Mother’s Day: handle with care
by Joyce Rempel
Mother’s Day is coming the second Sunday in May. Many look forward to it. A few don’t. Churches routinely observe it. Yet some research on this century-old tradition suggests that public recognition can inflict as much pain as joy.
Some mothers find it hard to accept recognition when they feel unsuccessful. “It stems from my feelings of ineptitude,” said Terry. “My children struggled with self-esteem, depression and anxiety. I feel sometimes I have failed them.”
On the flip side, some moms are high maintenance. “Motherhood was not a privilege in my eyes,” said Debbie, mom to four children. “It was a right; I felt I should be valued and doted on. That didn’t happen.”
After Debbie lost her own mother to cancer, Mother’s Day was devastating. The lack of thoughtful foresight by her pastor created unintentional pain.
“I thought of Mother’s Day for my wife,” her pastor admitted from the pulpit, “but didn’t think about it for Sunday.” Polite laughter. Nothing else was said.
“The following year,” Debbie says, “I decided to drive the day for my family. Another mistake,” she laughs. “It involved skipping church and doing family stuff. They were obliged. We had fun, but I felt like a selfish ogre.”
Compared to the mythical “Perfect Mother,” no one wins. The single woman thinks others are suggesting, since she is not a mother, that she is somehow incomplete. Eva’s sons won’t speak to her. A divorced father struggles to help his children understand why their mother left. Sue is unable to conceive. Jackie endured miscarriage. Jennifer’s husband doesn’t want children. Sheila’s child is killed. Debbie was robbed of an adult relationship with her mother due to cancer.
These women and thousands like them are coming to worship God, struggling to make sense of pain. The church has a responsibility to bind up the broken. How do we gratefully honour our beloved mothers without intimating that others are somehow lacking? Do special recognition ceremonies belong within a corporate gathering dedicated to the worship of God? When the Body of Christ has so many diverse members, should we be elevating one role above another?
Mark, a missionary in South America laments, “I struggle with that question every time Mother’s Day rolls around. There is no way to cancel it.”
This is not about political correctness. It is about being mercifully aware of the wounded. With forethought and sensitivity, seek to heal. Debbie and her family found relief when a new pastor reminded them that any human celebration must be subject to the Gospel. There were no elaborate acknowledgements in the worship service with flowers for all the mothers or a contest to see who was the youngest, oldest or had the most children. The pastor reminded the mothers, “You are being made by that which you are making.” In other words, our character is shaped by the relationships we nurture. Conflict or kindness, teaching, mutual submission, service; how we respond in every area of our relationships molds who we become and who our family members become. The pastor then addressed everyone, tied them personally to the subject and gave them marching orders in living the Gospel every day, not just on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
“There were healing tears,” Debbie said, “I was at peace, and I’m sure somewhere down in his soul, my husband was exercising a healthy sigh of relief.”
“Everyone has a mother,” Terry said. “It’s not wrong to recognize the value in motherhood and honour the contribution it brings to our lives, but we must keep it in perspective: Christ determines our identity. He says we are beloved, forgiven, a masterpiece of His hand.”
We must each recognize our own role and help others recognize theirs. Honour motherhood, but do not elevate it above our identity in Christ.
Our priority is honouring Him.
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