A New Look at Mother’s Day
As little girls, my sister and I served our mother breakfast in bed and created hand-adorned Mother’s Day cards and gifts expressing our appreciation. In keeping with the old southern tradition, we all wore red rosebuds to church, except Daddy who wore white because his mother had died.
Most churches honor mothers in some way during the Sunday service with spoken tributes, flowers, or special meals. Mother’s Day was always a lovely celebration until I felt it was my turn to be a mother. Then it became a dreaded day of feeling alone, left out, and inadequate.
One year while we were waiting and hoping for pregnancy, I remember sitting in Westminster Presbyterian Church in Mobile, AL, holding back tears as several couples stood before us proudly presenting their infants for baptism. Everyone was dressed up and surrounded by adoring grandparents and flashing cameras. I was ashamed at my inability to rejoice with them, blinded by my obsession to have a child of my own.
I am mindful that any holiday which celebrates one group, inadvertently excludes others. I remember one Mother’s Day sermon about honoring our honorable mothers when the wounds of abuse could not be contained and a friend fled the sanctuary in tears. Such reactions are certainly not the pastor’s fault, but extra sensitivity and compassion are needed.
While many mothers rightfully beam with satisfaction on “their day,” others feel alone and wounded. Some will wait for the phone or doorbell to ring and be disappointed by a child too busy or too self-absorbed to reach out. Or worse, children may sling insults rather than praise.
I am especially blessed to still have my own mother not only alive, but healthy and engaged in life. At age 94, her mind is still sharp, she’s an avid reader and active in her church and neighborhood. But what about those who have recently lost their mothers? For many, Mother’s Day brings sadness and memories of a mother who has died and is no longer present to share joys, sorrows, delicious meals, and family memories.
Another friend confided that Mother’s Day is, for her, the worst day of the year because it reminds her of the children she never held after two abortions. Other women chose to give their children up for adoption while others have experienced the unimaginable pain of burying a child. Although I was blessed with three healthy children, I am reminded of the four children I lost in late miscarriages. In all kinds of situations, many mothers mourn children we never knew or have lost.
Another friend is single and never married. After 60 years of hearing Mother’s Day sermons, she confessed, “I listened year after year, being reminded of what I have missed by not bearing a child. I have felt at times like half a woman, not fulfilling God’s designed plan because I missed out on the mom thing.”
Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married, says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1)
So how is the church to respond? We are called to be the Body of Christ, to be mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters to one another.
The church is a family that recognizes each of us needs the other.
Ruth needs Naomi and Naomi needs Ruth. Timothy needs Paul and Paul needs Timothy. Eli needs Samuel and Samuel needs Eli.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts…there should be no division, but its parts should have equal concern for each other…Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it…(II Cor.)
“It takes a village” to raise a child and the church recognizes that no mother or father could possibly assume such a responsibility alone. We need the family of God—women and men, married and unmarried, young and old—to share the joys and challenges.
While Jesus was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him…Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m looking forward to a family reunion in the mountains. What more could I wish for on Mother’s Day? And making my joy complete, we will also honor Sarah and Nora, the most devoted, creative, and fun mothers I know!
Yet even as I bask in the love of my children and grandchildren this weekend, I will be mindful of the many “mothers” who loved and love them: my Aunt Betty, who never had children of her own, but who continues to unselfishly pour her love into us; Mary Alice, Sis, and Fran, who have prayed for my children since they were born; Cary, who continues to remember each child’s birthday; Wendy who follows them and corresponds on Facebook; and so many other “surrogate” moms and sisters and grandmas, teachers and mentors who have mothered them along the way. I could never have raised such amazing children on my own.
Be sensitive to unintended comments or practices which might alienate someone this Mother’s Day. Many in the pews are hurting and the church should be a safe place where every woman is honored, whether she has physically birthed a child or not.
If you purchase a Hallmark card for your mother, consider sending a second card to someone who also “mothered” you along the way. If you prepare a special meal or make a reservation at a favorite restaurant, consider inviting another woman who might otherwise be alone this Sunday.
For those who are investing in the lives of young people, thank you. For those who feel you have nothing to give, reach out and see what God can do in and through you!