Mother's: A Tribute To Our Modern Day Super-Heroes
Everyone who is reading this has had a mother. Your relationship with her may be great, dismal, or non-existent, but the reality is that, at the very least, without her you wouldn't be here. There's no way around that unless you are some sort of cyborg, in which case, I'd love to meet you.
I believe that far too often, even within church realms, women and mothers aren't given the recognition and dignity they deserve. On a global scaled, woman make up sixty percent of our world population, do over two-thirds of the worlds' work, yet only earn ten percent of the world's income and own one percent of the worlds' property.
It's clear to me that these incredible individuals deserve far more than simply one day a year to honor them. I think that at least every other day would be a step in the right direction. In America alone we will spend over $150 million on Mother's Day presents, much of which I can only speculate is purchased out of guilt or shame for how little we've shown them love and respect throughout the year.
The history behind Mother's Day is rather fascinating as well. There is some disagreement on specific dates and times, but one popular version is this. Anna Jarvis, at the funeral of her mother in 1908, passed out carnations to those present, and soon used these carnations to serve as a symbolic reminder of non-violence for mothers of children in the military. Jarvis campaigned for six years on the premise of prayer and peace between nations and eventually began lobbying state and federal legislators to develop a national day to honor mothers.
On May 9th, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson enacted the very first Mother's Day, stating that the day should be a “Public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country". In 1923 however, Jarvis filed a lawsuit against a Mother's Day Festival for selling carnations to support military troops, and was eventually arrested for disturbing the peace. At the age of 84, just months before she died, Jarvis said that she regretting ever starting Mother's Day in the first place, that it had become a disgraceful display of heartless commercialism and not at all what she had hoped it would be.
So even the very beginnings of this holiday are filled with mixed and powerful emotions, often leading many people to miss the point entirely. Don't we have a habit of doing that sometimes? We carry out traditions and customs simply because we always have, or because the people on our right and left are doing it as well, and we miss the point entirely.
In American society specifically, female homemakers in particular seem to incur a lot of criticism and ridicule from the business world. I've talked with numerous mothers who have felt the discomfort of demeaning glances when they explain at a gathering that they are a stay at home mom, as if she has disgraced herself and the female gender by doing so. Teacher and author Tony Campolo tells a great story about his wife Peggy in how she deals with this uncomfortable situation. She too grew irritated with the common responses she received after explaining her choice to stay at home, so from now on when someone ask here "So what do you do?" she responds " I’m socializing two Homo-sapiens in Judeo-Christian values so they’ll appropriate the eschatological values of utopia. What do you do?"
But it shouldn't be that way. A woman should never have to feel belittled or demeaned for her choice to stay at home. Never. Think about it -woman play an incredibly essential role throughout scripture, but how rarely are these encounters even addressed. For starters, God chose to bring His son into the world through a woman. There was no one telling Him he had to do it that way, no protocol or policy. He chose it. Anna the prophetess was the first to proclaim the infant Jesus as the Messiah. Even while Jesus was hanging on the cross, bearing immeasurable physical and spiritual pain, he is caring for his mother, making sure that she is protected and cared for. Woman were the last at the cross, and the first at the tomb. Many are included in the gathering in Acts when the Holy Spirit fell on them. Woman are absolutely essentially in the telling of God's amazing narrative.
Even Paul, who is often tagged as a male chauvinist, uses the names of six women in his greeting to the Romans in chapter sixteen of his letter. In male-oriented first century Palestine that was unheard of, but what Paul is arguably saying here is that he literally cannot speak of the church without mentioning the woman that play an integral part in it.
I would argue, that even more so than playing key roles and being an essential part to a greater whole, mothers serve to allow us to understand the very character of God more clearly. They model attributes and characteristics that most men simply do not posses, and paint for us a larger and more complete picture of the complex nature of God's disposition.
1. The love of a Christian Mother embodies God’s love for His Children
Listen to the words of Isaiah 66, Luke 13, and Deuteronomy 32:
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. –Isaiah 66:13
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, but you were not willing! –Luke 13:34
You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. –Deut 32:18
This is some rather direct "mother language" used both in reference to both God and Jesus that I don't think can or should be ignored. I believe it is still absolutely right and appropriate to refer to God as "Father", but is it possible that we have missed massive pieces of His temperance by ignoring the motherly qualities He embodies as well?
If what these passages say is true, then when I mother cares and loves her children, she is doing far more than carrying out an imposed duty, she is enacting the very character of God. We are given a physical representation of a very elusive spiritual reality when we experience or observe the incredible love of a mother. In that moment, that is an act of worship.
James Keller said it well:
"Every mother has the breath-taking privilege of sharing with God in the creation of new life." –James Keller
Mothers, God has given this to you. It is far more than a mundane list of task and duties you fulfill. And motherhood is certainly not just an act of biology, either. I have been blessed with an absolutely incredible biological mother, and have also been molded, shaped, and influenced by a number of other woman in my life -my spiritual mothers. Please do not think that just because you do not have children that God has not equipped and called you to mother in powerful ways in your communities and families.
2. The concern of a Christian Mother embodies God’s concern for His children
The foolish son is the heaviness of his mother. -Proverbs 10:1
I have been that foolish son more times than I can count. I could write for hours on the stupid and reckless things I've done during the course of my life, but I won't. I can remember instances where, after getting injured as a result of some of these antics, my mother would respond with incredible compassion and concern. I remember on more than one occasion thinking "This woman loves me more than I can even understand love myself", and to this day I still believe that to be true.
Her concern for me wasn't because she would lose a dishwasher or lawn mower if I injured myself. It was because, deep within her, she not only saw a boy making dumb decisions, but a man she hoped would serve God with all his heart. She saw possibilities and potential beyond anything I could imagine, and fought fervently to help us understand this invaluable truth.
There is an old Jewish proverb that reads:
"God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” - Jewish proverb
I love that idea. God gave us mothers to carry out the caring, loving, and protecting nature of God to remind us of where we came from, and where He's called us to go.
One pastor wrote: "If you're feeling particularly frustrated and overwhelmed with your children, do what the aspirin bottle says:
'Take two and keep away from children'"
3. The sacrificial compassion of a Christian Mother embodies God’s sacrificial heart
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.-2 Corinthians 8:9
I don't think that I really need to convince anyone that mothers make incredible sacrifices every single day of their lives, often with little praise or recognition. There are three stories in scripture that I find particularly interesting to this point.
The first is a fairly common story of King Solomon's wisdom when two prostitutes have a dispute regarding who's baby is alive, and who's died during the night. The solution, he decides, is to cut the baby in half and allow each mother to have equal portion of the living infant, but the real mother cries out and asks that the other woman keep the baby instead of allowing it to be killed. This mother would rather have her infant child raised by a different mother than to see it harmed.
The second story is another common story about a woman named Jochebed, who was the mother of Moses. To avoid having her son slain, she takes great risk by placing him in a basket and sending him down the Nile in the hopes that he would be found.
The Talmud explains that Pharaoh originally decreed that the Jewish boys be cast into the river because his astrologers had predicted that water would be the catalyst for the "downfall" of the savior of the Jews. Based on this, the Midrash explains that Moses' mother -- who was aware of her son's special destiny -- hoped that as soon as Moses would be placed in the water, the astrologers would see that the savior of the Jews had already been "cast" into the water and the decree against the Jewish boys would be annulled, and she would be free to bring her son back home. This indeed is what happened but at that point it was too late; Pharaoh's daughter had already found Moses
The point is that this strong woman of faith, who had likely already endured countless hardships at this point in her life, shows great courage, valor, and sacrifice in an effort to save her son.
The third story is perhaps a little bit less well known, and comes from the twenty-first chapter of 2 Samuel where we read about a woman named Rizpah. She was a concubine of King Saul, and as such would have been no more than property in this day and age. Some commentators believe she would've served as a servant whose purposes were to fulfill obligations other than the dynastic duties for which most royal marriages were arranged -essentially an aristocratic sex slave.
Regardless of her specific position and responsibilities, it's likely that she would've only been fourteen or fifteen years old, a child by most current American social standards, with two sons.
When David became King, there was famine in the land for three years, and when he prayed to God concerning this tragedy, God told him that there was blood guilt because of the Gibeonites Saul had put to death. So David went to the Gibeonites to see what he could do to make amends for Saul's actions. They told David they weren't interested in money, but all they required was for him to hand over seven of Saul's descendants so they could "impale them before the Lord".
So the Gibeonites impale Rizpah's two sons -Amoni and Meribaal, along with five of Saul's grandsons on a mountain, and leave the bodies in the public square to display. Read Rizpah's response:
Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night. -2 Samuel 21:10
She puts on sackcloth, the attire of mourning, and protects the bodies of her beloved children. For six months she is in this square, this public gathering place, protecting the bodies of her children. In full view of residents, tourists, politicians, and leaders, this woman's undying love for her sons is blatantly visible to all. King David caught wind of of this vigil and was so moved that he gathered up their bones and gave them all a proper and honorable burial.
The beautiful sacrifices of a mother are subtle enough to go unnoticed by almost everyone, but can be powerful enough to move kings to tears. Their compassion and endurance hold the power to change lives.
Consider 2 Corinthians 8:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. -2 Corinthians 8:9
4. The patience of a Christian Mother embodies God’s patience with His children
Good 'ol Oliver but it brilliantly:
"Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; A mother's secret hope outlives them all.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes
My mom is a living example of this truth. Even when I was sarcastic, said things I didn't really mean, complained endlessly about things that really didn't matter much in the long run, she loved me, prayed with me, and cared for me.
"The hand that rocks the cradle usually is attached to someone who isn’t getting enough sleep."- John Fiebig
Instead of scolding us, yelling at us, she patiently continues to rock the cradle, often at the sacrifice of her own well-being. I love these two verses-
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. -2 Peter 3:9
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus. - Romans 15:5
Did you catch that? The "God of patience and comfort". Does that sound like anyone you know? With every act of persisting and enduring love, she is again embody some of the very characteristics of the God of the universe. Not because she has to, or because she's getting paid, but because of her deep love and affection for who we are, not what we can do.
* I will conclude this tribute to mother's in Part 2 tomorrow!