Esteeming Every Woman On Mothers Day



There are two mothers in my life—my own mother and also Patti, the mother of my children. With both, I hit the jackpot. Since the day each of them brought her first child into the world, Mom and Patti have been as close to the ideal as one could imagine. Selfless, steady, and safe are the three words I would use to describe them both.

I am eager to join my brother and our daughters and our friends to celebrate both of these fine women this weekend.

However, as a pastor who will be ministering to a diverse crowd this Sunday with a vast array of mother stories, the spirit of celebration and gratitude shifts to a spirit of reflection. For many, the mother story is not like mine or my daughters’. For many, the mother story is a story that hurts.

On Mothers Day, I think especially of boys and girls—small ones and grown up ones—whose mothers are neither selfless nor steady nor safe. I think of good mothers whose children wound them with inattentiveness and ingratitude and insults instead of honor. I think of mothers who have buried their own children or miscarried, and women who have placed a child for adoption by another family. I think of women who are haunted with regret because they will never be able to un-terminate a terminated pregnancy. I think of unmarried women and married women struggling with infertility who long to be mothers, and for whom others’ maternal joy is an unintended sting—especially on Mothers Day.

Knowing that these women will be populating churches this Sunday alongside the mothers whose hearts are appropriately full on ‘their day,’ I am compelled to remind myself, my fellow pastors, and churches in general to remember that in the church, everyone is fighting a hidden battle and we must always be aware of this, especially on days when a particular group is celebrated—and that in Christ’s church, each woman should be looked to and honored as a mother, whether or not she has physically birthed a child.

The church is a surrogate family—a family in which everyone gets to be a mother and a father and a brother and a sister and a son and a daughter to all the others. The church is a family that recognizes that each part needs the others and each part is vital for the flourishing of the others. The church is a community that recognizes that the burdens and challenges and joys of raising children is a community affair, because no mom or dad or couple has the capacity or resources to shoulder this high calling alone. It takes a community of men and women—married and unmarried, younger and older—to mother and father the children of the church. Ruth needs Naomi and Naomi needs Ruth. Timothy needs Paul and Paul needs Timothy. It’s a significant part of how God designed ‘parenting’ to be.

On days like Mothers Day, I am struck by the fact that the twelve-ish year old Jesus went missing for three days and his parents did not realize it because they assumed others in the community were looking out for him. When this happens in our world, someone picks up the phone to contact social services. In Jesus’ world, everyone understood and took for granted that mothering and fathering were a shared, community affair.

So as Mothers Day approaches, I am compelled to remember that my children have many mothers, starting with the one who pours into them every day, and continuing with the surrogate grandmas and surrogate moms and surrogate big sisters who speak into their lives regularly…some of whom have birthed children of their own and others who have not, but all of whom are vital and necessary for our daughters’ growth, development, and wellbeing.

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married, says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1)

While Jesus was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)

As Mothers Day weekend approaches, as we honor mothers as Jesus honored his own mother from the cross—entrusting her to the care of his beloved disciple John who would from that point forward become her surrogate son—let’s remember how necessary, and how worthy of honor, all of the women are in our midst—especially those whom our children experience as selfless, steady, and safe. I dare say that no nuclear family, and no child, can flourish fully without them.

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8 responses to “Esteeming Every Woman On Mothers Day”

  1. rebecca says:

    Maybe we need to have a “Woman’s Day”! (We probably already do.)
    I have difficulty understanding why Mother’s Day is the one we have to tiptoe around, make apologies for, reconfigure to include everybody, etc.
    It (apparently) is Nurses’ Week as I write. I don’t get bent out of shape because I’m not a nurse (or teacher, or secretary, or father).

    • scottsauls says:

      Dear Rebecca,
      It is a much different story for those who are infertile, have lost a child, or who have been abused by their mothers (or, as mothers, by their children) than for those who aren’t able to be nurses. I believe that your comparison is one of apples and oranges here.
      The encouragement here is not to “tiptoe” as much as it is to be loving and sensitive versus to flaunt.

  2. These are good words. Here, may I add these I wrote last year. I always celebrated my own mother on Mother’s Day, but I do not believe that “holiday” has any place in the worship service. I am grateful that our own pastor, Ryan Laughlin, lets me worship free from the dread of that on Mother’s Day.

  3. Aundi says:

    As a therapist, a mom, and a survivor of infertility and miscarriage I applaud you for this post. Thank you for honoring the complexities of this day and all the women involved.

  4. Debbye says:

    Excellent insight. While I am blessed with an army of women (my mother, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, mother-in-law, spiritual moms) who have poured love & grace into me, I know many women for whom Mother’s Day is a painful ordeal for the reasons you stated. Thank you for this.

  5. Markus Mayer says:

    Thank you for the great post! May I add some attributes? I think women can be strong, inspiring, loving, resilient, confident,… and whatever else they want to be. Everyday could be Mother’s / Women’s day if we make it so! 🙂

  6. Angela says:

    My best friend of 31 years has a horrible time with Mother’s Day! She is infertile and her biggest disappointment in life has been that! She wanted a child so badly, so I am happy you are aware of this pain many women face! Thank you.

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