Thinking About…Differences

Since Sunday, I’ve been second-guessing the sermon I gave on Mother's Day. As I said in that very sermon, ‘Mother's Day is an impossible day.” One of the reasons it’s an impossible day is because it unavoidably calls attention to our differences. I’ve been thinking about those differences.

The Pain of ‘Mother’

One of our differences is our response to the idea of ‘Mother.’ Some of us have great mothers and a day of celebration for them is joyful. But, as internet commentators have pointed out, for some of us the very idea of mother is painful. That pain may stem from a number of sources: an abusive mother, an absent mother, the longing to be a mother (as yet and perhaps forever) unfulfilled, the decision to not be a mother in a culture that lodges much identity in motherhood.

The reason Mother's Day is impossible, it turns out, is because life is impossible. This world, designed by God for good, has been corrupted by sin and is filled with longing. Even something as basic to life as motherhood is laden with dis-ease and can’t be celebrated universally.

And yet, the answer to the impossibility of Mother's Day and of life is not avoidance. We ought not feel any compulsion to celebrate Mother's Day; it is not a Biblical concept. But we are commanded (5th commandment-ed to be precise) to honor our mothers. Eschewing Mother's Day completely or tenaciously avoiding every mention of motherhood out of sensitivity to those who struggle with their mothers or mothers is not the answer. Avoidance does not resolve the pain.

New Creation

Instead, we must acknowledge our differences, without becoming paralyzed by them. We must accept our uniquely broken pasts and presents and look to the promise of God that transcends them. We must believe individually and together that we are not defined by motherhood, by our lack of motherhood, by our mothers (good or bad). We must receive all of the shaping influences and circumstances in our lives and rejoice that in Christ we are new creations. And we must cry out (alongside a groaning creation) in hope that we (and all of creation) will be set free by the full redemption of Jesus.