Mothering by Faith / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials.
— Meryl Streep
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1 NRSV

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: My experience as a mother has often left me feeling inadequate, insecure, and totally helpless. It started the moment I rocked Big Girl in my arms for the first time seven years ago and has not stopped. This is normal, I know. It’s the stuff of motherhood. The problem is, I was a people pleasing, wanting to do everything right the first time, control freak BEFORE having children. Imagine me now…


Today was the first day of school. Big Girl started second grade. Baby Girl started kindergarten. They were excited, but I must confess that when I dropped them off this morning, a panic set in and my mind raced: Would they be happy? Would they feel confident and capable in their studies? Would they be safe?

Would they be safe?

This is my biggest concern. With the proliferation of gun violence in our nation, I worry about their physical safety. The reality is that our children are growing up in an age of active shooter drills in schools. I also worry about them being safe from sexual predators. I was Big Girl’s age when I was molested. I shudder at the thought of anyone violating them. I worry about their emotional safety. Kids can be downright cruel to each other. They also have new ways of being cruel, including technology that parents are often unaware of. Bullying aside, I also worry that they as Black girls in predominantly Indian and White classrooms may not be encouraged and supported the same as their peers. Research shows that Black girls are either rendered invisible/overlooked/ignored in classrooms or they are penalized/criminalized for the Blackness. All of this worry leaves me feeling helpless. 

This is where mothering by faith comes in. 

The Bible records that without faith it is impossible to please God. I believe it is also impossible to raise Black girls in this current social and political climate without faith. My faith in God helps me to imagine the future that God has planned for my bright, beautiful, brown girls. My faith in God assures me that there is some stuff God has in store for them. My faith in God gives me sight beyond what I see to know that God is going to use them for His glory. My faith in God helps me to be calm and sober when they are sick. My faith in God helps me not to lose my natural mind when their energy is more than I can bear. My faith in God helps me to remind them that they are fearfully and wonderfully made when their classmates question the brown of their skin, the kink in their hair, and the strength of their legs. And, as it did this morning, my faith in God helps me to release them into this cruel and broken world knowing that God loves them and holds them as they journey through their day engaging in the learning process, playing with friends, and developing into the girls God created them to be. 

I am blessed to have a ten minute car ride between Baby Girl’s drop off and arriving at work. My car is sacred space. It is my praying ground. The reality is, I could not imagine dropping them off without covering them in prayer. I am foolish  enough to believe that just as the prayers of my mother covered me, that my prayers will cover our girls. In fact, it’s the only thing that calms my heart so I can go about my day doing the work that God has called me to do. 

Since faith without works is dead, hubby and I also do our part to keep them safe. We are present at school events and we stay in regular communication with their teachers. We speak plainly with them about their bodies and what to do if someone, anyone touches them inappropriately. We encourage them and affirm their gifts so that each and every time they leave our home, they know who they are and how magnificent they are. For me, this is what it means to mother by faith.

As I reflect on this idea of mothering by faith, I recognize that we must move this conversation from a micro to a macro level. What I mean is that it is great that hubby and I take these actions, but change must occur on a structural level. Prayer is good AND we need stricter gun laws. Prayer is good AND we need to obliterate rape culture that renders the bodies of girls and women unsafe in the presence of power hungry men (‘cause it ain’t about sex, y’all). Prayer is good AND we need to make sure the Bully-in-Chief is not re-elected. Prayer is good AND we have to reify the worth, wisdom, wit, and winsomeness (come thru alliteration) of Black women and girls. I can’t mother by faith by myself. For the sake of all of our girls, we need the church and community to mother by faith alongside all the Black mothers raising beautiful girls in this broken world.

Beloveds, what does it mean for you to mother by faith?

(As a Black woman mothering two Black girls, I can only speak to my experience. I did learn today on Facebook that Dr. Tamura Lomax has a book forthcoming entitled “Parenting Against Patriarchy: Raising Non-Toxic Sons in White Supremacist America” that is bound to be a game changer if her past work is any indication.)