Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12: 9-15)
Today’s Gathering is going to be different than the usual Sunday. Mother’s Day can have different meaning and significance to everyone. If you have a mother in which you have a healthy relationship with, love dearly, and who loves you back, we rejoice with you. If you are a mother and have healthy relationships with your children, whom you love dearly and they love you back, we rejoice with you. If you are a mother figure to incredible people in your life, we rejoice with you.
However, there may be some here in which Mother’s Day brings conflict and turmoil. Perhaps you have struggled to become a mother and it has shaken your faith and relationships with other Christians; we mourn with you. If you are an adult child who lost a mother and the grief is overwhelming today, we mourn with you. You may have an unhealthy relationship with your mother in which there was abuse or mental instability; we mourn with you. Maybe you had a good relationship with your mother, but your religious views and faith have changed which has changed your relationship; we mourn with you.
The following was written by my dear friend, Tracey. Tracey struggled with infertility and relating with women and families in the church. I think we can all agree that the church has placed motherhood on a high pedestal. Sometimes that pedestal is unreachable to women and that may cause added pain and grief to the reality of not being able to bear children. At the time that I met Tracey I was a church goer and can honestly say that I never once thought about how women who struggle with infertility felt in the church. She opened my eyes with her raw honesty and I am forever thankful for that gift.
Tracey has given me permission to share her words with you today. I hope that you find them helpful. No matter how you feel today, please know that we rejoice and mourn with you.
This isn’t an anti-Mother’s Day post although I imagine some might think it is. This isn’t even about Mother’s Day in general. It’s specifically about Mother’s Day as it’s celebrated in the church. So I’m about to make churchgoers mad and non-churchgoers shrug. Another feather in my cap!
MOTHER’S DAY AND THE CHURCH
A few years ago during Mother’s Day week, I read a blog post titled “What Should the Church Do about Mother’s Day?” There were over 700 comments and there’s no way I could or even wanted to read them all, but I read enough to “sense the room,” as the saying goes, and I was struck by a recurring theme in a fair portion of the comments I read. The childless women’s comments were frequently countered with “Well, yeah, you’re sad on this day but the Bible says you’re supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice, you know.”
Sure. It does say that but people love to use half a verse especially if that half makes their point and ignore the other half especially if that half bums them out. As with most things, context is key and that’s no different here because – and here’s the bummer part — the verse goes on to say we are to “mourn with those who mourn.”
What? No way! That sucks.
When does the church publicly mourn with those who mourn? Apart from a funeral, which is a socially acceptable grief event, when does it mourn with other mourners publicly? If the church publicly rejoices with moms then, as a counter-balance and if it’s going to live out the entirety of this verse, it should publicly mourn with the mourners: the non-moms, those whose moms have died, those abused by their moms, those with absent moms, etc.
But it doesn’t. Or at least I’ve never seen a church that does that beyond a muttered, “Oh, Lawwd, we remember those who grieve on this day” type of Mother’s Day prayer — which is really just mentioning those who mourn, not mourning with those who mourn, now isn’t it? To be fair, I think the church doesn’t really mourn with those who mourn because it just doesn’t know how, and sadly, it seems to be okay with that.
Mothers are everywhere in the church. They’re the gold standard of womanhood, the sine qua non of female identity, especially in Christendom. That elevated status grants them value and respect, so they’re certainly not invisible or ignored as a group by the church. There are lots of programs, lots of mom groups, lots of moms walking a similar road with whom to commiserate, so to my eyes, there’s no lack of company. It’s a pretty crowded road.
I’m not saying moms can’t feel alone sometimes. I know they can and do. I’m simply saying the state of motherhood is certainly not forgotten in the church at large. It’s lauded. Expected. Motherhood is the definition of womanhood and vice versa.
Here’s something interesting, though, that I’d bet most people don’t know.
The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, originally intended the day to be a celebration of one’s own mother, not a celebration of all mothers. She called it Mother’S Day, not MotherS’ Day for a reason. The very name is a singular, not plural, possessive.
A day for your own mother.
(What? Punctuation makes a difference? Crazy!)
In the end, Anna Jarvis died feeling a failure because Mother’s Day had lost its way, lost its meaning, and become a massive commercial venture, not a day of respect for individual moms. As the years went on, she actually campaigned against her own holiday, disgusted by the commercialism associated with a day she’d envisioned as “a day of sentiment, not profit.” Hey, when the founder of the holiday itself conceived a very different vision of it and even soured on what the day so quickly became, I think it’s fair to question the semi-worshipful public celebrations it receives in the halls of Christendom.
Yes, I realize this sounds like sour grapes coming from me, your curmudgeonly childless neighbor. Yep, I’m well aware I might sound like a jerk right now. However, let me be clear and say I don’t begrudge mothers their celebrations with their families, not one bit, not at all, nor do I think I’m entitled to some kind of celebration on this day where people feel they need to honor me for “being a woman” or for somehow “mothering their kids,” just to make me feel better. Hey, it’s nice if people want to do that, but it’s certainly nothing I feel entitled to. Why? Because I’m not a mom. This isn’t exactly a newsflash to me.
This post is simply meant to give a different perspective — not a dishonoring one, just a different one.
Churches do a variety of things to collectively honor all mothers in their congregation. They pass out flowers to all the moms. The pastors preach Mother’s Day sermons. They ask all the mothers to stand to be applauded by the entire church. (Now that’s an awkward moment if you’re one of the women who gets to sit there staring at other women’s butts. And, you know, I don’t want to stare at other women’s butts which is why I don’t go to church on Mother’s Day. Now Father’s Day where the men stand up is a different story …….
But – butt? – back to the post I mentioned at the beginning here. Many of the Christian moms on that comment thread said they wanted to be asked to stand in church on Mother’s Day and that they wanted to be acknowledged and applauded by the entire church.
Now this will be a wildly unpopular question but …… why?
(Stay with me here. But if you’re going to throw produce at me now, I prefer guacamole.)
Why are moms entitled to acknowledgement from the entire church? I understand that many moms may feel perpetually under-appreciated and probably are perpetually under-appreciated, but I’m not sure how standing for 10 seconds in front of the church one day a year fills the appreciation gap left by the other 364 ungrateful days. Still, many of the Christian moms declared the applause to be a big part of their Mother’s Day with several women equating standing in church on Mother’s Day to veterans standing in church on Veteran’s Day.
That’s not an apt analogy, though. It’s not like Veteran’s Day at all. When veterans are asked to stand on their day, they’ve served everyone in that church in their role as soldier, sailor, or marine, and they stand and get acknowledgment from everyone they’ve served. But moms don’t serve the entire church as moms. They’re not a mom to everyone in the entire church. No, they serve on a much smaller but no less vital front: in their own home, in their own family. A mom may serve the entire church in another way, but she serves only a limited number of people as their “mother,” unless she’s Michelle Duggar but that’s another story.
Maybe moms want to feel like heroes for a little while, though. I can understand that, but, again, they’re heroes to the family they serve, not the church at large. Sure, it’s not on the same scale size-wise but isn’t it on a better scale meaning-wise? If I were a mom, I’d care more about a scribbled card that says “I love you, mommy,” a breakfast of burnt toast and runny eggs, a sloppy mani-pedi, or a bouquet of random flowers from my yard than any polite 10-second applause from people in the church who don’t even know me or what kind of mom I am.
Assuming most women become moms the old-fashioned way (2% of the US population is adopted), then the only thing that separates most moms from non-moms is that all the male-female parts worked correctly and in a timely fashion. The “standing mom” acknowledgement that some churches employ is, at its core, for the physical fact of being a mom. The holiday is not “Good Mother’s Day” or “Bad Mother’s Day.” It’s simply “Mother’s Day.” The name of the holiday isn’t saying “these women are all great moms.” It’s just saying “these women are all moms.”
It’s neither a judgment nor an endorsement.
So just ponder this if you’re in a church that asks all the moms to stand for applause this Mother’s Day Sunday:
Again, assuming most of the moms are biological moms, then they’re being asked to stand based on a physiological difference that separates them from the non-moms currently staring at their bums. But the church doesn’t do other such acknowledgements and celebrations based on other physiological differences, does it?
You don’t hear:
“Stand up if you’re non-diabetic.”
“Stand up if you can see.”
“Stand up if you can get an erection.” (And we will make a note of it.)
“Stand up if you can stand up.”
Except for that erection one.
So why do some churches still insist on having women stand to be acknowledged just for being biologically luckier than others? The physical fact of being a mom simply comes down to winning the biological lotto.
I have to wonder: Would Mother’s Day really be diminished for Christian moms if the church didn’t acknowledge it, publicly and collectively?
Would Christian moms feel gypped if there weren’t flowers given, sermons preached, or applause offered? There are millions of secular moms who don’t get applauded by a huge roomful of people on that Sunday, so are their Mother’s Days qualitatively worse for the lack of it? I can’t really say but I rather doubt it.
Honestly, I’m ALL for you celebrating your wonderful mom and being celebrated if you, too, are a wonderful mom – individually, by your family, as the holiday intended. Live it up! Drink it in! If you’re a great mom, you certainly deserve it and then some. (If you’re not a great mom then ……. well, it’s still called Mother’s Day.)
I just looked this up: Mother’s Day was established as a holiday 103 years ago – in 1914.
So I’m just wondering.
If this were 1913, what would Christian mothers do on this day?
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you from the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.
Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?
Photo credit: Kathi