May 8, 2020by Reverend Dan on May 8, 2020
“Honor your mother . . .”
People often ask me, “What’s the hardest holiday worship you have to prepare for? Christmas? Easter?” The reality is that it is Mother’s Day.
I was blessed with the best mom in the world. The absolute best. So that is not the reason. (But I will admit - trying to preach on Mother’s Day with her in attendance is hard because it cranks up my allergies and makes my eyes water.)
Preaching on Mother’s Day has not always been this way for me. Back in my training wheels days of preaching, I didn’t have a problem in the world with the Mother’s Day service. I didn’t think about it much. What changed it all was 22-plus years of counseling, I’ll explain.
Each Mother’s Day, as I stand up in the pulpit, I am keenly aware of the many women in the pews who don’t get to wear a red or white rose on their lapel and stand up to be honored. I know there are women in those pews who would love to be moms, but for various reasons, they aren’t. Some were unable to conceive. Some had abortions. Others never married. Therefore, I end up measuring and filtering and parsing every word I say because I know those words have to pass through their ears as well.
And the invisible birth moms who gave their children up for adoption. What do you say to those women sitting in the pews, knowing our culture still judges them and says, “I don’t know how a woman could give up her own child?” And the truth is, no, if you have never been in their shoes, you don’t know. Sometimes the greatest gift a birth mother can give a child when she knows she can’t provide for that little boy or girl is to give the child a better opportunity to grow up and succeed, no matter how great the pain to her. Even if we don’t want to admit it, that’s the love of a mother as well.
And those women, back in the mid-20th century who were driven away in the middle of the night to homes for unwed mothers. The ones who came home with empty arms and hearts, who were told that in time they would forget and move on. But they never forgot. If they stood to be recognized, all they would be thinking of as everyone applauded was the child they never got to hold.
I have seen some churches ask “honorary” moms to stand up, those without children just so they don’t leave anyone out. It seems to me that in trying to include everyone, we are publicly singling out the women who are not mothers. To honor mothers is not to dishonor those who aren’t mothers - until you call attention to them. When you do that those women are set apart in a different category. Our culture does that enough. We don’t need to do it in church too.
I’ve heard from some women that when a big “to do” is made on Mother’s Day, it signifies that a woman’s highest achievement is marriage and motherhood, which for some may be their life’s goal and that’s great. But what message does that send to the women who are unable, or choose not to, have children? Are their lives not complete?
It’s my guess that a lot of women who are not mothers do not come to church on Mother’s Day (unless it’s to be with their own mothers). It’s just too painful. And that’s why, for me, Mother’s Day worship is difficult. Not because I don’t want to honor moms, but because of the awareness and place in my heart I have of those who are not mothers. For mothers, it is – and should be – a wonderfully glorious day. But don’t forget that for others, it is an incredibly painful and difficult day. Keep them in your prayers this Sunday as well.
“Father, Thank you for the gift of mothers. And on this day please keep close to your heart those who are not but always wanted to be. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”