Mother’s Day makes me antsy. I know it’s over now, but I’ve still got some words to use about it.
During the days around Mother’s Day, my social media feed was filled with a mix of sentiments. From sweet Mommy-Offspring photos, to thankful tributes to Moms and Bonus Moms, to raw expressions of pain and disappointment because of unmet expectations, the experience of Mother’s Day–much like Motherhood—is all over the emotional spectrum.
I have positive feelings about the day, and my heart is tender toward those who don’t. “And” can be a vulnerable place to stand, thus the anstyness (or should I say andsiness?)
For women who go to church, Mother’s Day Sunday can also be a mixed bag. I’ve appreciated how my church acknowledges the day, but doesn’t make a big deal about it. I’ve seen how other churches use the Proverbs 31 passage (or alternately the stories of Sarah, Ruth, or Mary) in M-Day sermons, supposedly as an exhortation to moms, but it can have the reverse effect. We women walk away feeling under-qualified for the job, as we’ll NEVER EVER live up to that P31 unicorn of a woman, at least how she is presented in the traditional interpretation of the passage.
This year, my heart sank when my pastor said he was doing a Mother’s Day message. I looked skeptically up from my notes app thinking this was going to be a doozy.
Sure enough, he launched into how motherhood was chiefly fueled by sacrificial love. Then he did what I’ve been needing someone to do.
He put motherhood in its place.
College-aged Anna thought that being a wife and a mom was the highest calling for a woman, and that’s all I wanted to be. I also planned to get married right after graduation to the mystery man who met every qualification on the husband list I completed when I was 16. I loved to babysit, so I wanted eight children and couldn’t wait until all my days were full of babies and wifeyness.
Middle-aged, squishy-bellied Anna thinks being a wife and mom is really hard and, as callings go, isn’t so fulfilling. I KNOW what I’m doing has eternal value. It’s even fun and beautiful in the present time. I just didn’t expect to struggle so much to find joy in it all.
I question if I would be a better, or at least happier, mom if I worked outside the home. I question if my kids are really better off having stayed home with a grumpy and easily-agitated me, rather than spending their formative years in a bright and cheery day care. I look at my mom, who still wrestles with the choices she made in our upbringing and still prays for the seeds she sowed decades ago to bear fruit. I hear lots of moms around me asking similar questions. Our families need so much from us and we have limited resources to meet those needs. So many times I feel like I’m running on fumes, and whatever works to get me filled back up doesn’t work for very long.
During the Sunday sermon, my pastor explained that since there was no way that mother’s could be adequately thanked or compensated with just one day of flowers and a meal we don’t cook, we had to find some other way to navigate the unavoidable sacrifices. Please, sir, tell me how!
He talked about his years of being a single dad after his young kids’ mom lost her battle to cancer. He obviously loved his children, but struggled with the unexpected life of giving far more than he was getting. He found being Mr. Mom was unfulfilling and somewhat boring. Yep, yep, so there!
I often wonder, is any of this going to be worth it? And if so, when, exactly? How long until I see this sacrifice, or investment–if you will–pay off?
Is there a way to be fulfilled in the sacrifice?
We’re all called to sacrificial love, my pastor (and Scripture) said. As disciples of Christ, the One who made the ultimate sacrifice, we’re called to lay down our lives for the sake of another, period. That’s a hard calling. It’s hard as a mother or a student or a parking lot attendant at Costco. Our culture and our human nature inclines toward pursuing fulfillment, not sacrifice, he said. Our true fulfillment though, our completed joy, comes from Christ.
I’ll admit, I’m better with words than drawing, but I got this picture when I was thinking of how I’ve come to understand this.
I’ve been guilty of looking at motherhood, or calling, as the source of fulfillment, when it’s just meant to be a vessel. I’ve let entitlement slip into my relationship with God because I’m expecting answers, outcomes, and solutions from the thing He gave me rather than from Him.
Mother’s Day this year was actually really sweet for me. (Like really sweet, John got me Duck Donuts for breakfast!) My kids were so excited to give me their handmade gifts and the flowers they picked out for me are still blooming. It was made even sweeter, though, by the gift of this important message.
Motherhood, or any other calling, doesn’t belong on a pedestal. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be full of Instagram-worthy images. Regardless of what others do for us on this day, it’s a good day to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us that makes our sacrifices possible, and His ever-lasting resources to keep us full.
(If you’re interested in listening to this message for yourself, you can get it here, or you can read the sermon notes here.)