Mother’s Day is just a few days away! (Dads, children: consider this a timely reminder. There’s still time for two-day shipping on Amazon Prime!)
I’m excited about the ways we will celebrate Mother’s Day as a church family. We aren’t taking a break from our current teaching series to preach a Mother’s Day-themed sermon, but we do have some special touches planned to honor those who are mothers, as well as those who have benefited from the care of a mother.
How Churches (Unintentionally) Make Mother’s Day Hard
Still, Mother’s Day is a hard day for many. Most churches pay lip-service to this reality at some point during the order of service, and yet the actual acknowledgement of Mother’s Day is almost exclusively celebrative. Carnations are given to all mothers present. Moms may be asked to come forward and receive a special blessing. Children craft special presents for their mommies in the nursery, later to present them with paint-stained, glitter-laden hands.
To women who long to be mothers, and yet have been denied that privilege through infertility or delayed adoption, these sights are often a painful reminder of the joys which they’ve been denied.
To families who have lost children via miscarriage or disease, the sight of mothers with armfuls of children is a reminder of the emptiness of their own arms.
People whose mothers are absent – whether through death or through abandonment – can feel out-of-place among an assembly that exclusively celebrates mothers who are present.
For single mothers – especially single mothers who have chosen not to terminate an unplanned pregnancy – the quiet glances and questioning faces of the gathered congregation transform a would-be celebration of life into a spectacle of condemnation.
As the church (rightly and necessarily) champions the rights of unborn babies, sensations of guilt, shame, and isolation can quickly become a damning millstone about the necks of mothers who have aborted their own pregnancies.
The list can go on and on.
Motherhood is a good gift given directly from the hand of our Heavenly Father. But like any of God’s good gifts, motherhood has been broken by sin’s entrance into the world. Eve – the “mother of all living” – was first introduced to this reality in Genesis 3:16: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” The remainder of human history has been littered with the experiences people who have experienced broken motherhood in all its dimensions.
The experiences of mothers themselves: as miscarriage and infertility and disease snuff out the lives of children; as through painful labor children are brought forth into the world; as children rebel and act out in their own inherent sinfulness; as motherhood forces women to lay down their passions and interests in order to provide for their children’s well-being.
And the experiences of the children of broken mothers: as death prematurely takes the life of a mom; as a mom’s sinfulness is brought to bear in the crucible of motherhood; etc.
The Value of Lament (Or, “Make Mother’s Day Great Again”)
How can the church be faithful to honor its mothers while acknowledging the deep pain associated with broken motherhood?
The answer: lament.
Jen Pollock Michel beautifully defines lament as the heaviness of care we heave into God’s great ocean of love. Lament offers us the opportunity to both acknowledge that God’s gifts are good and to mourn how deeply those good gifts have been broken by sin. Proper lament is an abandonment of our tendency to serve as our own savior; we acknowledge that the disaster that sin has caused in our world and in our own hearts is too massive for us to mend on our own. We instead cast our anxieties into the open hands of our gracious Father, who condescends to actually care about us (1 Peter 5:7).
And we do not lament without hope. As the story of Scripture tells us, we lament by simply asking Jesus to complete the work he has already promised to accomplish through his Spirit: namely, mending all broken things and making all things new (Revelation 21:5).
A (Hope-Filled) Lament over Broken Motherhood
Romans 12:15 instructs the people of God to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep.” After we celebrate the fact that God has given us the good gift of motherhood, the following call-and-response prayer represents the way our church plans to weep with those who feel the stinging pain associated with broken motherhood.
I pray that this prayer may serve as a fresh administration of God’s healing grace to everyone who finds Mother’s Day difficult. So if you personally benefit from this prayer, of if you know someone who would, my only ask is that you share this gospel hope with others.
We pray for those who never knew their mother.
The gospel is good news. Jesus has not left us as orphans. His Spirit dwells in His people.
We pray for those who have been deeply wounded by their mothers.
The gospel is good news. Jesus took our wounds as His own. By His stripes, we are healed.
We pray for those who are grieving the loss of their mother.
The gospel is good news. Jesus rose from the dead! Death no longer has the final word!
We pray for those who are struggling to become mothers.
The gospel is good news. Our worth is not found in the life we bring forth, but in the life that the Spirit has birthed in our hearts.
We pray for mothers who are struggling to raise young children.
The gospel is good news. Though His children fall short, our Father bears with us in tenderness, in patience, and in constant love.
We pray for mothers who raise children in poverty.
The gospel is good news. In Christ, we have access to every blessing of heaven.
We pray for single mothers, and for mothers whose marriages are in crisis.
The gospel is good news. Jesus is the prefect, all-sufficient husband that His people truly need.
We pray for mothers who feel deserted after their children leave the home.
The gospel is good news. Because the Son left the Father, our God is always with His people.
We pray for mothers who have lost a child.
The gospel is good news. Our Father knows the searing pain of losing a child.
We pray for mothers who have placed children for adoption.
The gospel is good news. Every family is connected. Every family belongs to the Father.
We pray for mothers who have aborted their children.
The gospel is good news. The Father crushed His Son so that he could adopt folks like us! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
Motherhood is a good gift – and yet it is deeply broken by sin. There are no perfect mothers. There is no perfect motherhood. There is no one who has not been scarred by this brokenness.
The gospel is good news. He who is seated on the throne of Heaven says, “Behold! I am making all things new!”