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Volume 17, Issue 3: Femina

Your Baby Has a Soul

Nancy Wilson

The Apostle John begins his third epistle with a wonderful greeting and prayer in verse 3: "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." John thought in terms of the souls of his loved ones. And the Old Testament is filled with warnings to "take heed to your soul." God wants us to pay attention to the state of our souls. We are responsible to see that our souls are prospering, taking root and thriving like vigorous plants, not declining or drooping like wilted plants in the hot sun.

Not only that, but we are responsible to see that our children's souls are prospering as well. Parents are the means God has established to nurture these little souls, and mothers share this tremendous privilege and responsibility to see that, by God's grace, all the children in their charge are flourishing, both body and soul.
People in our modern soulless culture deny even the existence of the soul, much less the state of their own souls or the souls of their children. But we know better. Wise mothers should be tuned in to this crucial aspect of their mothering. Mothering is not just about childbirth options or schedule feeding. The wise woman understands that children are a source of joy and blessing entrusted to her by God, and she is to be a good steward of them, seeing that she takes care to dedicate her children to God and train them up as God's own.
When a new baby is in its mother's arms, we don't understand what God is doing to nurture the baby's wee soul. It is a mystery. But He uses every loving word, every silly song, every kiss and playful hug to nurture and nourish the souls of our children. This is a work of faith, and we trust God to do it through us. Laying aside our "own plans" in order to rock the baby or comfort a child is a soul-prospering work, not an annoying interruption.
Though a mother's work can seem monotonous or repetitive (and it is) when it comes to doing the laundry or changing the diapers, we have to have the eye of faith as we go. God blesses all these loving duties to the prospering of the souls of both mother and children. Reading stories over and over, stacking the blocks one more time, washing a face, wiping a nose, changing a wet diaper, or putting fresh sheets on the bed are all ways that a mother cares for her children and communicates love and security. And in some mysterious way, God uses it like sunshine and water on a tender plant. So we plant and water, but it is He who gives the increase.
All the loving attentiveness a mother gives her children is food for their souls. When the child is a small baby, all those smiles and kind words, the laughing and playfulness, the motherly delight and pride in each new accomplishment, is used by God to prosper the baby's soul. And it continues as the child grows. Even the smallest gesture, if done in love and kindness, is nourishing. And we want children with fat little souls, children who are healthy plants, as in Psalm 144:12, "that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth." The child cannot find the same soul-nourishment from a stranger or casual acquaintance. That's why when a child is hurt, he always turns to his parents for comfort, no matter how nice the babysitter is. And that is a good sign, not a bad sign. Children find security in their own parents, and if they don't, then they will look elsewhere, even to strangers.
A child growing up in a home filled with selfishness, criticism, impatience, and bitterness does not flourish. How can he? His soul is malnourished, stunted, and neglected. Parents often do not take seriously the tremendous impact their lives have on their children. They fail to realize how potent their words and actions are, for good or ill. Mothers who hand off their babies, who are too busy for their children, or who grow impatient, cross, or scolding with the many demands on them are rearing unhealthy children. They are starving them spiritually. Sticking them in front of the television for hours can be soul-deadening. Ignoring them when they ask questions, or telling them that "we are too busy right now," is like giving them a crust of bread for dinner. Nothing we do is neutral; it will either feed and nourish or starve and impoverish. We cannot think that a prayer at bedtime and reading a Bible story occasionally will counteract the damage done day in and day out by the foul air the children breathe in the home, day after day, all year long. This kind of mother is tearing her house down with her own hands (and her own tongue).
The mother is designed by God to be a source of great blessing to her husband and children, the "very soul of the house." And mothers underestimate the power in their hands to bring their families great good. As Proverbs says, better a meal with vegetables with peace than feasting with strife. But by the grace of God, mothers can provide feasts with peace and joy, which nourishes both body and soul. Listening to your children, taking them on your lap and talking with them, being affectionate and loving to them, will of course take time. Just as preparing and serving good food takes time, so feeding our children's souls takes time. Though we cannot see the food doing the work at the table, we do see our children growing over time. The same is true of nourishing their souls. We cannot see how reading this story one more time will be like a second helping of mashed potatoes. It is. God uses all these things we do, when we render them unto Him by faith, to strengthen, nourish, and grow our children up into men and women with fat souls who will then be able to nourish their own children and grandchildren.

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