Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

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Motherly-ness: Shaping a Woman's Soul

Mary, Mother of God. Image via Wylio/

Mary, Mother of God. Image via Wylio/

A few years ago, I guest-lectured in a Women’s Studies class at Bethel University. My topic was How Motherhood Shapes a Woman’s Soul, but I ended up talking more about how motherhood sort of mirrors God, how being a mom (or hearing from moms) helps us understand God, his relentless love, his willingness to forgive and his patience with the whiney little complainers that we are.

Frankly, I was amazed at how engaged the women (and man) in the class were. I’m used to talking about issues maternal, but usually it’s to moms. Not to 21-year-old college seniors. But either these students were actually interested or exceptionally polite. I prefer to assume the former. After my lecture, we even had a lively round of Q&A. They asked lots of great questions, but two have really stayed with me.

The first that stuck was: “Why would anyone want to have kids?”

And the other was: “Why haven’t we ever heard this before? Why is it that I’ve gone to church my whole life and never once heard that moms might have special insight into God that should be shared?”

The first question made me laugh (and made me realize perhaps I ought to be guest-lecturing in abstinence classes!). The second question made me want to cry.

Caryn Rivadeneira answers, "What is an Evangelical?"

Evangelicals had always seemed like the "other" Christians. They were the ones who didn't celebrate Advent or baptize babies. They were the ones who went colleges that required pledges not to drink, smoke or dance. They were the ones who frowned upon evolution or "free-thinking."

As a child of the 1970s and '80s, I saw evangelicals as politically and socially conservative -- ever skeptical of culture and worried about what we were reading and watching. They bobbed for apples at "Harvest" parties instead of trick-or-treating on Halloween. They were the ones telling Kevin Bacon he couldn't be footloose and fancy free -- or maybe those were "fundamentalists." Did it matter? Was there even a difference?

Cold, Broken or Grumbled, Every Hallelujah Counts


As I lay on the kitchen floor -- my body rocking with sobs, my mouth telling my husband, "I hate my life" -- it never occurred to me to pick up the phone and call a friend.

To tell someone about the life I was living, in which over the last few years rug after rug kept getting pulled out from under me -- my parents divorced, my husband's business tanked, our debt rose, health issues loomed, and our marriage sagged under the weight of it all -- was not something I was wired to do.

In fact, I was mortified when my husband rounded the bend and saw me there, sprawled out on the tile, weeping. Crying and hurting is something I do best alone.