I am not sure as to the origins of Mother’s Day (2nd Sunday in May). I suspect it might have been started by someone from Hallmark cards but I am not sure. But no one would complain about another opportunity to recognise the sacrificial role that mothers play. I am only concerned for those who want to have children but are unable to do so for whatever reason, and/or those who have lost their children through death, divorce, or other life tragedies. For such folks, Mother’s Days can be acutely painful.
Therefore, when I pray for mothers on Mother’s Day, I also pray for all mothers in the family of God. The church is an alternative family, no less real or less significant than our biological families. In fact our spiritual families are the ones that will last for all eternity. Providing motherly love in the family of God is no consolation prize. Therefore all who provide motherly nurturing in the family of Christ also deserve to be recognised and prayed for, whether married or single, whether they have children of their own or not.
What about the guys? Well, carrying a child in your womb and the joyful crisis of giving birth is a mystery that no man will know first-hand. I remember being at the birth of son Andrew. The “water breaking” kicked things off. After that it was all a blur to me. I remember rushing Hee Ling to the hospital. I remember the pain of the birth spasms, and what seemed to me to be copious amounts of blood. Yet it was through the pain and the blood that new life came forth.
I can’t remember the author but I remember reading an article in Radix magazine a long time ago, abouthow Jesus’ experience on the cross was an experience comparable to child birth. On the cross, Jesus also brought forth new life through pain and blood. We are not here questioning the fact that Jesus was truly man as He was truly God, or that God has chosen to relate to us as father. But there are undeniable maternal dimensions to God’s love as well. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus calls out:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (NIV)
And Isaiah 66:13 reads:
As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. (NIV)
What are some implications? For one, when mothers are undergoing child birth, they can call out to God for help knowing that God understands their pain and the sacrifices needed to bring forth new life. It also means that men can learn from women how to add on a more maternal dimension to their love. (As a single father for a number of years, I found myself more sensitised to my “feminine” side.) In 1 Thessalonians, we see Paul referring to both his paternal and his maternal love.
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (2: 11-12 NIV)
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (2:7b-8 NIV)
We live in a day and age where gender issues are hotly debated. Followers of Jesus will be on the alert to fend off any attempt to blur the differences between men and women. Indeed it is precisely because we are different that we are able to learn from each other.
When humankind sinned, it not only destroyed the relationship between humankind and God, it also destroyed the relationship between men and women (Genesis 3:12; 16b). In Christ that relationship has been restored. So on Mother’s day, we thank God for mothers, and seek to learn from them, whatever gender we may be.