(Photo courtesy of First Baptist Church Atlanta)
ATLANTA – Dorothy Patterson, professor of theology and women's studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and wife of SWBTS President Paige Patterson, spoke on the importance of embracing biblical womanhood and challenged ladies to cultivate vision, creativity, and courage in every stage of life as Mother's Day approaches.
In her unique and scholarly style, Dr. Patterson gave the keynote message at First Baptist Church Atlanta's annual Mother-Daughter Luncheon on May 4, speaking to over 300 attendees spanning four generations and ranging in age from eight to 94 years old.
"No woman misses out on the mothering DNA," said Patterson, explaining that although not every woman is a mother, all women are blessed with "a nurturing sensitivity, a maternal urge, and a sheer love of life," qualities that women should harness in order to fulfill their God-given potential.
Patterson's message was based on the biblical account of Moses' birth in Exodus chapter two. Highlighting the examples of Jochebed and Miriam, the mother and sister of Moses, Patterson demonstrated the importance of personal faith and obedience, alertness and resourcefulness, and mentoring and preparation. "A mother was faithful in training her daughter, and the daughter was faithful in doing that which she had been trained to do… and God brought everything together," she said.
Both Jochebed and Miriam took staggering risks but also experienced profound rewards, Patterson explained. "Jochebed had a strong bedrock faith, as she believed God would prevail and she was willing to wait on His deliverance. As a life-bearer and sustainer and nurturer, she protected her child in the womb and then out of the womb. And she was willing to make sacrifices, take risks, and release her child unto the Lord," she said. "Her reward was her son, Moses, the leader of Israel, her son, Aaron, and her daughter, Miriam, each of whom had very significant roles in history."
Jochebed's daughter Miriam had a godly family legacy and responded with an attitude of obedience, maintained Patterson. "Miriam was preparing by watching and learning from her mother, and became her partner in the great task of saving her baby brother. She was alert and sensitive, embraced creative and resourceful actions, and took tremendous risks, but soon experienced the results of her investment," she said. "The reward for Miriam's faithfulness was the joy of serving the Lord in an extraordinary way."
Mothers and daughters essentially face the same challenges today, contended Patterson, as she exhorted each woman to cultivate vision, creativity, and courage.
"A great mother is blessed with vision as she sees the best in her child and has a wonderful opportunity to stretch that child to do big things; she is blessed with creativity as she never gives up, and she is going to be a woman of courage willing to make personal sacrifices," explained Patterson. "In a sense, you have worked all this time raising your children but you don't have something to put on your mantle, except maybe a picture," she continued. "But as a mother you are relentless, knowing that your rewards will come but may not come until you get to the pearly gates… and then what a crown you can put at the feet of Jesus."
Similarly, daughters of all ages must understand their important roles in the family and intentionally approach their responsibilities with purpose and resolve, urged Patterson. "A young girl should be a woman of vision from her childhood, knowing it is important to pay attention and be obedient; she must be creative – to be able put up with her mother and to make her own way – to do what God wants her to do," she said. "As you are young and moving forward, be a young woman of courage. Stand against the odds, stand firm on God's truth, and let the fads pass you by."
Patterson acknowledged that much of her inspiration comes from her own mother who is now 91 years of age. "When I was in high school, I was a skinny and shy little girl and experienced agonizing physical pain," she recounted. "I never dreamed that I would have the life I have today, but my mother did… and she still prays for me every single day."
The message resonated with the diverse group of attendees, and organizers were very encouraged by the response. "When we study Exodus 2, the focus is always on Moses and God's plan of deliverance for His people through him," said Donna Ford, Director of Ministries to Women and Children at First Baptist Atlanta. "The insights Dr. Patterson shared about Jochebed and Miriam as mother and daughter in this passage were amazing, applicable, and inspiring. I loved it!"
Patterson was introduced at the event by Anthony George, associate pastor at First Baptist Atlanta, who described her as "a woman who wears many hats – professor and scholar, accomplished author, First Lady of a seminary, and most importantly, wife, mother, and grandmother." Commending Patterson's lifetime of devotion to women's studies, George called Patterson "a prophetic voice to an anti-family culture, fearless and unwavering in her theology of womanhood." George – a graduate of Criswell College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, institutions where Patterson was First Lady – also remarked on her unparalleled ministry of hospitality. "For 25 years I've watched the Pattersons host millionaires and maintenance workers alike at their table, demonstrating through food and kindness that hospitality is the universal language of the love of Jesus."
One of today's leading scholars on the topic of biblical womanhood, Patterson received a Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary and a Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa. She has authored numerous books and articles, including Touched by Greatness: Women in the Life of Moses, BeAttitudes for Women, A Woman Seeking God: Discover God in the Places of Your Life, and The Christian Homemaker's Handbook, published in March of this year. She and her husband, Paige, have traveled in ministry to over 125 countries.