Mothers' Day Maelstrom

Mother’s Day: My emotions are always bigger than one day—or even one heart—can hold. How can so many wildly different feelings be generated by one day?

First, gratitude beyond words. Next to my God and my husband, my children—and now my grandchildren—are hands down the greatest gift of my life. Joy overflowing. Is this joy more intense because of all the years I wondered if I would ever experience it? I don’t know. I just know that, truly, my cup runneth over.

And there’s hope. Amidst all the ugliness and turmoil and suffering in our world, I look at the faces of my grandchildren. And I feel such hope for the next generation. Especially because these precious children are being raised in Godly homes by parents who want more than anything else for their children to walk with Jesus. Could a woman feel more blessed?

But there’s always a deep-down sorrow intermingled with this day. One part of it is missing my mom. Though Jesus came for her over ten years ago, I still miss her every day. But that sorrow is quickly embraced by gratitude, as I reflect on the wonderful mom I had and remember that not everyone has had such a gift. Which leads to a second sadness. The sadness I feel as I look around at all my precious friends who never had that kind of relationship and always wished for it.

But there’s a deeper sorrow in my heart on Mother’s Day. It’s a shared sadness with my many beloved sisters who feel the pain of deep, inexpressible loss on this day. Some of my dearest friends have buried a child recently. Some have suffered a miscarriage and are feeling that raw emptiness I remember so well. Others are lamenting yet one more failed in vitro attempt. Or one more adoption that has never become reality. Not yet, at least. Or perhaps the husband—and children—they always longed for but never had. The child who isn’t there. Is there a deeper pain?

I feel very cautious on Mother’s Day. My heart is so full of joy I can hardly hold it in. But I look around my neighborhood, my church—or even the mall or the grocery store. And I wonder about all the hearts around me. Who is also truly joyful? Who is lost in prayer for the child who has run far from God and can’t seem to find their way back? Yet. Whose smiling face masks a deep, secret suffering?

I also see those many moms who have their arms full of kids but sometimes wonder why they ever wanted kids in the first place. They are exhausted, overwhelmed, just spent. They give and give and give all day 24/7, 365. It feels like there’s nothing left. Some are single moms. Some are moms who “feel single”—for myriad reasons. Many are moms—the ones I pray for most—who have no family nearby and desperately need some kind of back-up support, a caring community in which to raise their children. Being a mom can be very lonely. One of those “never alone but always lonely” kind of things. It’s why we have Mom to Mom.

But here’s the thing. If you are still reading, and haven’t yet given up on what might feel like a needlessly maudlin Mother’s Day post, here’s the thing I most want to say about Mother’s Day. One thing we all have on Mother’s Day—no matter what we don’t have—is a God Who is both Father and Mother to us. I think of Rembrandt’s famous painting of the prodigal son and Henri Nouwen’s comment about it. In The Return of the Prodigal Son, Nouwen points out how the father embracing his son in the painting has one hand that looks like a man’s and one that looks like a woman’s. You have to look closely. But he’s right.

And it’s a reminder of the many verses in Scripture that describe our all-loving, all-powerful God as loving us like a father and like a mother. But above all, like the Perfect Parent we all long for or want to be. The only Perfect Parent. And it is He who embraces us on this day and gives us what we need—whether that’s ongoing healing for loss, strength for those mom days when we have nothing left, or just the sheer joy of His presence—no matter what. No matter what.

It is He who gives true joy. That is why, amidst tears (current or remembered) and shouts of joy, I can truly wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!