The Blessing of Spiritual Mothers

by Araceli (Sally) Cardenas

by Araceli (Sally) Cardenas

Reading the headline, “Jennifer Aniston discusses IVF and fertility in an honest new interview,” I immediately thought of the many times I’d walked into a room of women whose questions I was never prepared for.

One question always makes the list: “Do you have…”? I know what’s coming before they finish. It’s the question that stings the most, the question I’d like to dodge, skip, or pretend I didn’t hear. For any woman who yearns for motherhood, you know all too well what follows. It’s a loaded question that can stir emotions so deep they bring you to your knees in prayer. Especially if you’ve been longing for a child, hoping and praying this will be the month, or you mourn the loss of a child. Whatever your situation, I’m sorry you’re going through this; I know how you feel.

Each time I answer the question, I hear the enemy loud and clear, whispering labels like “childless” and “barren.” It reveals the longing I’ve carried in my heart since I met my husband, exchanged vows, and walked down the aisle. I was certain we’d have a little girl or boy. It was only a matter of time. We’d already chosen the names “Isabella” and “Leonardo.” A few years later, I discovered that getting pregnant wouldn’t be easy. With time, as my marriage began to unravel, I held onto the labels, and my worth as a woman began to diminish. I thought I hadn’t done enough to make it happen or wasn’t complete or whole without the title I longed for most—Mother.

Every celebration with close friends and family who were expecting a child became painful. I tried hard to distance myself from the labels and my reality, but there was no escape. Like Jennifer, I wanted to answer candidly, “That ship has sailed.”

But beyond the physical struggles of having a child, and then later relationally between me and my husband, my most difficult struggle was believing it was God that had labeled me. So I turned to His Word, hoping to turn the word “barren” on its head and replace it with hope and truth. I searched for Bible stories that offered a glimmer of hope, a promise I could hold onto month after month of negative pregnancy tests. I read stories like Hannah, who remained childless for years despite her desperate plea to conceive, and Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, who was childless until she was ninety years old. All along, God had a much greater plan for these women. He was teaching them (and us) the hardest lesson of all—one I still struggle to embrace fully (on this side of heaven). I had to learn that He is the One who ultimately opens and closes a womb. He is the Creator of life (Genesis 1:1). We see this in every “barren” or “childless” woman chronicled in the Bible. From Hannah to Sarah, to Mary and Elizabeth, to Rachel and Ruth, the closing and opening of wombs are His doing.

Each woman’s journey to motherhood is unique and personal. Every story serves a purpose, including my own. Like Hannah, I relentlessly begged God for a child, but I found comfort in knowing that my story was no surprise to God. He had always known my desire. It wasn’t a matter of luck, circumstance, or even sexual intimacy, as we see in the story of Mary. Instead, He wanted me to embrace a new role I had taken for granted.

He began to recall the many young women (and children) I minister to, including my nieces and nephews whom I’ve taken under my wing, counseled, and encouraged since accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. They sign off every message or text with, “I love you, Smomma,” short for Spiritual Momma, Mamma Bear, Big Sally, Tia Sally, or Godmother. My relationship with each of them is special. There’s a bond of trust, unconditional love, and understanding that I want the best for them. Through them, I’m reminded that this verse holds true, “Children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3 NLT), whether conceived in your womb or your heart. I can choose to love them as my own.

So today, on Mother’s Day, and every day of the year, embrace the children who surround you, the children you counsel as a spiritual mother, mentor, and friend, and love them as your own. Because motherhood is more than the physical—it’s about nurturing life, both biological and spiritual.

To those of you still yearning for motherhood, I encourage you to bring your desire to the altar. Bring your questions to the altar. Never hold back. But always remember, in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, you are complete. You are enough, and when you’re asked the question I dodged for years, consider my response today, “The Lord has blessed me with many spiritual children, all conceived in my heart.”

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