Mother’s Day Joy and Sorrow Mingled Together

It’s time for Mother’s Day once more.

Yay!  Moms are the best!”  That’s supposed to be our reaction to Mother’s Day.

And if you’re a Mom then your reaction is supposed to be something like this: “Being a mother is the most amazing blessing that can ever be imagined!  I’m so jazzed about being a mom!

Unfortunately, these are not the only reactions that people have on Mother’s Day.  For a lot of people, Mother’s Day is difficult.

So when we observe Mother’s Day this year, and every year going forward, let’s keep in mind the real potential for pain in some people’s lives.

Mother’s Day Pain

Here are a few examples of people who may be suffering on Mother’s Day…

  • People whose moms have died, whether recently or a long time ago.
  • Women who are unable to have children.
  • Women who don’t have children but wish they did.
  • Single moms who are reminded on Mother’s Day of the loneliness of their situation.
  • Moms whose children have died, whether recently or a long time ago.
  • Women who have spent tons of money on infertility treatments that haven’t worked.
  • Women who are in the process of adoption.
  • Women who have had failed adoptions.
  • Adoptive moms who may have a hard time believing that they’re really moms.
  • Women who have placed children for adoption and all the pain and heartache that accompanies this courageous choice.
  • Foster children, adoptive children, children raised without a mother, and other children who have issues identifying who their moms are.
  • Moms whose children live a long way away.
  • Women who long to have grandchildren but do not yet.
  • The mothers whose relationships with their children are broken.
  • Women who are pregnant; they may wonder if they count yet.
  • Women who have terminated pregnancies.
  • Foster moms whose lives are often chaotic and their efforts unheralded.
  • Single women who deeply long to have a family.
  • Women who serve as the mother for children in their community whose biological mothers are unavailable for one reason or another.
  • Mothers who are incarcerated and separated from their children.
  • Children whose mothers are incarcerated.
  • Children who suffer or who have suffered at the hands of their mothers.
  • Mothers who hurt or have hurt their children.
  • New moms who are frazzled, sleepy, and doubtful about their capabilities as parents.
  • Women who have suffered miscarriages.
  • Children of moms who are terminally ill.
  • Moms of children who are terminally ill.
  • Women in the midst of a crisis pregnancy.
  • Women who have been sexually abused.
  • Step-moms who are seeking to navigate the complicated waters of a blended family.
  • Moms whose jobs take them a long way from home, whether because of the military, business, or anything else.
  • Children whose moms are not at home due to their service in the military, their jobs, or anything else.
  • Moms whose partners are a long way from home, whether because of the military, business, or anything else.
  • Moms of children with special needs who are overwhelmed and tired and who often blame themselves for the diagnoses of their children.
  • Working moms who have to cope with daily pain and doubt.
  • Stay at home moms who may feel like they aren’t making a contribution.
  • Moms everywhere who suffer under the judgment of our society, the men in their lives, their families, other mothers, and themselves.
  • All the other mothers that I left unnamed.
  • And all the men who are attached to any of the women above.

And, friends, I know lots and lots of women who fit the categories above and have sat with, prayed with, and cried with them.

Now What?

So should the pain that many have on Mother’s Day change the way we talk about it and celebrate it?  Absolutely!  Especially as followers of Jesus and especially during our worship services on Mother’s Day.

But, if you are in contact with your mom, your grandmother, or the mother of your children, you should absolutely reach out to them on Mother’s Day.  If there’s drama between you, that’s fine; reach out any way.  As followers of Jesus we are called to reconciliation, which is often really difficult!

But for many of us who have neutral, good, or amazing relationships with our moms, we should tell our moms how much we love them and how thankful we are for them.  It’s really pretty simple — express love and gratitude!

But in our churches we should probably do things a bit differently than we typically do.  Convention says that from the stage or pulpit we should have a spiel about Mother’s Day and how “being a mom is the highest calling.”  Then we ask all of the moms in the audience to stand and we applaud them.

I think that all of that is wrong and we shouldn’t do it.

Why?  What’s wrong with acknowledging moms and their hard work and sacrifice?

Several things:

  1. Being a mom, or a parent for that matter, isn’t the highest calling.  Following Jesus and obeying all that he commanded us is the highest calling.  Think about it: if being a mom, or a parent generally, was the highest calling, then lots of folks around the world who do not know or follow God are living out that highest calling.  That just doesn’t make sense.  Besides, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7.7, said that he wished people would stay single as he was.  And Jesus was single and many of the leaders of the early church were single.  Being married and having children is a blessing from God — but it’s certainly not the best of all blessings, the way that many people in the church make it out to be!  By the way and for the official record, I’m happily married and I’m a father.  I’m not writing this out of frustration over being single or not being a parent.  And I’m not writing this because I don’t like being married or being a father.
  2. Having all the moms stand is horribly painful for all the women present who might fit one of the pain categories listed above.  It’s so bad that many women simply stay home from church on Mother’s Day to avoid the pain, shame, and guilt of not standing and being applauded.  Furthermore, we aren’t at church to celebrate moms anyway; we’re there to celebrate what God is doing in our lives and to worship him.  Can moms be mentioned in our services.  Sure!  But we need to find ways to do it that won’t marginalize and hurt all the women for whom Mother’s Day is painful.
  3. And, lastly, Mother’s Day is not a Christian holiday.  It was started by a woman who wanted to honor her own mother.  She fought for years to get Congress to make Mother’s Day an official holiday and it finally worked!  But shortly thereafter Mother’s Day shifted from being a simple day to tell our own mothers we love and appreciate them to becoming a commercialistic behemoth.  It got so bad, so fast, that the founder of Mother’s Day begged Congress to repeal it!  And things haven’t gotten better.  I mean, have you been to the store this week?  So from it’s beginning to the way it is observed today, Mother’s Day is not a Christian holiday and it seems to promote frivolous spending on trinkets that will simply gather dust.

So What Then?

What can we do instead?  If we talk about Mother’s Day in our churches, can we do so from the perspective of Scripture?  Can we do so in ways that bring honor to moms and that don’t cause undue pain?

And can we pray in ways that affirm all women and not just moms?

Here’s an example prayer.  Do with it what you will.

Father,

Thank you for caring for us, for leading us, and for calling us to be your disciples.  We each have a story that has brought us to today.  Some of our stories are idyllic and beautiful, full of loving homes, caring mothers, and wonderful children.  But others of us have different stories, stories full of pain, suffering, isolation, frustration, shame, guilt, and unfulfilled hopes.  And in light of the stark differences that a day like Mother’s Day brings up for us, we are in awe of the fact that you can create beauty, unity, and peace in spite of how different we all are.  But we are grateful Father that you have led us to where we are today.  We deeply appreciate that you’ve been with us each step of the way.  And for those of us who celebrate today, you celebrate along side us!  And for those of us who suffer today, we share in the fellowship of your suffering.  Father, help us grow from our stories.  Teach us and move us to be excellent caregivers, showing love by putting the interests of others before our own.  Today, on Mother’s Day, we celebrate you and your power to reconcile all things to yourself through Christ Jesus our Lord.  It’s in his name we pray; Amen.

 

What do you think?  How can we responsibly observe Mother’s Day as followers of Jesus?

Stretching: Learning and Growing

That’s my son Myron doing one of his favorite things in the world — stretching!

Watching him do this several times each day has got me thinking, what is stretching me?

What’s Stretching Me at the Moment…

Here are a few of the things that are stretching me, causing me to grow and to learn (in no particular order):

  1. School.  I’ve been in school for what seems like forever.  Finishing my PhD has required so much perseverance and patience, the second of which I don’t come by naturally.  If all continues to go well, I should be finished this summer.  *Fingers crossed*
  2. Marriage.  I’ve said it many times that I didn’t know how selfish I was until I got married.  And that statement is as true today as it was in 2002 when I first got married!  The stretching caused by marriage is varied but it is definitely effective!  To me, the hardest part of marriage is choosing each day to put the interests of my wife before my own.  Man, why is it so hard not to be selfish!?
  3. Parenthood.  Since being a dad is so new to me (only one month in!), it feels like the thing that is stretching me the most right now!  I’m learning to live on less sleep, to prioritize differently, and to do things that I hadn’t done often before.  But most of all, fatherhood is teaching me that my capacity for love is much greater than I ever imagined!  When I heard Myron’s first cry, I felt like the Grinch at the end of the book: my heart grew three sizes!
  4. Leadership.  Whether in official capacities or informal ones, being a leader is always a stretching experience!  Not unlike marriage and parenthood, being a good leader means putting the interests and needs of others at the forefront.  This is always unnatural, or at least it is for me!
  5. Spiritual Disciplines.  I’m not a planner.  I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-er.  And with regard to spirituality, spontaneity is not always best!  In my experience, it is best to have some spiritual practices (such as prayer, Bible reading, fasting, etc.) which are a regular part of my life.  For me, the one that creates the most stretching in me is daily, devotional Bible reading.  For me this is a challenge because when I read the Bible I constantly think about it either as an academic, thinking about all the grammatical, historical, and theological issues, or as a teacher, thinking about how to communicate the truths found within to others.  It is a daily struggle for me to find personal, spiritual meaning from the Bible.  This discipline helps me grow!
  6. Work.  I’m about to embark on a new assignment at work and it will be a stretching process!  I’m excited to see how God grows me and my community through this opportunity.  But I’m also quite aware that things will be difficult at times and that I’ll have to find creative ways to move forward or to step aside and let others take the limelight.  I’m looking forward to the challenge.

 

So, what kinds of things are stretching you in your life right now?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

Ultrasound of Our Future

Ultrasound

An ultrasound machine like this one granted us our first look at a face that will forever change our lives.

 

Ultrasound of Our Baby

My wife and I have been having a lot of life-changing days lately.  This is due to the fact that we’re in the process of adopting.  You can read some about it at this link, this link, or this one.

Yesterday was another one of those days — I was blessed with the opportunity of going to our birthmother’s ultrasound appointment.  It was a complete trip!  I was so excited to see the face of our child for the first time, thanks to the ultrasound machine and technicians; all while getting to have a wonderful conversation with the child of Wendy, our birthmother (who is also my cousin and her daughter will be our child’s cousin and biological sister).

While the whole scenario was certainly surreal, like much of this process has been, the reality of the situation began to sink in more and more fully.  I was looking at pictures of our child on the ultrasound monitor after all — his or her feet, hands, legs, heart, organs, brain, eyes, arms, face…

It was beyond belief!

Want to see the star of the show?  Here you go!

ultrasound

1.2.840.113663.1500.1.374244462.3.55.20141117.143326.406.d86ae41b23b.0000000000 1.2.840.113663.1500.1.374244462.3.56.20141117.143330.656.d86ae41b23b.0000000000

 

You may be able to see that our baby is resting on his or her hand.  I don’t know why but this little detail of the ultrasound photo really stands out to me, but it does.  I guess it humanizes the photo some.  I mean, I do that — I rest on my hand!  And here’s our baby doing the same thing!

I wish I had words to encapsulate how I felt in that moment…but all my words are inadequate.  I’ll try anyway: I was excited, nervous, happy, scared, hopeful, anxious, and joyous.  Ultimately I would say that in that moment I felt blessed: blessed to be there, blessed to have this opportunity to live out the life of Jesus within my own family, and blessed to be entrusted with this little life which is being knit together in Wendy’s womb and in our hearts.

Ultrasound of Our Future

But the other side of the blessing coin is being a blessing.  There’s a biblical principle, found in the covenant with Abraham in Genesis to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, that those who are blessed by God, in whatever capacity, are expected to be a blessing to others.  To hoard the blessing of God is nothing short of utter selfishness and is ultimately sinful.

Thus, when looking into the monitor at the face of our baby, I could not help but begin to imagine all that is going to unfold over the next months and years.

It’s not often that we have the opportunity to see a face that will forever change our lives.  I don’t remember first time seeing the faces of my parents and sister, but those faces certainly count.  And in 1998 I first saw the face of my wife, Alida, and my life’s never been the same.

Seeing our baby’s face for the first time yesterday was another one of those moments.

All our prayers, all our decisions, and all our conversations for the rest of our lives will be different because of the face looking back at us in these ultrasound pictures.

And we, my wife and I, have been blessed with this opportunity.  It’s our job to steward, or to care for, this blessing well, while always being prepared to share it with others.  It’s our God-given mandate to share the blessing that we are receiving in this moment.

I haven’t the slightest idea of what that will look like.  But I know this for sure: this child isn’t just ours.  He or she belongs to God and God will do with him or her whatever he sees fit.

It’s our job to be a blessing to this child and to be ready to share him or her with the world.

 

If you’d like to support my wife and I during this process, that would be great!  Please pray that everything continues to go smoothly and that all the little details that need ironing out will get ironed out.  For more ways to support us, click here.  Thanks!