Heather Davis Nelson, M.A., is a writer, counselor, and retreat speaker, regularly blogging at "hidden glory" (heatherdavisnelson.com). She has been a featured writer at The Gospel Coalition, iBelieve.com, and OnFaith with articles on grief, human trafficking, body image, and mentoring, as well as a contributing author to the Journal of Biblical Counseling. She and her husband, Seth, and their fraternal twin daughters live in southeastern Virginia where he is a pastor, and she is a counselor. She studied at Wheaton College (B.A.) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.A.). She loves coffee, reading, front porch conversations, the beach, and story time with her daughters. Through over eight years of counseling, she has walked alongside many through questions of faith, anxiety and depression, relational conflict, grief, and discovering identity and calling. She is passionate about connecting the hope of a Redeemer to the broken fissures of life.
photo from ksl.com
This is for you, the often overlooked one who won't be officially included in this weekend's celebration, but who has birthed many, many souls into being. You have done perhaps harder work than that which will be officially honored this Sunday, harder in that it is less recognized for the great personal sacrifice and deep loneliness you've carried in your birthing work. As you have ached to mother physical children, you have continued to nurture spiritual children. You have been available all hours of the day and night for the woman in distress, the teen on the brink of ending it all, or the 23-year-old who just had a devastating break-up, or for a peer crippled with the agony of discovering her husband's affair. You have borne all of this, and more. You have cried along with them, and you have wept hidden tears for the husband you've always dreamed about or the children you wish God had given you.
You, like Hannah in the Bible, may have wept agonizing prayers of tears as the aching desires of your heart overflowed. Others have likely misunderstood you, offering you petty cliches that while true felt trite. Like, "Jesus is your husband," and "God has given you more time to serve the church." Perhaps what you needed first was an understanding embrace, or one willing to cry with you at the decades of disappointment you've carried. Yes, God has met you amidst your loneliness, and he has provided for you, but it has not been easy nor is that need all in the past tense. You know that because you don't have physical children, more needs will arise and you'll continually have to ask God for provision. You are in many ways a modern day widow, even if you are married, in that the society often overlooks you.
I want you to know today that you are seen. You are known. And you are invaluable to the kingdom's advancing and the fabric of church communities. I pray that my daughters will have spiritual mothers like you available to them when I just can't help them because I'm too close to their situation. I pray that whether my daughters have physical children or not, that they will, like you, spiritually nurture and care for many souls. I pray that in their waiting days - waiting for marriage, or for conception, or for grief of what's lost to pass - that they will be able to think of at least one of you who will cheer her on by example.
I'm thinking of my friend who ministers to the sexually broken and hurting, courageously risking much to bring the hope of the gospel into these places of confusion and pain. I'm thinking of another friend who has helped develop and teach Jesus-centered curriculum to women and men across the world. And of another sister who is assisting in administration of a Christian counseling center, while she also pours into the lives of many women through personal counsel. Yet another woman comes to mind who has welcomed missionaries and missionary candidates for decades through her gracious and warm hospitality. I'm thinking of you in my church who bolster my heart with your words of encouragement and your endurance in the faith through your care for others and your support of us. I'm thinking of my clients brave enough to speak of how difficult it is to be single, to be childless, of how the world often seems to pass them by (Sunday mornings can be hardest).
I'm thinking of you, and I want you to read this as a heartfelt note of appreciation on behalf of all of your spiritual children who will rise up and call you blessed on the last day. Thank you for your hidden service, your poured-out love, your difficult endurance, and your courage to keep on going step-by-step. I pray that this Sunday you will feel God's smile upon you in tangible ways. Might we who know 1-2 of these such women be part of God's words of appreciation to you?