Once a month, I send an article to my pastoral clients that is written just for them. Usually, it addresses a question that one or more of them have asked either in a conference call or by email. This month’s letter was slightly different.
I wasn’t asked for my input on this one, I was just having a conversation with one of them and he happened to express some frustration/concern over how some of his people wanted to handle Mother’s Day.
I gave the matter some thought and tried to convey what was on my heart. With their permission, I am resharing that letter here.
Mother’s Day is this weekend. You’re probably going to, at the very least, recognize the mothers in attendance. Be careful when you do this.
As a quick perusal of this topic through the halls of Google will tell you, there are some who are adamantly opposed to this kind of recognition, either because it singles people out unfairly, or shows a great lack of consideration and/or sympathy for those in attendance who would like to be mothers but, for one reason or another, aren’t.
I think both of these are valid arguments, but they miss a greater perspective.
Who Is A Mom?
My recommendation is that when you take that moment to recognize mothers on Sunday – or as you study to prepare a sermon that celebrates all things motherhood – you make a point to illustrate that every woman in attendance has been, is, or will be a mother.
You see, motherhood isn’t simply about carrying and birthing a child. That is a huge part of it, to be sure, and I don’t mean to diminish it. But motherhood is about investing in another person’s life.
We like to use terms like “spiritual mother” or phrases like “she’s like another mother to me” and I am certain that people who say those things are earnest in their admiration and praise, but I sometimes wonder how seriously those words are taken by those about whom the words are spoken. It is a very real thing to be someone’s “spiritual” mother (or father, but that’s for June), or “mother in ministry.” Paulette Phillips is that for me. When I am confronted with a ministerial question that, I feel, needs a motherly point of view, she is the one I call. No simply because she is trustworthy, but because she is my “mother in ministry.”
It is a remarkably huge deal to play that kind of part in someone’s life. Somewhere, somehow, we let that role be diminished into something that is “important, but just not the same thing as being a ‘real’ mom.” (Actual quote from a friend of mine)
Put simply, I suggest that, this Mother’s Day you make a point of acknowledging those who take part in motherly activities in your church and/or community.
That woman who helps out at the elementary school? Whether she has biological children of her own or not, she’s a mom.
That woman who volunteers at the homeless shelter helping people get their lives back together, or just being there for them to have a shoulder to cry on? She’s a mom.
That teenage girl who has chosen to work in the nursery this past year? Yeah, she’s already a mom.
That senior lady who likes to stand out in the lobby and hug people as they come in? the one who knows everybody by name and asks how they’re doing and reminds them that she’s been praying for them? Mom.
That woman who is the wife of your kid’s football coach? The one who has had four miscarriages and was recently told she will probably never have children of her own? Well, you know how she welcomes those kids into her house every week, and gives them juice, snacks, and a safe place to hang out? She’s a mom.
You get my point. I hope.
Mother’s Day is bigger than recognizing women who have successfully birthed a child. It’s about recognizing the remarkable impact made by women of all ages who actively work toward improving the lives of those around them. They reflect the motherly image of God.
I’m Sorry… What Was That, Heretic?
Before I land this plane, let me state clearly that I am not saying that God is “she” or a “Mother Goddess” or anything like that.
But there are times in the Bible when God’s qualities and, particularly, His (see what I did there?) behavior toward us are described in maternal imagery. Let’s start from the beginning:
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:27
God Gives Birth
“You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” – Deuteronomy 32:18
God as a Mother Eagle
“Like the eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, God spreads wings to catch you, and carries you on pinions.” – Deuteronomy 32:11-12
God is a Comforting Mother
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 66:13
The book of Hosea is replete with these kinds of references.
“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I who took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” – Hosea 11:3-4
“Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder…” – Hosea 13:8
Again, I don’t want to diminish the profound frustration and sadness felt by those women who might feel somehow incomplete this Sunday, but I beg you not to let the “minefield” (as I heard it described recently) of Mother’s Day prevent you from bringing this truth to bear over your congregation: if you are a woman, who loves with the kind of love that only God can put in your heart, and you invest in the lives of people around you, then you are already a mother.
So, this Sunday, when you tell the mothers in the congregation to stand up, maybe make a show of it (you will have to apply discretion according to your congregants and, as always, follow the lead of the Holy Spirit more than you do my words). “No, I said all the mothers. ALL the mothers… Miss Betty, you work in the nursery don’t you? Well, you’re a mother to those children. Stand up and be recognized. Miss Linda, we all wept with you last November when you had that miscarriage. But you’re still a mom. Stand up and be recognized”
Then take a moment to have everybody else look around the room and think about all the mom’s in their lives they forgot to remember themselves this Mother’s Day, and remind them that the local drugstore might still have cards if they hurry there after church.
[reminder]How will you remember and recognize all of the mothers in your life this Mother’s Day?[/reminder]