“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. For this is what the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dangled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…”
Isaiah 66: 10-13
Mother’s Day is the kind of holiday that everyone can embrace because everyone has a mother. Mothers have been bestowed with a Christlike depth of care for their offspring. It is a sacrificial compassion-they give of themselves even at great cost to themselves.
When my wife Christine has a rare opportunity to take a break from caring for the children and I take over, I am reminded how challenging her job is. Where does she get the energy? How does she do it? How does she keep herself together when being pulled in so many different directions? It is a real miracle. Being a mother is a gift from God. Our Scripture affirms that there is a divine connection in how a mother cares for her child and how God cares for us. Yes, there is something very holy about being a mother.
A mother spends a lot of mental energy worrying about her child. Have you ever heard that a mother has to think for herself and her baby at the same time? A mother’s brain has a dual function.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, begins with this quote:
“I stood already committed to the profound duplicity of life, that humankind is not truly one but two. And that these polar twins should be continuously struggling. One of these polar twins, who was the Mr. Hyde character, bore the stamp of the lower elements in my soul.”
Several summers ago Christine and I attended a family life conference at Montreat, North Carolina that featured Nancy Ortberg as a speaker. She referenced Stevenson’s book to illustrate how she felt about her own Jekyll and Hyde experience as a mother, and how good feelings of sacrifice and care were countered by another side of herself that emerged that “bore the stamp of the lower elements in my soul.” Nancy Ortberg recalled, “. . .one day in particular, although I’m not sure why it stands out in my mind because there were many days like this. I had a 3 year old, a 2, and an infant. I awoke to the fussy baby. He clung to me like a baby monkey hangs onto its mother and would not let me put him down. While Johnny was clinging to me, my toddler was wreaking havoc. She had this game she liked to play with the toilet paper; she would unwind it and do designs in every room of the house. While she did that, she would take all of the books off the shelves and start tearing pages out of them. While this was going on, my 3 year old was begging me to play Candyland. I hate Candyland. There was a mound of dirty laundry threatening to suffocate me…There was no food in the house, and I had to go to the grocery store. At the grocery store, I had a baby clinging to me, a toddler in the grocery cart, my other one running up and down the aisles; and the grocery cart was so full I had to kick the pad of diapers down the aisle. In the toilet paper section, I fought to hold back the tears and to keep from running out. I stood there thinking, What am I doing with my life? Look at me…Then I took the kids to the park…A park with three children is not fun. I kept counting, One two three. I came with three; I’ve got to leave with three. By the time I got home and it was rest time I was a wreck. I hated myself. I hated my children. I hated my life…I felt like I was becoming an impatient, frazzled, rude, angry, frustrated mom; and I was splitting into two people.”
Maybe that sounds like a mother you know…or if you are a mother you can relate. Nancy was paying the price for the pressure she was under, and when she noticed her children were using the same unkind words she was using…
“…There would be some mornings I would wake up and I’d think, Okay. Today I’m going to be more patient. But it wasn’t resolve I needed. It was God. I thought I needed rest, time away, and adult conversation, and I did need those things. But more than those, I needed God…. Robert Louis Stevenson says that the Hyde character in his book bore the stamp of the lower elements of his soul. Jekyll, on the other hand, bore the stamp of God. This person coming out of me, this person I saw, reflected who God was. All of the parenting images in Scripture I realized as I loved my children with this overwhelming love, that’s how God loves me.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “As a mother nurses her newborn at her breast, so God is like that with you.” He could never forget you. It goes on to say that as a mother comforts her child, so God will comfort you. As I love my children, I am getting a glimpse of how God loves me. I had not known it to that depth before…”
Ortberg gained new insight into God’s love for her, and even a glimpse of that is enough to pull anyone back from the edge of any precipice. The thought of God’s kindness and care overwhelmed her frustrations and illuminated the privilege of motherhood. She was paying a high price but found strength to persevere. Consider your mother and the high price she paid that you could be who you are. Your mother considered you priceless.
Every few years there are new numbers published that estimate the yearly, monthly, and daily cost of raising a child. An anonymous reaction was that there was no way to put a price tag on:
“Feeling a new life move for the first time and seeing the bump of a knee rippling across your skin. Having someone cry, “It’s a boy!’ or shout, “It’s a girl!’ then hearing the baby wail and knowing all that matters is it’s healthy. Counting all 10 fingers and toes for the first time. Feeling the warmth of fat cheeks against your breast. Cupping an entire head in the palm of your hand. Making out da da or ma ma from all the cooing and gurgling.”
”…Glimpses of God every day. More love than your heart can hold. Butterfly kisses…endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds and warm cookies. A hand to hold, usually covered with jam. A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites,
building sandcastles and skipping down the sidewalk in the pouring rain. Someone to laugh yourself silly with no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.”
”You never have to grow up. You get to fingerpaint, carve pumpkins, play hideand-seek, catch lightning bugs and never stop believing in Santa Claus. You have an excuse to keep reading the adventures of Piglet and Pooh, watching Saturday morning cartoons, going to Disney movies and wishing on stars. You get to frame rainbows, hearts and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray-painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother’s Day and cards with backward letters for Father’s Day.”
“You get to be a hero just for…removing a sliver…coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs…You get a front row seat to history to witness the first step, first word, first bra, first date, first time behind the wheel. You get to be immortal…You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications and human sexuality no college can match. In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there with God. You have the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.”
We honor mothers today for the special bond they have with their children. Recently on CNN there was a story about a young AIDS patient who experienced rejection from his father. His mother had passed away. The interviewer asked how he dealt with the pain of his condition and he replied “…I stand it by closing my eyes and imagining that I will awaken in the arms of my mother. I know that she will never leave my side.”
I am forever grateful to God to have a mother who gave me a similar sense of everlasting support, and for a wife whose devoted mothering gives our children that same security. We pray for those who are less fortunate…those who have lost their mothers and grieve on this day.
As I researched I came across the words of a country song called “Roses for Mama” about a man who went to the florist and ordered a mother’s day delivery. While there he loaned a little boy money for flowers, and shortly thereafter saw the boy placing the flowers on a grave at a cemetery. This prompted the man to return to the florist and change his order- he needed to make the delivery himself.
Jesus taught us that we are to care for our mothers until the very end. Even on the cross, during his deepest pain, Jesus considered his mother, saying to John, “Behold, thy mother…” I believe that Jesus gained strength at that moment when he saw his mother. He may have even remembered the Scripture from Isaiah 66, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…” and his mother’s example gave courage from God’s powerful, comforting love.
There is no question about it- even though mothers possess miraculous powers, mothers need encouragement. So today let your mother’s day greeting be more than just happy mother’s day. Instead issue a reminder that God will provide strength in motherhood that is similar to the divine care that is given to the children of God, and pray that word of truth will pull the mother back from the frustration of raising children into the priceless joy of it. May our mothers receive this blessing: “May God comfort you as you comfort your children….” Amen.