Today in My Commonplace


Perhaps I need to start posting my favorite bits of a few different books. This makes… what, the fifth quote from Sir Gibbie that I couldn’t bear to keep to myself?

Well. This one’s not terribly long–unlike the last one. But it’s the kind of that convicts.

This quote is about Janet, a character whom I suspect is only a passing character that we only meet for a few pages in a several hundred page novel. And yet… I learned a lot from this Janet, no matter her short time in the spotlight. You see, Janet is “good people”.

She was a mother. One who is mother only to her own children is not a mother; she is only a woman who has borne children. But here was one of God’s mothers.

I had to stop and think. I’ve said to myself before that I have a hard time loving other people’s children… I never stopped to wonder what that said about how much I have to learn about charity.

My first thoughts were about other people’s young children. Right now, I certainly don’t make any special efforts to mother them. Not really. Not like my husband Rocketman makes efforts to love and minister to other people’s children. It’s one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place; and maybe it was especially attractive because I knew I was lacking in this area. I think that while I may not be one of God’s mothers as here defined by Macdonald, that my husband may be one of God’s fathers. And, while the role of father is in many ways different to that of a mother, I think I can still learn from him.

Wherever we move to, and we’ve moved a few times, children find my husband irresistible. Somehow, he really, actually cares about whatever it is children prattle on about. Too often, I simply find it tiresome. Rocketman? It’s the most natural conversation topic in the world. Everything is interesting.

He’s told me his secret before: you treat them like people. Like real, honest-to-goodness, valuable-in-their-own-right, worthwhile people. You play with them, and you enjoy it, because of course spending time with fun people is fun. And the children know you value their presence. What child doesn’t want to be thought of as a fun person?

You look them in the eyes. And when they talk, you are genuinely interested. If they’re expressing a simple opinion desperately in want of an expanded perspective, you never shoot it down like an almighty adult. Instead, you get a gleam in your eye, that says, Oh, I know something irresistibly interesting about that! And they’ll hang onto your every word. If you’re just bursting at the seams with the desire to share interesting insight–not preach at them–because, really why wouldn’t anyone want to know? then they’ll listen, and you can teach them. And they’ll love you even more.

I’m thinking more about what Macdonald said about God’s mothers. “One who is mother only to her own children is not a mother; she is only a woman who has borne children.” Well–every single human being on the planet is some mother’s child. Even the grumpy 90-year-olds are some mother’s child. Even the bored-looking young adult cashier at the grocery store. Even the bum on the street.

Am I mother to them? What does it mean to be mother to every stranger you meet?

I’m certainly lacking here, as well. Certainly I don’t have the means to clothe and feed everyone on the planet. But maybe I can learn from one of God’s fathers–the one I’m married to.

What if I really listened to everyone who spoke to me, because I genuinely cared about what they had to say? What if I actually valued their presence? Maybe grown-ups don’t simply desire to be thought of as “a fun person”… but yet again, perhaps they do. That’s what so many people despair about not having, isn’t it? No one who actually wants them around? Someone who likes them for themselves?

What does it mean to be mother to every stranger you meet?




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