When I was growing up I loved to play ‘mummy’. Every chance I got I found some unsuspecting little child to mother. My mother owned and ran a nursery school for many years and I had the privilege of getting paid to do what I loved when I was free – look for the forlorn, lonely kid and mother them to bits. I dreamt of having lots of children when I eventually got married – a bit like Old Mother Hubbard (except that I had no intention of living in a shoe!)

Growing up has a way of bringing you face to face to reality. I soon learned that two or three children were plenty and that I did not have the patience or the resources (and courage) to have a house full of children. Most of us have read about the Proverbs 31 woman, that paragon of virtue we either hold in awe or secretly hate. The Bible says in verse 28 that ‘her children rise up and call her blessed.’ I believe those ‘children’ that the bible refers to are likely more than just her biological children. A few verses earlier in the same chapter, it talks about the fact that she ‘stretches out her hands to the poor’ and ‘her household is clothed with scarlet’.

As I look back on my life, I recognize many women who impacted me in one way or the other rather like my biological mother has done. Interestingly, a lot of them were not old enough to be my mother because they were only a few years older than I was, but they were further ahead than I was in some aspect of life because of their experiences and wisdom. There was no financial gain in it for them. It was simply the love of Jesus and a desire to nurture another person that made them take an interest in me and decide to impart something of themselves into me. To these women, I will forever indebted.

Nurturing is something that we can all do, whether we have biological children or not. Widening our arms to include women that have not come from our physical wombs is a service to Jesus that He applauds. It doesn’t take knowing the Bible from cover to cover; nor do we have to have arrived at that place where our own lives are completely sorted out (by the way that’s never going to happen this side of eternity). All it takes is compassion for people and a desire to see them grow. We see through whatever front they present to the gold that lies hidden beneath and we just want to pull out this gold so that others can see what we see.

There was a period in my life when I was praying desperately for someone to mentor me, and a wise friend suggested ‘why don’t you find someone to mentor while you are waiting for God to answer your prayer?’ She was right. I had failed to realize that I had something to give someone who perhaps wasn’t as far on as I was, and that doing that would mean I was sowing seed into another person. Seed always brings fruit of its own kind and sure enough, not very long after I started mentoring God brought someone into my life that was just the mentor I needed for that season of my life.

I have two biological children. Am I being greedy in desiring more spiritual children that will call me blessed? I think not. Surely the more I pour myself into others, the more room I am making for Jesus to pour into me? The Proverbs 31 woman did not just look out for her biological children. She also made sure that the people in her employ were well taken care of. There are lots of opportunities for us to nurture other women. We do need to be willing and to open our eyes so that we don’t miss those opportunities. Sometimes the opportunities will present themselves when you feel the least ready or the most vulnerable. Take them anyway. Sometimes you will feel out of your depth and wonder whether you even know what you are doing. Do it anyway. Sometimes there is so much going on in your own life that you wonder what business you have trying to help someone else. Help them anyway. And sometimes you just couldn’t be bothered because you are dealing with hurt and disappointment yourself. Put your disappointment aside for a few minutes and remind yourself that God wants you to be bothered.

Nurturing is not just for those who believe they have the ‘nurturing’ gene. We are all made in the image of God, and he is a nurturer. In fact one of his names is the Mighty (or many) Breasted one which refers to God’s sufficiency to provide all that we as His children need from Him. So if Jesus is your Lord and Saviour, His nurturing gene is inside you whether you feel you are the motherly type or not. Nurturing is about looking out for and looking after people in whatever way that God wants you to for that particular person and the specific season of life they are in. And like I said before anyone can do it.

So I challenge you. Begin to pray about the people in your world that God wants you to nurture at this time. Ask Him to give you the opportunities. Then grab them with both hands. Your nurturing may last only a few weeks or may be as long as a lifetime. He decides. Your part is to be obedient. And may your ‘children’ rise up and call you blessed.