Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Co-Parenting in Biblical Times

 

As we near Mother's Day, our thoughts are immediately drawn back to our own childhoods and our mothers, and, just as often, our grandmothers.  Both women played a major role in shaping who most of us are today. Women can come into the roles of mother and/or grandmother under different circumstances, and there are two stories in the Bible, one from the Old Testament, and one from the New Testament, that bear this out.
 
Let's look first at the Old Testament story. It's a familiar story to most of us and I want us to look mainly at the relationship of two of the principle characters: Naomi and Ruth. The story is recorded in the book of Ruth, one of the shortest books in the Bible.  As you know, Naomi, her husband, and two sons traveled from Bethlehem to relocate in the nation of Moab because of a serious drought in their home country. During the course of their stay there, Naomi's husband dies, as do her two sons who had married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Keep in mind that the Moabites were enemies of the Israelites and didn't follow God, Yahweh, and it must have been difficult for Naomi to rear her sons in this culture, and perhaps even heartbreaking to watch them take wives from it.  After the deaths of the two sons and the subsiding of the drought in Bethlehem, Naomi decides to leave Moab and journey back to her own people.  Her two daughters-in-law travel a short distance with her after which she tells them to go back to their own families and start a new life. Orpah does so, but Ruth would not hear of it and insisted that she would go where Naomi does. She clung to Naomi and stated that Naomi's people would now become hers, and her God would become Ruth's God. Ruth went even further and stated that nothing but death would part her from Naomi.  Even after the death of Naomi, Ruth continued to live in Bethlehem and after death was buried there, thus identifying with the Israelites to the greatest degree possible.


Ruth, in essence, adopted Naomi as her mother and the customs that are relayed in the book of Ruth regarding the character of Ruth are done in the context of Naomi as mother and Ruth as her daughter.  Naomi arranged for Ruth to meet and marry a man within the family, as their custom dictated, to take care of her and give her children to carry on the family heritage. And in so doing, Naomi was blessed beyond measure. Naomi must have had a generous and kind heart to be so loved by her daughter-in-law who chose her over her natural mother, forsaking her own culture and its gods.  In a culture that elevated the sons over the daughters, after the birth of Obed, Ruth and Boaz's son, the women of the town came to Naomi praising God and stating that her daughter-in-law loved her and was better to her than seven sons. In obedience to Jewish custom, Ruth gave the boy to Naomi, surrendering the child of her womb into the arms of her mother-in-law so that Naomi would not die childless. And Naomi mothered that child, along with Ruth; and that little baby became the grandfather of King David who was in the lineage of Jesus Christ, our Messiah.  Is it any wonder that the book of Ruth is the festival scroll read at Pentecost.

naomi-holding-baby
 
In the New Testament we have the mention of another mother and grandmother commended by none other than St. Paul for their godly lives. We first learn of them in II Timothy 1:5. These two women, Eunice the natural mother of Timothy, and Lois, his grandmother, had raised him and were his first teachers of Holy Scripture.  Not only that, but they instructed him in the study of Sacred Writings, and one theologian stated that "the whole Church, for the past two thousand years, owes to these two women an immense and unpayable debt of gratitude." In Lois and Eunice we have a mother/daughter team that raised up a man of godly character who was the apostle Paul's most trusted companion and disciple. There are numerous grandmothers mentioned in the Bible, but did you know that this is the only place where the term "grandmother" is actually used?


As I reflect upon both of these stories of mothers (and grandmothers) in the Bible, I think of you precious women. Most of your children are now grown and your immediate influence on them is minimal. Yet, you are able to impart to your grandchildren in those special moments together your love for Christ and His reality in your lives. And let me remind you to never undervalue the importance of prayer for your children and grandchildren. That is one of the things that we can do, regardless of age, physical mobility, or distance from each other, that will have the most impact upon the lives of our children and grandchildren. So, as this Mother's Day approaches, whether you have natural born children or adopted children, (or have been "adopted" as a mother or grandmother) remember that your sphere of influence is great, even to the next generation. Happy Mother's Day to each of you!

Reflection: If you are reading this blog and have not asked the Jesus of the Bible to become your Lord and Savior, I implore you to do so now. The greatest heritage you can leave your children and grandchildren is a godly life, one that has trusted in Christ for eternal life through His death and resurrection. Jesus himself said that if you come to him, you will become a child of God and joint heir with him in all the wonderful things that God has prepared for those that trust in Him. It is the best decision you will ever make.

By Shari Hervold

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