Mother’s Day, a day of…mourning?

Hey everybody.

So, I forgot that this happened last year, although I seem to remember it in the back of my foggy brain. But I started to notice it again this year.

For lack of a better term, it is the “Anti-Mother’s Day” posts. A blog here, a status there, an article in the mix. Many of which talk about the difficulties in the author’s life surrounding Mother’s Day. They seem to be in 3 categories: 1.) Valuing mothers above other women devalue the life of women who are not mothers by choice, who chose a career instead. 2.) Valuing mothers brings up the hurt of infertility and miscarriage, in other word, women who cannot be mothers because of tragedy. 3.) Valuing mothers bring up the hurts of those whose relationship with their mother is painful or dysfunctional.

I am not going to deal with the first one, because I don’t want to. Just because we actively value mothers doesn’t mean we actively devalue women who choose careers. The second and third categories are ones that I want to focus on, and especially from the point of view of the Body of Christ. Here it goes:

1.) Honoring someone is different than suffering with someone.

Motherhood is wonderful and beautiful. Why would honoring that ever be a bad thing? 1 Corinthians 12:22-27 says,

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.”

This Sunday is a time of honor, and for a group of individuals who do quite a bit for not a lot of credit. I work in a church that has a large amount of working moms, and I tell you what, those women amaze me with how they care for their families. So please understand, you may be personally suffering in some way, but that doesn’t detract from the honor of others. I think was frustrates me about the fact that Mother’s Day is being put down is that it is out of place and inappropriate. Please understand, I am not downplaying pain or grief, I will be getting to that in a moment. But there is no need to downplay the honor that is due to good mothers. We deal with joy in different ways than we deal with grief. It would be HORRIBLY offensive to have an “Unable to be a mother’s day” because we give honor differently than we suffer. We honor by lifting up, looking at the good and laughing together. We mourn by holding  each other up, looking at the heartache, and crying together. Those holidays that remember suffering and pain are fundamentally different. Mother’s Day is not meant to remember pain, although it is a part of every one of our lives in different ways and certainly is a part of every mother’s experience. And that leads me to the second point:

2.) In the Body of Christ, there will always be those who are mourning and those who are rejoicing.

When the preacher this Sunday morning praises mothers who are faithful and selfless, there are those in the Body who will feel the hurt of a faithless and selfish mother. When the preacher praises mothers for bearing and caring for children, there will be women who long to bear a child and have had that taken from them or are unable to. With all the sentimental tears being shed on this coming Sunday, there will be tears of heartache, loss, and pain that accompany them. Romans 12:15 has something to say here: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” It is a wonderful verse, but life is messy sometimes. We will have in the midst of our celebration on Sunday those who are mourning. It works in reverse too. You may see a newborn child at the funeral of a loved one, or be mourning the loss of close friendships while looking forward to a new job or location. You and I are still called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. That is why I am excited to see a young man or woman who did not have the best relationship with their mother praise a mother they respect. That is why I hope to see hand held, hugs given, and tears shed with those who have suffered the loss of miscarriage or the constant pain of infertility. Those who are in mourning are not honored any less, just differently; those who are rejoicing are honored as well.

So this Sunday, let’s be together. Let’s lift up those who rejoice, while not forgetting those who are mourning. Let’s honor those who have done so much to love us while also being there for those who have suffered so much.

And have a happy Mother’s Day!

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3 comments

  1. rshirt

    So do you contend that it’s inappropriate to acknowledge the suffering at the same time as the rejoicing? Mother’s Day wouldn’t be any less a celebration if we said, “we acknowledge those among us who do not yet have children, but who also serve their families daily”? A wife has too much on her plate whether she has children or not. Don’t belabor the point, but some small acknowledgement of her efforts is also appropriate, and when better?

    I have clear memories of the years that infertility visited our house. People wondered what was wrong with us. Were we child molesters? Did we dislike children? Were we being punished by God for some hidden sin? Were we too selfish to want children?

    Beyond the weekly prayers of blessing on the mothers and the couples who “chose to follow God’s plan and multiply,” which were bad enough, then came Mother’s Day, with the flowers and the special plans and gifts and further honor because their bodies did not betray them. I knew that mothers were thought to carry a heavier burden, but we were excluded from every group in and out of the church because we had the temerity to be married for so long without children–whether by choice or not. And there were still those suspicious glances and the questions about our intent. I finally stayed responding with comments such as, “I’ve never prevented a pregnancy, but I have lost #.”

    Infertility is something that everyone judges-consciously or not-because it’s not “normal.” An acknowledgement of the work of a wife is also appropriate on Mother’s Day.

    • jcharleshawkins

      I typed a long response, but I deleted it. Your comment makes me angry for this reason: why would anyone ever judge another person for infertility? I have in my own life experiences of loss, infertility and miscarriage. It is extremely personal and not something to be judged from the outside. THAT is the biggest problem to me, that we don’t know what is going on with another member in the Body of Christ and we treat them harshly. It is like the hand seeing that there is a problem in the eye, and instead of healing it, gouging it out. It makes me mad, although I am convicted as well for the way I have judged.

      I think it is absolutely appropriate to acknowledge the suffering why we rejoice; I just don’t know how to do that in a public way. I even missed one rather significant area of suffering on Mother’s Day: those who just recently lost their mother. I will think more about this, but I think I am wrong in the post about not saying anything in a public way. Thanks for your comment, it really made me think!

      • rshirt

        It was certainly not my intention to make you angry! But it is exactly what we experienced. And if I made you–or any brother or sister–think about their response to childless couples, I’ve done my job as a teacher and a sister.

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