There have hardly been two more inadequate words in history.
How does “Mother” sum up all the grief-joy-doubt-love-work of this calling?
How can a “Day” hold a million moments of longing, laughing, pain, beauty, and prayer?
These two words often shut the door to hearts who still ache to be called mom or who are far from their mom — those who long to hold and be held. And they open the door upon moms who are thriving and moms who are struggling, often the same women on the same day.
Breakfast in bed can never feed the hunger of the mother-soul.
For me, mothering began 26 years ago in cruel disappointment. Because of medical complications in my pregnancy, I do not remember my oldest son’s birth. I did not hold him until he was four days old, and even then, I struggled to see him through pain and medication. I hated the inadequacy of my body — that it could not bring him into the world without betraying us both.
I have struggled with some version of mom-inadequacy ever since. How can someone ever be enough for another person? How can one damaged soul make another one whole?
There is, to be sure, such beauty and dignity in motherhood. There are dimpled hands and sticky faces, shining milestones and golden memories, echoes of laughter and the hard-fought joy of passing down wisdom and strength. There is a hope buried deeply within the secret heart of mothering. We participate in the creation-work of God by simply existing; without us, how would the world go on?
And yet, the guilt persists, for me and for so many of my mom friends. How can someone ever be enough for another person? How can one damaged mother-soul make this little one whole?
The truth? I can’t. You can’t. All the mothering in the world can’t. My mom could not do it for me, and we cannot do it for our own children.
Only Jesus can.
And that is why I hold Mother’s Day sacred these days. It’s a day I get to identify with Jesus — perhaps for me even more than the high holy days of Christmas or Easter. Mother’s Day is a Calvary hill where I lay down the cross of trying to be enough for my family so that I can kneel at His, where He alone was enough for me and for all of my children.
I meditate deeply on the seasons of mothering that are reflected in the love of God through Christ:
My God loved a Son. He lost a Son. He was estranged from His Son on the cross.
My God inhabited a body that was both broken and broken-hearted.
My God ached with the anxiety of the garden, the despair of abandonment, the joy of reunion.
And still today, He groans with the pains of childbirth to bring light into our darkness — to restore His brittle creation to Him (Isaiah 42:14-16).
This God – my God — has felt what I feel. He has cried what I’ve cried, and He held what I’ve held.
He mothers me, too: As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you (Isaiah 66:13)
Most of all, God is where I find rest as a mom. I have a calling to live and work to do, but God only asks for my obedience, never my outcomes. He is the Alpha and the Omega — responsible for both the beginning of motherhood, and the end results of it, too.
On Mother’s Day, and every day, He is the author and the finisher of all things.