Nurture and nature: The contradictory role of mothers1

by | May 9, 2021

Cyndi and I watched an episode of the dramatic series, The Good Doctor, which featured two mothers finding love for their sons to be a stronger bond than their differences. Their lives intersected at a demonstration – on different sides of an argument. The writers were vague on the women’s differences except for footage of a make-believe demonstration about Proposition 266.

A tragedy all too familiar interrupted the demonstrations. Their sons were shot during the rally—one in the head and the other in the heart. The brain is known for the source of reasoning and the heart, a metaphor for empathy. Reason calls for accountability, while empathy screams for nurture.

Mothers are often faced with what can feel like contradictory roles.

This story reminded me of how often our minds and heart are on different sides of an argument. We crave equilibrium. When this happens, we either fabricate a logical argument or ignore the warnings of our hearts, leaving us conflicted.

Images of landfills and pictures of hungry children can take me on a journey of contradictions. The images illustrate a paradox of discarded abundance and images of scarcity. In this week’s reading from the book, The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs, we learn that our landfills contain a large amount of biomass. The substance that turns into healthy soil produces food when handled responsibly.

The earth is the source of food which gives us the physical nourishment that we need to live.

We often refer to earth as mother earth because it offers us nurture. The earth provides oxygen, food, and water — all required to sustain life. The earth also provides nutrients for an abundant life. And the earth offers resources that fuel our creative minds and beauty that inspires us. It’s no wonder that we sense God at work when we observe the power and awe of the planet we live on.

One of the moms in The Good Doctor episode took her son to the demonstration despite his objections. She wanted her son to learn the importance of voice. Democracy fails when public leaders are not held accountable.

After this mom’s son was shot in the back of the head, she wanted to hold the other side accountable. And the only representative from the “other side” was the mom of the boy shot in the heart.

The earth also holds us accountable. We often witness the earth reclaiming lives with violent storms, severe temperatures, and the process of decay. Individuals living in adverse conditions learn to respect the earth, realizing that while the earth offers nurture, it also holds each of us accountable. Global warming is rapidly changing weather patterns as the earth holds us accountable for our abuse.

Mother earth offers nurture but holds us accountable.

Nurture and nature: The contradictory role of mothersThere was a risk in taking their sons to a demonstration. Passionate crowds quickly get out of hand. While most demonstrations are peaceful, competing sides close enough to taunt one another have a way of raising the temperature. There’s a reason that fans are separated by the field of play at sporting events. But for these moms, the risk was worth exercising our freedom to be heard.

The contradictory responses of nurture and accountability are packed with risk. A farmer that leaves hens unattended in a pasture risks the loss of one or more to predators. The alternative presumes that safety is found in bondage. This is an affront to nature.

As a child, I often played outside and walked barefoot in clover. Given my allergy to bees, this freedom was a risk for me. I’m grateful that my mom didn’t keep me caged up for my own safety. The bees held me accountable to stay off their backs, and my mom came to my rescue when I stepped on top of one with unprotected feet.

And the bees risked their lives gathering pollen from the flowers in our yard. They were too busy being bees to search for safer landscapes void of children playing. I’m grateful that bees do what they do. We should all be thankful since bees are vital to our local food chain. Biologists warn us that bees are a bellwether for harm to our planet.

Joel Salatin, the author of The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs, argues that allowing chickens the freedom to be chickens, pigs to be pigs, and cows to be cows, comes with risk. But this tradeoff of nurture and accountability is built into the divine order. There is no freedom without risk.

And there is no nurture without accountability.

Joel also encourages us to realize that it is often best to give up short-term gain for longer-term rewards. Moms know that rushing to aid a child losing his balance as he is learning to walk hinders his progress. Infants need the freedom to explore, fall down, and try again. Nurture offers freedom to be who God created us to be.

The prophecies of the individuals we collectively name Isaiah focus on a time of accountability and nurture for the people of the nation of Judah. Descendants of people God freed from slavery, they turned their back on the agreement God made with humankind. They chose short-term profit over the well-being of God’s creation. And God held them accountable.

Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore?
Isaiah 49:15

But God’s glory, that which makes God unique, is both nurture and accountability. The people longed to know that God had not abandoned them. Using Isaiah as a mouthpiece, God assured the people that they are loved. God asks, “Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore?” (Isaiah 49:15).

We were created from the same soil that nourishes carrots and squash. And the earth that God made to sustain us also holds us accountable. God is like a mother who tends to our wounds when we scrape our knees while reminding us of the perils of skateboards. Likewise, the earth both nourishes and holds us accountable.

This week’s lesson connects our respect for motherhood with the care that we owe to all creation in honor of all mothers. Nurture and nature have much in common, as do mothers and the earth that sustains us.


We began our new. Living water, series two weeks ago. If you missed our earlier episodes, you can find the articles under the Worship tab of our website — Messages and Audio Teachings. Our primary subject matter is food. How we grow it, where we get our food, and how we treat creation in the process.

In this series we explore God’s abundance and our role in its equitable use and distribution. Be sure to request your copy of Joel Salatin’s book. And join us each Wednesday at Noon for Book Club and each Sunday at 10:30 am for New Beginnings.

We have a new button on the homepage of our websiteClick here to watch. This button takes you to a viewer to allow you to join live or watch later in the week. We’re also live on Facebook and our newly launched YouTube channel. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy

1 Most of the content for our series comes from: Joel Salatin. The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation. New York: FaithWords, a Division of Hachette Book Group, 2016.

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