Mothering AND Fathering


Both mothering and fathering are essential in each person’s life, and each person we meet is at a different place in their walk.

The art form of leadership is to see which one they need at this time, so we can partner with God in taking them one step further in their walk.  And remember that the issue is what they need, not what they want.  A lot of people come to me with gusto and bravado, wanting to conquer the world, asking me to make them tough enough to do it, but two days into the process, I find massive deficits of mothering which they didn’t know they had.

More common are the people who ask for more mothering because their environment is rocky, but what they really need is fathering.

In order to equip us to make the right calls at the right time we need to look at a wide variety of situations, so we can learn how to recognize the clues when we are under pressure to respond quickly.  Fortunately, we have four books of the Bible about the Master mentor, who could assess and adapt on the fly.  Let’s immerse ourselves in studying His technique.

Take the incident with the feeding of the 5,000.  They were thrilled with the mothering and instantly formed a king-making committee since they loved the idea of a mothering kind of king.  Jesus was not quite so thrilled with the idea, so He vanished.

When the petulant crowd found Him in the synagogue the next day, He gave them a seriously fatherly sermon and they squawked in outrage over having to think that hard, and they left.

That is an example of taking a gospel story and extracting the mothering and fathering.

And no, I don’t have a teaching on all the different ways Jesus mothered and fathered in the gospels.  Nor do I plan to develop such a resource for you.  But I am going to invite you to invest some of your own sweat equity into this process.  Go to the gospels and find an illustration of one or the other, and write it up in a comment for the edification of the others.

Remember, my making you dig out your own insights is an exercise in fathering.  Your digging out insights will not only educate you but the process will strengthen some Bible study skills that are there already, or unpack some that are latent.

When you write it out for others you are mothering them.

Now look at the hinge point.  When you do the study for them, it feeds them now, AND it gives them the potential to go beyond the moment and improve themselves.  Some, who are content with being mothered, will read, learn, appreciate it and do nothing more.  That is OK.  Mothering is about creating opportunities, knowing that most people will consume the resource for comfort and not leverage the mothering for growth.

But there will be some who will look at the different comments, benefit from them and then go on to practice finding their own insights.  This is the ideal — mothering that is used by the “child” to voluntarily lean into unpacking their treasures, without having to be pressured by the father.

So let’s give it a try.  Read the life of Christ, assess, then write a comment about one snapshot of Christ explaining why you think it is one or the other.  Then, if you can, show how you have done what Christ did, in your 21st century application.

Copyright December 12, 2011 by Arthur Burk

From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim

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8 Responses to Mothering AND Fathering

  1. d hank says:

    Little bit jammed to get this in so I will be brief;
    Jesus only ‘football coached” the disciples it seems (yelled o you of little faith at them) after doing one of 2 things.
    Giving them a huge sermon with mothering like provision at the beginning (blessed are they that morn, blessed are the poor, blessed, blessed etc.) Or after spending all day with them doing huge miracles i.e.; feeding 5000, healing multitudes etc. etc.
    If they watched from the sidelines after all that then he gave them the Father command to get in the game but only then can I see him catapulting out that exact quote.

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  2. Deborah says:

    Thank you, Arthur–this is a good way to reframe one of my favorite chapters in the gospels. In Mark 6 I can see Jesus alternately mothering and fathering.

    –Mark 6:1-6 Jesus is mothering–equipping the disciples as they watch Him go to His hometown and not be to do any miracles there except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them because of their lack of faith.

    –vs. 6b-13 Jesus initially mothers by giving them authority over evil spirits and then He fathers by giving them some very basic instructions. The disciples go out–they preach, drive out demons and anoint sick people with oil and heal them.

    –vs. 14-29 is the account of John the Baptist’s death

    –vs. 30-56 are fascinating to me. The apostles gather around Jesus to report everything that has happened when He sent them out. It was so hectic that they didn’t even have a chance to eat so Jesus tells them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” This is mothering–a promise for some time with Him to catch up and rest. They get in the boat and head for a solitary place–ALONE WITH JESUS!!! Does it get any better than that!!! When they land the people have run ahead of them–a large crowd–and Jesus has compassion on the crowd because they are like sheep without a shepherd. So, He begins to teach them.

    The promise of rest alone with Jesus is beginning to slip through the cracks. The excitement of what the disciples had done and were reporting to Jesus is beginnning to fade.

    The disciples see that it is getting late–it is a remote place–they recommend sending the people away so they get something to eat.

    Jesus (now fathering) tells them to get them something to eat. They shift into their understanding–the obvious and tell Jesus that they don’t have the money to do that. Jesus–again fathering–tells them to do see how many loaves they have. They come back–5 loaves–2 fish.

    They are getting farther from their TIME OF REST ALONE WITH JESUS. Jesus–again fathering–basically has them organize this dinner party–serve the people and then clean it up. It is late they are tired.

    Then Jesus has them get in the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida–AND JESUS LEAVES THEM AND GOES UP ON THE MOUNTAINSIDE TO PRAY. Again, I see this as fathering–teaching them to give up the rest and alone time that they are holding onto with their tight fists and go where He tells them to go.

    He then mothers them by going to them when they are on the lake straining at the oars
    because the wind is against them. He encourages them–after they are terrified by seeing Him walking on the water–telling them “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” He gets in the boat–the wind dies down–they are amazed.

    The punch here is that the disciples were completely amazed FOR THEY HAD NOT UNDERSTOOD ABOUT THE LOAVES–THEIR HEARTS WERE HARDENED.

    This was a hard fathering lesson that they must have carried with them the rest of their lives.
    They had participated in the feeding of the 5,000 and had missed it because their hearts were hardened. I can just hear them coming up on a situation saying, “We can’t miss this like we did the feeding of the 5,000–we cannot harden our hearts–we must follow Jesus through this place
    no matter where He leads us.”

    This so greatly applies to us today in our lives not to just receive the mothering–but to continue to follow Jesus when He is fathering–not hardening our hearts when we are being fathered. And, then speaking into the hearts of others by fathering them or spurring them on when we can see that Jesus is fathering them.

    Thank you, Arthur–what a good exercise.

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  3. JeannieF says:

    Only the dog is making noise, a good time to try this out.

    John 8 Jesus is teaching in the temple. A woman is brought before him accused by the teachers of the law and Pharisees of adultery. Did she ever guess how this awful event would unfold into something amazing that would be recorded for all time? Jesus is mothering when he protects her from these men, giving her a safe place.

    He is Fathering when he challenges her accusers they can only cast a stone if they have not sinned. He is mothering when he asks her where are her accusers? This is a reassurence, helping her see the immensity of what has just happened, comforting. What moment that must have been between them.

    When he tells her neither will He accuse her, wowee God I love this! Mothering. Then finishes with declaring to her, “Go and leave your life of sin”. Fathering.

    In my work I see folks who have done some bad things. Shameful things. It is easy for ones who have always been “good” to condemn such persons and cause them to feel as if they are beyond redemption and hope.

    One woman in particular had lived a terrible life. When it came time for her to die, she was not certain if her destination was heaven. She was terrified. She heard the accusations telling her why she deserved death and hell. She could not rest, sleep was a torment. She saw the darkness of her own past haunting her.

    After multiple visits sitting and reassuring her of God’s love for her, she began to settle and rest better. She said , “when you come, everything seems better, I feel like I will be OK”.

    One terrible night her body was in extreme distress. Before the nights end she’d find her self rushed to the hospital hanging onto life by a thread it seemed. I was visitiging as this was unfolding.

    Before I left her, I prayed she’d feel God’s presence beside her. She told me later it was the worst night of her life physically. The pain only increased. Her breathing became more distressed. Yet after the prayer she felt this tangible presence of God beside her like she had never known before. There was a reassuring peace that enveloped her. It was only then she knew God was not accusing or angry with her. He’d accepted her and loved her, was not angry. Mothering!! Yet she continued to suffer off and on until she passed along to the next life. She was challenged to continue to believe. Fathering.

    I like to tell her story to others who feel they have been too bad for Jesus to love them and bring them into His Kingdom. I love to reassure each one Jesus does not accuse or condemn them. Mothering. But also encourage each one to leave the way of life that pulls them from the God who loves them. Fathering.

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  4. Lisa says:

    This is a really encouraging assignment – and a great way to remind ourselves of the mind blowing stories of our forefathers and God’s immeasurable mercy and compassion whether fathering or mothering us …

    GIDEON – JUDGES 6-8

    Gideon, the quintessential anti-hero, wasn’t coping with his commission – in fact, he wasn’t really looking for a commission – but rather a safe hiding place – but God had a job for him to do that only He knew Gideon was capable of … after hearing of the news from the Angel, Gideon wasn’t so easily convinced …:

    CHAPTER 6:

    12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

    – only a mother could love a son so filled with fear, looking nothing like the finished product and still call him by his true calling

    13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

    14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

    – Mix of fathering and mothering: God showed compassion and encouragement to Gideon’s fear and doubt (mothering) but told him to apply himself and do the job (fathering):
    yet Gideon’s fear persisted and he begged to be released from the task:

    15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

    16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

    17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

    And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”

    – AGAIN the overwhelming compassion and mercy of God (reverting back to mothering) – telling Gideon what would happen; reassuring him of His presence, calming his fear; not upbraiding him –

    27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

    28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

    – this to me is a mix: God amazingly ‘mothered’ him to help him to build courage and trust and show the lovingkindness compassion and mercy to Gideon – not mocking his fear – but I think this also could be fathering – sort of like holding the bike, letting the child ‘feel’ like he’s riding it himself and giving him the encouragement he needed to try it on his own ..

    CHAPTER 7
    9 During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.

    – ‘fathering’: specific coaching, giving him options as to how to execute but allowing him to choose his tools and tactics to accomplish the task – sending him into a life or death situation where he had to exercise the faith God had sown into him

    – Gideon then exercised his judgement, took control, worked a plan and executed the task (look God ‘no hands’):

    15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.

    17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’”

    CHAPTER 8
    – AND the lessons stuck: Gideon then continues to make all kinds of manly decisions entirely on his own without needed the mothering of God to reassure him – proving is birthright:

    1 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously.

    2 But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.

    4 Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. 5 He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”

    6 But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?”

    7 Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”

    8 From there he went up to Peniel[a] and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Sukkoth had. 9 So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”

    – his stature entirely changed from the hunched over coward in a cave:

    18 Then he [Gideon] asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?”

    “Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.”

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  5. Julia A says:

    I have to keep mine short- four-kids-are-callin’, but I can not resist this challenge 🙂
    Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well John 4. She was so ready to hear the good news of salvation, Jesus met her in her daily life, gave her the opportunity (“mothering”) and then sent her back to spread the news (“fathering”)- He did not go with her, neither did He tell her to wait for His disciples to become ready and come to Samaria (that would have been a while).
    As I read the passage I felt the woman’s earning, her longing for the truth and Jesus came to her Himself- such an honor! I will ponder it some more when the house is quiet in the evening.

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  6. Dana says:

    Ok, here’s my shot at it 🙂
    Luke 22:31-34 Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”
    :Lord,” he told Him, “I’m ready to go with You both to prison and to death!”
    “I tell you Peter,” He said , “the rooster will not crow today until you deny three times that you know Me!”
    Jesus was “mothering” Peter by softly warning him of the shaking that was about to come; He was gently telling Peter that he wasn’t alone, Jesus had prayed for him, and that the season of shaking wasn’t permanent. It would end, and Peter would be stronger and would still belong and would have something to offer to the others.
    Peter was “competent”! What are you talking about! I’m not gonna fall!
    At this point I think a “fathering” aspect of Jesus kicked in. Don’t argue with me son. You will fall, and it will look like this. The end.
    It is very easy to see application of this with my own children. It was a bit more difficult to see it with other adults in our environment. But I think I’ve landed on something. My teacher husband is very gifted in seeing the end result of actions. There have been several times he has seen that if people do what they have determined to do the result will be a measure of devastation. He has gently made appeals, and sometimes when those appeals are brushed off he has kicked into a stronger, in your face warning. Yet the bottom line is that even when his warnings have proven to be true, he has still been a strong friend. He hasn’t abandoned the relationships, but has encouraged them to learn from the failure. So, it would seem my husband has been “mothering” in his approach: appealing, warning, yet maintaining a relational environment of safety, and acceptance.
    Of course the application breaks down somewhat because Jesus knew the nature of Peter’s shaking, that it was inevitable and that the pain would eventually be productive for Peter. We don’t always know the nature of the shaking. To us it seems to be cause/ effect and avoidable.

    Being able to see the “mothering” which precedes the “fathering” is very helpful. The principle I see here is that the siftings and shakings in our lives are “father filtered”. Jesus front loads the test so we are fully equipped come out stronger and able to be even more life-giving.

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    • Darla says:

      Thank you Dana. I found this insightful and encouraging. I deeply appreciate the heart of Jesus (a perfect parent). He warns, out of love and not judgement and does not try to control Peter’s choices. His love, forgiveness and acceptance of Peter after his resurrection are also marks of a deeply loving Father/Mother. Such great insight to apply to our own parenting. Blessings.

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