This Sunday we’re all supposed to celebrate mothers. On the surface it seems like a great idea. After all, we all have or had a mother. When you think about the daily sacrifice that goes into raising a child, setting aside one day a year to express our appreciation and thankfulness seems inadequate, the very least we can do.
But for many of us, the idea of motherhood isn’t that simple. As Facebook recognizes, relationships are sometimes complicated. Life is messy.
God tells us to honor our father and mother, but what if our mother was abusive? Do we still honor her on this day? For many, this is a day of struggling with forgiveness and healing.
Even the card manufacturers know that motherhood takes many guises. Just think of all the Mother’s Day cards for sale. Sure, there’s the basic “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.” Then there are cards that say, “Happy Mother’s Day to My Stepmom” and “You’re Like a Mother to Me.” That covers adoptive and foster moms, spiritual mentors, and that lady down the street who always listened to our teenage angst when we didn’t think our own moms would understand us.
Mother’s Day can be a day of grief.
Do we acknowledge women who were moms, but whose child has died? Are they still mothers? Some only knew their child as a positive pregnancy test, gone before they could ever be held. Does being pregnant, for however long, make a women a mother?
As a culture, we’re becoming more aware that many women long to be mothers, but cannot, for one reason or another. Perhaps they struggle with the hurt and indignity and frustration of infertility. Or they are single and believe children belong in a family. Some chose abortion and now live with guilt and regret, amplified this Sunday.
Maybe our mother is no longer living, and we lament the missed opportunities, the words that were never spoken, the empty place in our lives they once filled.
I’ve read a number of comments from women who refuse to attend church on Mother’s Day. When the pastor singles out “mothers,” the emotional toll is simply too much. Many advocate doing away with this day altogether.
While the holiday isn’t in the Bible, motherhood was God’s idea: “God blessed [Adam and Eve] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
Rather than eliminate Mother’s Day, maybe we need to refocus. Our culture demands that we look at ourselves. If we identify as a mother, it’s all about what our kids are going to give us—flowers, jewelry, candy, a meal out, or whatever else the ads are promoting this year—and the pressure to “do enough” for our own moms. If this is a difficult day for us, we look at our pain, our loss, our broken dreams.
Instead of looking inward, perhaps we need to focus on God. He has a thing or two to say about motherhood, and it applies to everyone.
- Paul asks that the Roman church “[g]reet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” (Romans 16:13, italics mine) Those who long to be mothers—how would God have you be a “mother” to others?
- Paul reminds the Thessalonians that “[j]ust as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you.” How do nursing mothers care for their children, and how can we care for others in this way? (It’s interesting that Paul, a man, uses this analogy!)
- He exhorts Timothy to “[t]reat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” What can motherhood teach us about how we should treat others?
Let Mother’s Day be a day to honor God’s perspective on motherhood. That’s something we can all celebrate.