Mother’s Day is one week away and I’ve been dreading it for several weeks. I also learned that today is “Bereaved Mother’s Day”. It wasn’t a day I was aware existed and I hate how I have learned of it. I have a complicated relationship with motherhood. Honestly, I think most people probably do in one way or another. Maybe, you have a strained relationship with your own mother or perhaps you have no relationship at all with your mom. Infertility could be your heartache and struggle. The desire to have children is great, and you haven’t been given the opportunity to care for your own children. Perhaps, adoption is taking longer than you hoped or the road has been much harder than anticipated. It’s possible, your children are estranged or rebellious. It may be that you had a wonderful relationship with your mother but she has passed away. Perhaps, like me, you are a mother who has lost a child. While the holiday is sweet and a wonderful tribute to moms it can also bring significant heartache.
Mother’s day is bittersweet, as are most things in this life.
Three years ago I was asked to lead a small group and facilitate discussion based of Gloria Furman’s book Missional Motherhood. I had three children at the time under the age of 5 and I felt completely inadequate to teach. But I knew that if the Lord had called me to the task, He would also equip me. Of course that was the case. If I’m honest, I only remember two things from that study. I remember that after the first meeting I came home, took a pregnancy test and found out I was expecting our fourth child. Later we would find out she was a girl and we would name her Jane. I spent the rest of the study battling fatigue and morning sickness, which is possibly the reason I don’t remember more from that time. The other thing I remember from the study was the question, “who are you mothering?”
The concept struck me immediately. Titus 2 tells older women to teach and train younger women. Matthew 28 clearly tells us to go and make disciples. Many places in Scripture we are admonished to teach, train and equip those around us. I have an earthly, biological mother. I am thankful for her. I also have been “mothered” by many Godly women throughout my life that I have never called mom. I have been discipled, taught and encouraged. So the question stands, who am I mothering?
This is where the complexity of calling and reality intermingle. I currently have three children in my home. They call me mommy and I am mothering them in the most traditional ways. I feed them, provide them a safe place to live, wash their clothes and meet their most basic physical needs. More importantly, I love them, comfort them, pray with them and for them. I aim to train them and disciple them. I desire to point them to Christ. I also have one child in my womb. God is knitting together a beautiful little girl and using my body to also care for her. I attend my regular doctor appointments, abstain from things that could bring her harm, take a prenatal vitamin and eat (mostly) healthy foods to meet her needs. I also pray for this sweet baby and desire that she will come to know the Lord at a young age. My fourth child, the one I found out about in the midst of pondering missional motherhood, is now with Jesus. The motherhood I knew with Jane is finished. I no longer need to meet her physical needs, I no longer need to point her to Jesus and pray for her. All of her needs are being met in the physical presence of the Lord Almighty.
The motherhood I knew with Jane is finished. I no longer need to meet her physical needs, I no longer need to point her to Jesus and pray for her.
“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan his future, or see her grandchild.” C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed)
The specifically maternal happiness I knew with Jane has ended. I won’t receive any more handprints from Jane on Mother’s Day. She will never answer a Mother’s day questionnaire about things she thinks or loves about me. I won’t receive a call or card from her in the future. But I have great joy knowing that Jane is with Jesus. I have great hope that I may still glorify and enjoy God forever. Mother’s day is bittersweet, as are most things in this life.
God gives us the opportunity to mother and be mothered. Motherhood changes. Motherhood doesn’t always look the way we think it will. I am more aware than ever that’s God ways are higher and I may never understand His plans. I will also never get over the fact that the Lord doesn’t need us, but allows us to take part in His will. Who are we mothering? The children God has graciously placed in our home? Absolutely. The younger women God has put in our life? I hope so. The children in your classroom? What a blessing. The neighbors right next to you? Yes, what an opportunity. These truths were a revelation to me three years ago. This is still truth, but it is more painful and personal now. I do want to take part in the motherhood God has given me. Even if it doesn’t look the way I thought or hoped. I realize, in the midst of heartache, an empty womb or home, this seems like a poor man’s excuse and hope. However, I think we need truth even more in times of pain and sorrow.
I want to take part in the motherhood God has given me. Even if it doesn’t look the way I thought or hoped.
This year Mother’s Day will be a reminder of many things. I’m reminded that this world is broken and not my home. I have lost someone precious to me. I have lost a part of my motherhood. I’m also reminded that God is good. Every good and perfect gift is from above, including the gift of motherhood. Maybe motherhood doesn’t look like you hoped it would look either, but what a gift to know that God is near. He desires to minister to you and have you minister the truth of the gospel to others. The truth that He is good and He offers hope is enough.