Mothers Translate

On the day of Pentecost….”All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” – Acts 2:4

Back in the early church, rich and poor, all genders, all ages, religious and non-religious  – in other words, a whole messy mix of people – tried following Jesus together. It must have felt like a bus full of people who were all singing along to different iPods. 

What a noise that must have been. What a minefield of misunderstandings. But on the day of Pentecost, for just a minute, the Holy Spirit visited and allowed them all to understand one another. Even across the generations.

Last week on Mother’s Day, we remembered those who gave birth to us, or raised us. But on Mother’s Day, I also like to remember all the people who may not have been called “mothers,” butwho mothered us nonetheless. On Mother’s Day, I like to focus on mother as a verb, rather than a noun.

Not everyone is a mother as a noun, but everyone can have the qualities of a good mother. Similarly, not everyone gets a good mother, as in the noun, but everyone can receive good mothering, as in the verb.

A lot of what good mothers do is translate. They tell children “Use your words!” They help siblings to understand each other. They interpret the world of adults into games that a child can understand. They reflect back what a child’s words sounded like, maybe helping them learn to say it differently the next time.

The Holy Spirit is the mother of us all, translating constantly, in the hope that her children will learn to love, live and laugh.


Thank you for the Holy Spirit that ignites our childlike hearts with the spark that we are loved. Amen. 

16177.jpg About the Author
Lillian Daniel is the Senior Minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Dubuque, Iowa, and the author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” is Not Enough.