Mother’s Day was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, a woman inspired to show honor to her her own mom, a civil war nurse and peace activist. In setting a specific day aside, Jarvis wanted people to take time to recognize that a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.
Though grandiose, that statement is simply true.
From the moment of conception, a mother gives of herself so that you can live. She gives physically, emotionally, and spiritually in costly, costly ways. She literally bears the scars of giving you life. The theme of the Gospel is sacrificial love, fully exemplified in Jesus on the cross. As followers of Jesus, we are all called to model that love ourselves. And there is no role in humankind that inherently embodies it more than motherhood. Anna Jarvis’s impulse was right: it is a good and holy thing to honor mothers.
But of course the topic of motherhood evokes different feelings for different people, especially women. For some, their relationship with their mother is a point of pain. For some, their relationship with their children evokes regret. Some of you carry guilt about their shortcomings as a mother. Some carry fear about whether they will every get to be a mother, or sadness that they never were. Some have shame or anxiety over becoming a mother unexpectedly. Some carry anger or sadness over a child they lost. Some wish more than anything their mother were still with them. And for some, there is nothing that brings more joy to life than celebrating motherhood.
That is simply the reality in our fallen world. Even something as pure as motherhood is complicated. Add to that the absurdity of the commercialization of the holiday and one is tempted to just not recognize it altogether. But I think that would be a mistake. For all the reasons stated above, the mothers in our lives deserve recognition and thanks. They spend the vast majority of their waking hours — especially young moms — making sure others are taken care of first. They deserve a day where they are the ones being served.
That being said, it is important that we affirm both the special, high calling of motherhood AND affirm that a woman’s value and worth is not defined by whether or not she a mother. All women, of all ages, offer something unique and important (critical, even) to the body of Christ and we (namely men, like me) are fools if we do not affirm, thank, serve, and receive from women, whether they are mothers or not. Women, you are not second-class if you do not have a child. You are equal and important.
Lastly, it is important that we affirm both the importance of striving to be a good mother AND the grace that mothers ought to experience in life. Most of the moms I know — especially young moms — don’t need to be challenged to step up their game. They need to be affirmed in the reality that they are human and have only so much capacity and raising tiny human beings is exhausting and that they don’t need to be perfect. So mothers, strive to love and teach and care for your children. But give yourself grace; you have it in Jesus.
Thank you, mothers. Grace and peace to you.