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Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Pain of Mother's Day


Frankly, I do not know if this day is celebrated around the world in the same way it is here in the United States, but it is the day so many celebrate and honor that special person in our life called, “mother.”  

However, over the years I have learned that as we celebrate it, there are those among us who experience inner pain and struggle on this day, and today I would like to be mindful of some of those.

My first awareness that Mother’s Day can be difficult for some was when, as a pastor, I had an elderly single woman explain to me that she never attends church on Mother’s Day, because for her, it is a reminder that she never had someone who wanted to marry her, and that she never experienced the joy of having children of her own.  It may have been different if she had intentionally chosen those things, but these were not what she had hoped for in life, and Mother’s Day was, for her, a reminder of her disappointment.  In addition, in her generation, such a person received the title “old maid,” and her self-worth had been damaged by that image in her life.  Until that point, for me, Old Maid was simply a card game played by children…I had no idea of the pain in women like her.

I guess it never struck me, because two very special aunts in my life, two of the ones who lived in closest proximity in my childhood, were both childless.  Looking back, I wonder now if they struggled as this widow did.  Their husbands both loved them dearly, and honored them on this day…as did I , knowing that their mothering skills were not wasted, but shared with nieces and nephews like myself.  

I suspect it would also be hard to be joyous today for a woman (or a man) whose mother has recently died, and today brings some mourning in the midst of the joy.  Or, the mother who has children who are ungrateful or too self-absorbed, and who will make no significant acknowledgement to their mothers today…that would have to hurt as well.

There are other women for whom, the pain bound up in Mother’s Day comes from a different source.   Some individuals struggle with the day because their mother was not the kind of mother we celebrate, but the kind of mother whose children are taken from her because of the abusive way she treats them.  Those children today may be struggling with the disappointment and suffering they experienced at the hands of an abusive mother.  

For some women, Mother’s Day has become a day of prayer for a child who has broken mother’s heart by choosing a wayward and godless path for life, perhaps with mother not even knowing where that child is now.  This day is hard to celebrate under circumstances like these.  

In addition, there are also women who have given birth to a child, only to lose that child to death somewhere along the way, and who may choose to be at a graveside today, rather than celebrating over Sunday dinner.  She may feel her joy of motherhood has been cut short.  

The Bible contains examples of some women like these, but often with different endings.  Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth are examples of women who struggled in a society where being childless carried a stigma of shame and pain, but in each of their cases, God eventually changed the story and granted them a child, even in old age.  

But then, there is Anna the widow, for whom childlessness is implied, who served God day and night in the temple for years and years.  There was also two widows whose sons had died, one a Shunnamite and the other from a city called Nain, but their sons were brought back to life in the ministries of Elisha and Jesus, respectively.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a powerful example of a woman whose heart had been pierced through by the death of her son.

Women in these situations we understand may struggle.  But there are others who struggle because of the ripples that come from divorce.  For example, there is the mother who is also a grandmother, but will not see or hear from her grandchildren today because they are at their mother’s home, which is no longer the home of her son.  

There are mothers who sorrow today, because their son or daughter is suffering because of a divorce that has split their home.  Though their sons or daughters have not died, still their mother’s dreams for their lives have been broken by the tragedy of divorce instead of the “happily ever after” of fairy tale fame.  

There are mothers who have gone through divorce whose children have turned on them, perhaps because their minds have been poisoned by dad, perhaps because they blame mother for the broken home, and perhaps because she did not make the best of choices in the throes of divorce.  

Some of those mothers will not hear from their children today, so Mother’s Day will be far from happy.  Some divorced mothers will experience today as a reminder of the brokenness that has come into their lives, and perhaps the financial struggles as well, and the father of the children who once helped make the celebration of Mother’s Day special is no longer around to remind or help the children to remember.  

There are some divorced mothers who will remember this day with ambivalence, for though they love their children dearly, they are also reminded of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the father, perhaps for many, many years.

So am I trying to be depressing on what is supposed to be a day of celebration and joy?  

That isn’t my intention.  But I wanted to encourage you today to realize that if this is a joyous occasion for you, then you are truly a blessed person and need to be thankful for it.  

If it is a joyous occasion for you, then perhaps you can find a way to share a bit of that joy with a woman somewhere around you who may be experiencing more tears than joy today.  

Joy needs to be shared, and when it is, joy is multiplied!  

I encourage you to make Mother’s Day a happier one for someone like that whom you know.  

P.S.  I focused only on women today, but the hurting person around you may be the recently divorced dad, for whom today is a reminder that he is no longer with the mother of his children.  Though we don’t always say it, guys have feelings, too!

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