By Tina Teng-Henson
As the mother of a 22-month-old daughter who is expecting a second child this summer, I am doing theology these days in the context of early motherhood. Personally, I can attest to both the dramatic and multidimensional changes that have occurred within me – and the strong conviction I have that God has used the unique particularity and challenges of this life stage to bring about deeper sanctification, spiritual transformation, and greater reliance on the Holy Spirit within me.
That being said, I often feel ill-equipped to understand or make meaningful sense of all that has happened within me – especially within the context of my existing faith in Christ and sense of what discipleship entails. I mentally scroll through all of the scriptural narratives that used to be so redolent with meaning, but feel almost disqualified to live them out in the same ways with such new limits placed on my life and freedom because of my young child.
There is a clear need for new paradigms and metaphors for continuing and deepening the discipleship of women during the throes of early motherhood. In a season ripe with opportunities for deeper faith and personal transformation yet often characterized by isolation, anxiety, and concern, how could the church invite young mothers to trust God anew? Could it remind them that God certainly orders the universe’s chaos, but is not thrown off by the messiness of human life?
Without veering into Marian veneration, could the mother of Christ become an ally and friend to young Protestant mothers? Could pastors preach about the Triune God in such a way that God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are more relatable to women during early motherhood?
Could mission be as much about faithfulness in the quiet, unseen, hidden and humbling ministry of motherhood amidst infants and toddlers – as it is about evangelistic outreach to one’s friends and peers? Could the character formation work that God does in people’s lives be as important as (or even more important than) their ministry productivity and efficacy?
It becomes clear that empowering, supporting, and listening to women in church ministry who have made it through early motherhood themselves is critically important to truly equipping the whole church. Pointing to the incarnational love exhibited in the Christian God who took on flesh and was borne of a woman, who poured out his spirit upon men and women before being taken up in glory – one can have great hope that there is a robust theology to discover to companion and empower young mothers – to give them hope and encouragement.
Tina Teng-Henson has been blessed to learn + grow alongside so many different people, in so many places: Long Island, NY — Harvard College + the South End of Boston — Nairobi, Kenya and Lanzhou, China. She is working towards her Master of Divinity at Fuller‘s Northern California campus.