Wednesday, June 27, 2007


A weary mom leaned her head back against the couch, eyes resting while her child mercifully slept. It had been a long 24 hours. The bottle set aside for a moment, a hand alternately rubbed, then patted the back of the just-dozing infant. After the expected burp, he would be laid quietly to nap in his crib.

Why do mothers pat the backs of their babies to draw a burp? Experience would teach them that infants who have just guzzled milk need to burp to sleep comfortably. But what logic tells a mom that gently hitting her baby's back will cause this rather than simply waking him? If a woman had never heard of burping a baby, is that how she would do it? There is little science involved. Those who burp their young ones didn't read the study or the parenting-method that told them exactly what is happening beneath the skin of the child. No, they got the idea from every other woman they've ever observed feeding a baby.

"It takes a village," they say. I disagree. A village isn't required to raise a child. But it certainly helps if the mother was raised around other mothers, including her own. And when I say "raised around," I don't mean that I hope when she was a little girl she occasionally encountered perfect-looking mothers pushing strollers in the park. The young woman I picture got to hold new babies, and sit by while mothers fed their children. She had years of semi-apprenticeship behind her. Older mothers were willing to teach, and to pass on the wisdom they got from their mothers and aunts and their friends.

My idea of discipleship is doing life together. You might think of the padawans in Star Wars. Or, if you're less mystically-minded, you might just envision the way Jesus treated His followers, known as the 12 disciples. They lived with Him, walked with Him, ate with Him, accompanied Him in ministry, heard His teaching, and asked Him questions. He led by example, gave instruction, sent out, and provided refuge when they were resting between assignments.

The Walk, one of my favorite books, by Michael Card, is a lesson on discipleship from the book of Mark and the experiences of the author. A few years ago at church we were going to study discipleship in Sunday school, and I was so excited, because in almost every church I've seen, real, life-encompassing discipleship is so lacking. I was disappointed by the actual topic being the cost of discipleship, having to do with the Lordship of Christ more than the relationship in which we follow Him.

Even when churches do encourage real discipleship (between Christians, not just between us and Jesus), it tends to be a program-oriented mentor ministry in which the participants are paired off by some power-that-is, and assigned to meet weekly for prayer or Bible study. I never want that, so I don't sign up. Once a week things keep me surviving, but I thrive on relationship. My desire is to be a constant Christian, constant friend, and constant disciple.

Today, then, was lovely, because I spent it with a woman I respect, who is ahead of me on the journey of following God. I helped her pack for her move, and look after her kids. We did life together. While we were doing it I learned good tips about packing and organizing, truths about child-rearing, as well as some theological, spiritual, and general relationship things through our varied conversation. She isn't perfect, and neither am I, of course, but isn't it good to see the humanity of your mentor? And to be growing as she grows?

I laugh when I visit her, because she and her husband always tease me about not wanting to come back, or being intimidated from parenthood by their 9 month old and 2 year old. Quite the contrary. By being with them I see that there are hard days, but they're so worth it. The smiles and laughter and glorious opportunity to form lives are not to be missed for all the dirty diapers, temper tantrums, sickness, and hard work in the world.

On this blog I cast forth ideals a lot. What should the world be? What should church be? What should I be? I know I can sound like I complain. Tonight I just want to share that Titus 2 is being lived by some older women I know, and I'm grateful.

To God be all glory.

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