve never had to practise before – trusting God to keep us safe during the pandemic, trusting God I would carry my baby to term, trusting God my baby would be born healthy, trusting God through his many firsts that are so thrilling yet scary for me.

Most of all I have had to trust God that my son will come to know Him. When I’m up with my baby in the middle of the night I pray my son will walk with Jesus all the days of his life and that, even now, before I can communicate with him using words, somehow he and Jesus are getting to know each other.

There has also been a new awareness of the YouTube videos I watch, the music I listen to, the words I speak. Being a mom to an infant is essentially having a shadow always with me and, increasingly, always watching me. How do we model a godly marriage for him? How do I speak of others around him? What are my entertainment habits? How do I respond to life’s unexpected curveballs?

I want to point him to Jesus, and of course, I’ve already failed. But I pray my son will be able to "follow my example as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

In a way my son is discipling me, or at least spurring me on in my discipleship journey.

As he grows I will, to paraphrase Deuteronomy 4:9, "watch myself closely so that I do not forget the things my eyes have seen or let them slip from my heart as long as I live. I will teach them to my child and to his children after him."

My son needs me to feed him, keep him warm and cherish him. He also needs me to invite him to "come and see" what Jesus has done, is doing and will do. And that, I believe, is my greatest joy and responsibility as a mom.

stephanie christianson
Stephanie Christianson is adjunct faculty advisor and an instructor at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon, Sask., (currently on maternity leave). She equally recommends Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace and Sandra Boynton’s Pajama Time!

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