by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca), Kingston, Ontario, October 2006
When a home is infested by rats and mice a quick solution is to get a cat. By the time it has eaten a few of them, the rest get the message that they are not welcome. In my daughter Susanne’s family they have a cat named Milo. He will kill the occasional mouse, and leave the carcass on the back door step to remind the family he is there to protect them. Many farms have a guard dog to bark at intruders.
But we got a white cat named Nika for the children to play with. An added bonus was that she gave birth to thirty-two kittens, and she never lost one of them. They were so beautiful that every one of them was eagerly adopted by friends and neighbors. As each litter was born she allowed our children to watch what happened. With great delight they saw her lick each baby clean, made sure they all got their share of mother’s milk, and she kept them from hurting each other.
What does this tell us about theology?
Of all the hundreds of million women, who have lived in our world, only a very few ever had a profession. And of those an even smaller proportion were engaged in what we would call Christian work. What of the rest? Are they excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven? Does God have no heart for half the humans in his world?
What millions of women have in common is that like Nika most of them have babies. In a problematic text Paul wrote that a woman "will be saved through childbearing" (1 Timothy 2:15). Obviously he did not mean that women who have children are saved in an eternal sense. Nor does the text suggest that women will not die in childbirth. Later in the letter he said "I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households" (1 Timothy 5:14). So I will paraphrase Paul’s words to read "for women mothering is a vocation that God values as much as any other." The difference is that some do it carelessly, and the children suffer. Others do it as superbly as Nika mothered her thirty-two kittens, and God is pleased.
Could it be that God takes as great delight in the birth and mothering of children as our family enjoyed Nika being a mother for her kittens? If that is the case, we can value the millions of nameless women, who have brought children to birth and mothered them faithfully. They are just as important to God as Mother Theresa, our missionary heroes, and those who have done great things for their nation.