Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beautify our World...Nurturing

I love the dictionary definition of nurture:

to feed and protect: to nurture one's offspring.

to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising musicians. to bring up; train; educate.
I'm sure we can all think of nurturers in our lives.  One quality I think of regarding nurturing is the quality of making someone feel warm, safe, and accepted so that person can flourish.  I know people who have an extraordinary gift for nurturing, and I see Christ in them.  That's a quality that I want to grow in.

In our culture, we associate women with nurturing, and some women fear to be seen as nurturing for fear that they won't be respected on the same plane that men are.  Yet, the Bible portrays God as a nurturer and also calls husbands and fathers to be nurturers, too.  Paul, the apostle, said that he had lived among the Thessalonians in a gentle way, with the same nurturing quality that the mother of an infant might have. 

Isaiah 49:15  (God speaking to Israel) Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 

Ephesians 5:4  And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I Thessalonians 2:7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children.

Ephesians 5:25ff  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Nurturing is a beautiful quality, for it is a reflection of God's own heart.  It takes strength and faith to nurture others.   It also takes prayer and wisdom.  It also requires that we know when to step in and when to let go, so that we don't cross that line from nurturing into smothering. 

What are some practical ways to nurture?

1) Study God's nurturing, as revealed in the Bible.  Note in the gospels how Christ always saw what others didn't:  the beauty of the widow's two coins, the tax collector in the tree, the woman who touched Jesus' garment in a huge crowd, the blind men calling for help by the wayside, etc.
2)  Rejoice when others succeed, grow, or mature.  Rejoice when others experience happy things or have reasons to celebrate.

3) Cultivate your own domestic skills.  If you particularly enjoy a certain skill -- such as cooking or sewing or keeping a home tidy or fostering great relationships in the family -- learn and practice.  Use that skill to nurture those in or outside your family.
4)  Do you have occupational skills?  These, too, can be used to nurture others.
5)  At any gathering, two questions are useful in nurturing: what can I learn and what can I give.

You don't have to be a wife or mother to be a nurturer, but being a wife and mother is good training ground for learning how to nurture.  By the time our nest empties, we have usually learned how to tune into the needs of our husband and children.  Yet, our children are adults and, while they still need and appreciate our nurturing, they need a more subtle form of nurturing. Likewise, our husbands need us as much as ever, but, again, nurturing a husband is a tiny bit different than nurturing children.  Instead of bemoaning that we have worked our way out of a parenting job, it's better to celebrate!  We just graduated from a school of nurturing.  Our grown children are our diploma!  Now, we have lots of tenderness and love to give.  We've developed some skills.  So, we nurture our husbands, our grown children, and our grandchildren according to their needs, and we funnel all that extra nurturing sensitivity into loving others, as well.  If we keep our hearts and our eyes open, we'll see lots of little ways to invest in the growth of those around us.

Likewise, a single woman can be a nurturer.  Paul, after all, was single, and he nurtured the spiritual growth of countless people.  


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