When I became pregnant with my first child I realized God graciously gives nine months to prepare us for the life-changing experience to come. Since God established my ministry before giving me a child I began praying and considering theologically what it looks like to be a mother and outward minister. I use the word “out-ward” because I firmly believe motherhood is a ministry in itself.
The biblical foundation for the model I began to see is the Trinity: God is three distinct persons; each person is fully God yet God remains one being (1). God is love (1 John 4:16) but love is a relational term. In other words, in order to love, there must be someone or something to love. Some have suggested that God created humanity because he needed someone to love. Yet John 17:24 tells us that God was love before the foundation of the world; he was love before he created.
How could this be?
The answer is, of course, the Trinity. At the core of God’s being, he is three distinct persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three persons are a community of love.
Scripture teaches that God did not create humanity because he needed humanity (Acts 17:24). Instead, he created humanity out of the overflow of the joy and love that exists within the Trinity. As John Piper says, God’s joy “wants to share itself” (2). Thus we read the striking statement in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”
The most basic microcosm of human community is the family unit. Pregnancy is the way that new image-bearers of God are added to the fundamental family unit of a husband and wife. God designed this community to reflect the Trinity by each person finding their joy or satisfaction in God, treasuring each other’s unique individuality and roles, and letting this joy overflow into self-giving acts of love toward one another. In sum, humanity reflects the Trinity by being a community of love.
And here is where I believe motherhood and outward ministry merge. Just as the joy within the Trinity is expansive—it wants to share itself with others—so should it be within a family. As the father, wife, and children live richly in their community of love, this love bubbles up and overflows into one’s outward ministry.
If Trinitarian foundations shape my motherhood and my outward ministry, I will not adopt a model of motherhood that focuses solely on my children. Neither will I adopt a model of ministry that focuses primarily on the outside world while neglecting my children. Instead, my model for motherhood will be one that focuses primarily on my children (after God and husband), while teaching them that they are not my sole love.
If the Trinity shapes motherhood, a mother must prayerfully ask at least two questions: (1) How can I cultivate familial love? (2) How can our familial love overflow into the lives of others? Here are three examples of what this has meant for me personally:
During the first month of my daughter’s life I began cultivating familial love by meditating on the biblical teaching of God’s image upon mankind while a little image-bearer lay in my arms day and night. Mundane activities of changing diapers and feeding were transformed into meaningful moments of nurturing the dignity of an image-bearer. This heightened love and respect could not be contained within my family unit because I began to see others as image-bearers as well. As a result, my husband and I decided to host a conference to refresh pro-life workers with the biblical teaching of God’s image upon mankind. My husband is the chairman of the board for Adoring Christ Ministries and our daughter became a feature on the conference advertisements. As a result, familial love overflowed into familial ministry.
In the first nine months of my daughter’s life, we have expressed our love for her in many ways. One of them has been providing for her material needs: clothing, bathing accessories, developmental toys, and other items. Our expansive joy has moved us to ask our local pregnancy center to pair us with a young single woman who made a choice to preserve her child’s life. We are making this woman and her daughter friends of our family by walking together spiritually and providing material goods that will assist her in parenting.
One aspect of my teaching ministry is to encour- age single women through quarterly letters to find rest in God as their heavenly husband. After taking Valentine’s Day pictures of my daughter to preserve for family memories, we decided to make them into cards to send to single women with a message of God’s love on Valentine’s Day.
1 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 241.
2 John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters: Multnomah, 1986), 45.
About the Author: Kori de Leon (M.A., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a speaker, conference leader, writer, and director of Adoring Christ Ministries. Kori, her husband Bobby, and daughter Jade live in the Houston area.
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2.2. You can access a PDF version of this article here.]