Finally...A Mom's Day that Honors the Raw, Real Experience of Moms

So, yesterday was Mother’s Day in church where I pastor a church community. 
Here’s my confession: I’ve never really known what to do on Mother’s Day.

 

 

Tone is tricky in writing. You can’t see the body language or the smile (or frown) on my face. So, imagine you’re at a coffee shop just relaxing. I’m in line for a cup of java, no cream, no sugar. I look around, see you. We make eye contact. We both smile. I get my coffee, approach your table and ask, “Hey!” (It means, “How’s life?”) “Can we chat for five minutes?” I’ve got my coffee in my hand, I look harmless, but you know I’m going to say what’s on my heart.

What’s on my heart is Mother’s Day. It was yesterday. I’m a pastor. So, yesterday was Mother’s Day in church where I pastor a church community.

Here’s my confession: I’ve never really known what to do on Mother’s Day.

I’ve done the traditional “would all Mother’s please stand?” and gift-giving to the oldest mother or the mother with the most children. I know the intent of that traditional way of doing Mother’s Day. But at the same time as I was doing these things, I was aware that there were women in my biological family and in the church community and in the surrounding community for whom this was a really painful day. Some come to worship and endure these moments; others make an annual trip to the beach…or to the mountains…anywhere—except church on Mother’s Day.

I’ve also given in, I hate to admit, to the opportunity to capitalize on Mother’s Day and turned it into a day to boost attendance. I’d always feel slimy doing this, but I’d rationalize: “Other pastors are doing this; I’d better, too.” So, pushes were made to invite moms, grandmothers, aunts, and daughters. There were door prizes—free dinners, massages, car washes—and red carpet treatment. While it all looks really honoring of moms and women, dig a little deeper and you find manipulation, gimmicks, and putting the priority of church over focus on women and moms.

I’ve also done nothing on Mother’s Day. Oh, there was the obligatory “Happy Mother’s Day” in the welcome, but then worship proceeded as normal. While it’s true worship of Living God is always at the forefront when we gather for worship, this approach also seemed like a miss.

What makes me uneasy about all of the above approaches to Mother’s Day is the lack of raw honesty and the disregard of the real experience of being women and mothers in our culture. Any of these approaches misses the opportunity to give a community a moment that acknowledges with words, emotion, and prayer the experience of women and mothers in our culture. Because it misses that moment, it’s artificial, contrived, awkward, painful, clueless. Having talked with women about this, I am confident in saying, as a guy, this is at least some of the reason some women stay away from church on Mother’s Day; it’s why some women cringe in church on Mother’s Day; it’s why some women feel like their church doesn’t “get” them on any day; it’s why some women just leave church.

What makes me uneasy about all of the above approaches to Mother’s Day is the lack of raw honesty and the disregard of the real experience of being women and mothers in our culture.

Yesterday, with the help of women smart and experienced in the reality of what it means to be a woman and, possibly, a mother, we got closer to getting it “right” on Mother’s Day. Part of what we did was pray this prayer over women in our church community. You will see it is based on the messy and raw and real experiences of women in scripture. I take no credit for this prayer; it was borne from the experience of women who have lived in the midst of this messy life where the presence of God and the pain of suffering are both found regularly. Here’s the prayer:

Moms and women, forgive us when we assume that what we see on the surface is all there is to your story. We know in our midst there are women and mothers who:

…like Eve, have children with serious rivalry,

…like Hagar, have been discarded for a new family and are mothering alone,

…like Naomi, have tasted the bitterness of a child’s death,

…like Mary, have a complicated pregnancy story,

…like Tamar, have tried multiple ways to become a mother,

…like Rachel, have counted the months and years while other women in your family and circle of friends become pregnant,

…like Ham’s mother have children whose substance abuses are causing problems,

…like Bathsheba, have sick children who may not live to adulthood,

…like Mary, have children with public legal situations and all you can do is watch,

…like many, watched their mothers age and waste before their eyes,

…like Moses' mother, reluctantly gave up her child because it wasn't safe for you to bring her child up herself,

…like Pharaoh's daughter, were called to love and nurture children that weren't yours by birth,

…like Timothy's mother and grandmother, are steadily and without much fanfare or recognition teaching your children about the truths of God, sowing seeds for eternity,

…like the unnamed women who never quite fit into the norms of society,

You are in our midst. We recognize you. We welcome you. We pray for you.

We are called to be a people who rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Today our church is big enough to do both.

For the seen and known joys of motherhood, we rejoice and smile and celebrate with you.

For the seen and known suffering in motherhood, we ache with you.

For the private unseen and unknown joys of motherhood, like Mary, may you treasure them in your hearts.

And for the private unseen and unknown sorrows and suffering of motherhood, may you know you don’t always have to be happy in our midst.

You are engraved on the palms of God, held together by Him.

We pause at this moment to pray for you, to thank God for you, to ask God to bless you and to beg God to sustain you.