I have no biological children of my own, but God has called me to Spiritual Motherhood. And into my life, thus far, he has sent quite a few young people for me to love, nurture, and lead to Him. In the process, God has taught me a lot of things about Himself, about myself, and about spiritual parenthood. Here are some of them.
1. Every soul He sends my way belongs to Him
This is something I consciously know all the time, yet find it hard to honour at times in my actions. For when I come to care for a soul and see it grow, it is very easy to get emotionally attached and possessive about his or her growth. Even as I pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit to know what is best for the young person, it becomes obvious to me that I am not always open to what God has to say – especially when He tells me that it is time to let them go. Yet God makes it crystal clear to me that if I am to be effective in this apostolate, I must learn to be a good steward and never, never try to hold on to the souls He sends my way. I must love with a freedom that gives them freedom to go wherever Christ bids them go.
2. I must learn how each soul grows best
God once gave me an image of a beautiful garden with many different plants. I felt God tell me that if I truly wanted each plant to thrive, I must be attentive and patient in learning about what each of them needs, for their needs are all different. I also need to be sensitive as to which stage of growth they are in, for their needs will change in the course of their growing towards the sun.
And so I have found that while all souls need love and prayer, different souls at varying stages require different conditions to grow well. Some need more gentleness, others need to be challenged; some need more community, while others require more solitude. Some need to be prodded, while some need to be left alone more. For some, the conversion process is full of drama and energy, for others, the conversion process is nearly invisible except for those who are able to discern the fruits of the Holy Spirit in their life. If I am to be a nurturer of souls, then I must approach each soul God sends me with great reverence and humility and allow God to reveal to me His glory in each one.
3. I am not God
This may seem like an obvious point, but it is not that easy to live out. There have been so many times that I caught myself anxious about a young person because he or she was making some poor choices that I felt would endanger their walk with Christ. There have been times in the past when in my zeal to protect them, I intervened, only to learn with time and experience that many of the greatest lessons are taught by God himself in a person’s life through the choices (good and bad) they make. Furthermore, because I am not God, my intervention will almost always have unintended negative “side-effects”, for I have many blindspots myself and am far from being infallible.
It is God alone who will change hearts, transform lives, and give a soul the grace to leave everything beloved behind to follow Christ. I – God’s instrument – am asked to do only whatever He asks me to; nothing less, and, far harder for me – nothing more. I must always step back to let God have his dance with his child. I am meant to pray and not get in the way.
4. God repairs what I have destroyed
The most painful lesson I have learned in nurturing other souls is that I am capable of making messes that hurt others even when that is the last thing I wanted to do. No matter how clearly I try to communicate, I can be misunderstood. No matter how much I pray that God purify my intentions, there will still be some shadow in myself that gets in the way of my ministering to others.
I can choose to be paralysed by fear of making mistakes, or, I can see the mistakes I make as God’s way of showing me the areas in my own life that He wishes to heal. Blessedly, I have found that when I open my own life up willingly to be made whole, God makes good what I have ruined and brings life to what I have destroyed.
5. I must let God nurture me first
It took me a few years of attempting to make disciples before I started noticing a discrepancy between the way I try to do it and the way God is discipling me. The more attentive I grew to how God was making a disciple of me, the more I realised that He was asking me to learn from Him how to nurture souls.
I also grew to recognise that I have no chance of living out the earlier points in this post if I do not make the care and growth of my own soul my top priority. The principle of making disciples is very simple: I can only give what I have received. Thus, if I have to choose between self-care and ministry, I will always choose self-care because when I allow God to fill me to the brim with His love, it will be His love, not mine, that overflows when I minister to others.