I’ve seen a few social media posts by pastors asking what they should preach about on Mother’s Day. I’ve seen other posts urging pastors not to preach about motherhood at all on Sunday, because some women can’t have babies, and some people had awful moms.
Here’s my two cents (which nobody asked for):
Keep in mind, I’m coming from the perspective of someone who had a traumatic and dysfunctional childhood. I survived over 20 years of domestic violence and sexual abuse. My earliest memories, dating to when I was about 2-years-old, are not the sort you talk about at parties. So, I am no stranger to evil or sorrow. In fact, even now, I find myself surprised and relieved when I’m treated with love and honor, because it’s still not what I’m used to.
Nevertheless, I think this idea that we can’t or shouldn’t celebrate the blessings of others holds us back. We’re called to weep with those who weep, but also to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). And I think there’s a good reason for that. I think we need balance and perspective.
Perhaps Mother’s Day is an opportunity to preach on positive examples of motherhood in the Bible. Perhaps we can examine the verses where God describes himself as having maternal attributes. (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34, Psalm 17:8, Psalm 57:1, Psalm 91:4, Isaiah 66:13, Deuteronomy 32:10-11, Hosea 13:8, just to list a few).
Should we idolize motherhood by viewing it as the ideal state all women should aspire to? No. That’s idolatrous and unhealthy.
A Christian woman’s value and identity are found in Jesus Christ, not in her relationship status or her fertility. Fertility is worshipped by pagans, not Christians.
But that doesn’t mean fertility isn’t a wonderful blessing, or that being a faithful wife and a godly mother isn’t something to be celebrated and honored.
“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs 31:28
For many years, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were days of grieving for me. So was Christmas, Thanksgiving, and my birthday. But isolating myself in my grief and refusing to rejoice with those who had good parents and healthy families didn’t help me heal or make me feel better.
Quite the opposite, I think that learning to celebrate other people’s happiness allowed some of their joy to shine through into my heart. If I had never learned to rejoice with those who rejoice, I think I’d have been stuck in my grief forever, unable to see beyond its dark veil.
I used to keep a Mother’s Day card tucked in my Bible, unsigned and unsent. I’d picked it out for my mom, but then we had a falling out, and sending it felt wrong … plus it wouldn’t have been received well.
I kept it in my Bible for over a year.
Then, one day, I found my daughter coloring it. At first I was upset. That card was a monument to a relationship I’d once had; a testament to a time when I still had hope and felt loved. Now, it was covered with toddler scribbles.
“I made a surprise for you, Mommy,” she said.
And suddenly I realized, Mother’s Day isn’t about my mom, or my past. It’s not even about my fertility. It’s about my daughter. It’s about me being the mother I never had. It’s about honoring the strength and dignity of godly women who point us to Jesus and protect us from evil.
Father’s Day too is not about my dad. It’s about my husband. It’s about my brothers in Christ. It’s about the men in my life who have been as fathers to me, teaching me what is good, defending me against evil, and building me up to be who I am as a woman in Jesus Christ.
These are things worth celebrating. These are people worth honoring. And sure, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are still days of grief for me. I may cry. But I’ll also laugh. And I’ll honor parents who have excelled where my parents failed. I will rejoice for and over their kids.
If we condemn ourselves to live in a state of constant grief, if we never dare to gaze beyond the borders of our sorrow, we may never know what joy is.
And that would be a very sad thing.
It’s OK to cry on Christmas.
It’s reasonable to want to forget your birthday.
But don’t forget love.
Don’t forget joy.
Let them in.
Rise to meet them.
Be there for life.
There is so much more to life than our own lives.
I have learned that I can mourn and rejoice at the same time. I can grieve the spiritual death in my past, and celebrate the life in other’s. Darkness and light, blue and gold, sorrow and joy, swirl together on the canvas of my soul to paint a picture as beautiful as any sunset.
This is the glory and redemptive work of God. It came slowly. He trickled and sprinkled glimmers of love into my darkness. My grief is still here, but its darkness makes my joy shine all the brighter by contrast. I am content. I’m grateful for the healing work of Christ in me.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!”