As I leave the school office to walk to my younger daughter’s classroom, I wonder who else I will get to see. This school, the closest elementary to my church, is filled with “my” kids. Not just the two I birthed, but many more from my congregation. The hallway is crowded, and I see Eleanor. I wave, and her face lights up as she smiles and waves back. There is Will. He is in line and focused like he should be, but as I walk by, I say hi, and he somehow becomes even cuter as he smiles. Nora probably saw me before I saw her. She smiles when our eyes meet. Finally, I arrive at Brynna’s classroom. There are no other church kids in her class, so now I am fully mother to just her. When she sees me, she runs over and gives me a big hug, and I am just as thrilled to see her and have her back in my arms.
I tell my husband that I almost feel like a celebrity walking the halls of our school. Unlike a celebrity, I am seeking certain little faces. When our eyes meet, I try to send as much love in the gaze as possible. I hope they see nothing but delight on my face when we pass in the hall.
I think we all need someone to be delighted to see us. We long to know we are loved. My call to ministry has always been to share God’s love with everyone, to help them know how completely and unconditionally God loves them. It is easy to share that love with all “my” kids. I have watched them grow, baptized them, given them Bibles, and talked about their favorites. I do love each one of them, more than I can put into words, and I know the capacity for such love comes from God. As a pastor, I am representing God to them. I love each one of them unconditionally, and I understand God’s love more and more every day.
In our baptism, we celebrate that God claims us as beloved children. When I became a pastor, I gained a new understanding of that love as I loved all “my” kids, who at that time were college students. No matter where I serve, I cannot help but love the people. True, some are easier to love than others.
I hope my young friends who were happy to see their pastor at school, felt the love I sent them. I hope they equate God with love, as we have tried to teach them. I hope that my biological children always see delight on my face and know how unconditionally I love them. Love is powerful, and sharing love is the way I can communicate God’s infinite love with others. God loves us even more than our mothers do, which as a mother, is incomprehensible. I am at my best when I am loving others and letting them know in my words and actions how much they mean to me.
This post is part of the book launch blog tour for Embodied: Clergy Women and the Solidarity of a Mothering God. Embodied includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter, to instigate conversations that lead to support and new perspectives. The book is available this September from Bookshop.org, Amazon, or Cokesbury.