Monday, July 20, 2009

Spiritual Mothering, by Susan Hunt

Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women was floating by my bookshelf and has now found a permanent home there. As I mentioned earlier today, learning about the Titus 2 principle is a concept that is becoming more interesting to me the older I get (and the more children I have, the older they get, the longer I've been married, etc., etc.). Here again is the scripture reference of which I am speaking:

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. Titus 2:3-5
Spiritual Mothering is written with the spiritual mentor in mind. However, Susan Hunt presents all of her arguments in light of scripture and as a "younger woman" who wishes to grow up in the wisdom of the Lord (frequently shared and given to and through women) there was plenty to be gathered up, gleaned, stored and tucked away to mull over. Hunt lays her arguments out very well, beginning by assuring her reader that what was "good for the women of Crete is good for us." (My phrasing.) She says:

The specific verses that Paul tells Titus to teach the older women are not an exhaustive "spiritual maturity" list. These characteristics were extremely relevant to that situation and have no less relevance to our time. Though they may appear narrow at first, they are amazingly broad. These particular characteristics were not merely from the mind of Paul; they were divinely inspired by our Sovereign Lord and intended not just for the women in Crete but for His daughters throughout history. These are the virtues that God said would give clarity and distinction to the lives of Christian women living in ungodly surroundings. This places a significance on these four virtues that we are compelled to consider. (page 43)

And what are those four virtues (laid out in Titus 2:3-5) that Hunt explains to her readers in more detail throughout this book?

1. To be reverent in the way that they live. (Honoring, loving and to have a Biblical world view.)

2. Not to be slanderers. (To control the tongue, learning to be gracious rather than vindictive!)

3. Not addicted to much wine. (Note: you can drink wine. God does allow us that! We just shouldn't be ADDICTED to it, but should exert self-control. Perhaps a modern day translation would be, "Not addicted to Starbucks"? Naaah.)

4. To teach what is good. (To learn truth and share/teach it.)

The emphasis I particularly appreciated from this book was that in order to have an effective ministry as a mentor OR a mentee requires that there be a (good) relationship between the parties. It is not just a case of an older woman standing austerely over a younger woman and beating "truth" over her poor little unprotected head. It isn't about who knows what or more. It is about respect, love, decency, encouragement, support, relationship. Growing up, to hear the phrase "mentor" meant something negative. It means subjecting and submitting one's self to the authority of another and submitting myself to one or multiple authority figures did NOT sound appealing when I was a teenager. The picture Hunt paints in this book is not only appealing but welcomed too! And NOT just because I'm "older and wiser" and see the benefits of learning from others but because there is love, trust and respect to be given and received on both ends of the spectrum. The "student" can be a teacher in her own right. The possibility that the younger women might actually have some wisdom and maturity of her own is something I've never really heard considered (very well or very truthfully). To put it another way, Hunt reaching out to the younger reader with respect in mind actually draws me to her message and makes me WANT to "submit" (for lack of a better word) to it!

Not meaning to harp on this but Hunt really spoke to me personally and the way that I relate to others by sharing that the woman in the mentor position needs to be so confident in Christ that she is not agonizing over whether anyone takes her advice or rejects it. Hunt expressed difficulties in raising her own children and how she had to come to the place where she totally "gave them up" in trust to God. She had to back away from her worries and anxiety that her children would make wrong decisions and resist urges to correct mistakes or set things up so that her children would not feel the pain of any particular decision that they might have made. So while Hunt is writing to "older women" in this, I am reading this as the mother of a two year old, hearing that I need to walk and grow in greater confidence so that when my children are teenagers I am more confident that God can take care of them even at that age and in that stage. Her words gave me something to think about and prepare for which is valuable.

Another thing (there are so many!) that Hunt said that I had never really thought about before was that when women gather together to study and learn the Bible and discover their calling as Christians, they should study as women. Here is what she says:

"Paul tells Titus to teach the congregation sound doctrine. Then he is to apply that to older women so that they can train the younger women how to live. Why didn't Paul just tell Titus to teach all the people? Truth is truth -- isn't it the same for men and women?
I am sure there are many reasons for Paul's strategy here, but I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know that men and women are different. God's truth is the same, but our gender sometimes determines how that truth is pushed out into life. No man understands experientially how it feels to be a wife, to have a menstrual cycle, to have a baby, or to go through menopause. Paul was smart enough to know that women need women to train them how to apply God's Word to areas of our lives that are uniquely feminine. In this command, older women are given the high calling of traditionining Biblical womanhood. This is not a ministry of minutia; it is a vital part of church life that must not be pushed to the back-burner." (page 45)

I've been of the previous mindset that "truth is truth" and so you can speak to me as to a man. But by accepting that approach to teaching, I've ignored the way that God has created me. I've unconsciously accepted the world's argument that women are equal with men and can think, do and further more SHOULD say the same things. That is false. I AM different. The way that I live out my Christian faith is intrinsically different than a way a man would. We have different roles and different designs.

This book changed my way of thinking, softened my heart in a few ways that it was hardening (or had already hardened) and best yet - CHALLENGED me to really BE A WOMAN.

This book is more of a beginning for me than a conclusion. I'm grateful for it, I'm fascinated by it and I'm excited to share it with you! I hope you'll pick it up. I'd love to share and hear thoughts about it!

Non nobis domine, domine,
Non nobis domine,
Sed nomine, sed nomine
tuo da gloriam.


Barbara H. said...

I read these last two posts with interest. I feel I am kind of in the middle. I guess in some ways we all are -- we're older than some but younger than others and will still be looking ahead to see how older ladies handle their challenges until there aren't any ladies left who are older. :-)

I've always wondered exactly what Paul had in mind in those verses in Titus as to the "how to" of older women teaching younger. I doubt they had classes and seminars in those days, though I think it's fine to have them today and I have benefited from them. If it is meant to be a one-on-one mentor and mentee relationship, I wonder how they're to get together. Someone gave me a flier she'd received at another church where they did just that -- paired people up. That seems awkward and artificial to me, but I guess it could work.

In my own life, growing up as the only Christian in an unsaved family, a family from church simply had me over a lot, and a friendship developed. I don't think they officially took me on as a "project," but I saw their family interact, saw the mom submit to her husband and deal with her children (the oldest was my age but there were three younger), how she handled meals. She influenced me in many ways even though I'm fairly sure it was unconscious on her part.

I'm convinced that hospitality is one of the best ways to mentor and be mentored -- just having people over and talking and observing will do a lot for both sides. Yet I don't exercise hospitality nearly enough. One of the distressing things to me, though, in our church now is that the younger married women and moms keep to themselves rather than getting together with the older women. They don't even come to ladies' meetings at church because "it's all older women." I've learned so much just from spending time with women of all ages -- I just don't understand that mind-set.

I'm reading a book now called Becoming God's True Woman in which Susan Hunt has a couple of chapters. I saw that she had written the book you described here and thought about checking it out. Unfortunately the one chapter of hers I've read so far was my least favorite of the book. :-) But she has another coming up on mentoring, so I'm hoping that will be better.

Stephanie Kay said...

Sounds like another book for my ever-growing list. I've also been plagued with the "equality" thoughts. That coupled with a "strong" personality and a laid-back husband makes submission very difficult. But that's a story for another day.

We currently attend a young church. Young in that it's only 7 or 8 years old and young in that 90% of the membership is under 25. I miss having older women around!! And as a homeschooling mom of 4 very young kids I don't have much time or energy left over to mentor the young women in our church. lol. I'm just rambling now so I'll stop. :)

Sky said...

I have been learning about backing up and giving my loved ones over to God. This book sounds like it could expand several of my viewpoints.

Anonymous said...

Great review! It made me what to say "Amen!" a few times.

I think embracing the differences God made in men and women is awesome and definitely not something our culture promotes in a positive way.

I have another one of Hunt's books The True Woman, but haven't read it yet. I've seen this one around a couple of times and hope to read it in the future too.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and being honest!

Marks of Faith said...

This sounds like a very worth while read. The women I respect most in my life are the ones who have taken the time to speak the truth, offered godly guidance, and encouragement from the Bible and their own lives when I needed it. When I think of the older women teaching the younger I think principle can be applied to ever stage and age of a woman's life: Grandmas teaching mothers, mothers teaching daughters, young ladies teaching little girls, even Great-Grandmothers teaching small girls and so on. Women and ladies of all ages should seek out godly counsel from those who've gone before them and live their own lives so that they might glorify God and serve to guide and aid others as they walk the path of life. It is an area most of us are greatly lacking and I think this book could benefit many of us in tuning our lives to be better reflections of Paul's charge.

Lisa Spence said...

I reviewed this over at my site not too long ago and I echo everything you said here! Great resource!

Cacey said...

I've never read anything by Susan Hunt before - I'll have to give it a try!

Marbel said...

I love Susan Hunt. Reading Your Home, A Place of Grace right now.

Melissa said...

I have this one, but haven't read it yet. My stack is so large!

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