Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. It’s always been a bit rough for me and this year I kept a handle on my emotions by staying away from social media until the day was nearly over.
As a daughter I find Mother’s Day to be a painful reminder of the joy and emotional intimacy between mother and child that I have always wanted but never experienced. My mother is still alive, but our relationship has always been strained and when I see the happy pictures of my friends celebrating with their mothers (especially the ones where they look so much alike) and read the ode to mother tributes I feel the little stabby pains of envy creeping in. I let myself grieve a bit each year when this special day rolls around for what was never to be and I turn the hurt over to God because he is the only one that can full the dark corners in the heart where a mother’s love should reach but couldn’t.
As a woman who is childless by choice Mother’s Day can also be a painful reminder that society not only values mothers (which is very very good) but also devalues women without children (which is hurtful and cruel). I am very blessed to have such loving and accepting friends in the Christian community who don’t tie my worth to bearing children, but out in the larger circles of the church and society it isn’t always the case. Common sentiments from happy parents such as “Now that I have children, my life truly has meaning” or “Children make life worth living” can cut like a knife with their subtle implications. And while I have chosen a life without children of my own volition I can only imagine the gut wrenching pain these comments induce for women who are infertile, who have miscarried, or who have lost children after birth.
For these reasons, I was so very please yesterday to attend a church service in Everett, WA (Northlake Christian Church http://www.northlakecc.org/) where Mother’s Day was acknowledged and blessed but NOT made the focus of the sermon. In this way we were able to honor mothers without inadvertently raining hurt down upon those who are wrestling with issues surrounding motherhood. The sermon was on the transformational power of praying together. A couple gave witness and testimony to how praying together nightly (a personal challenged issued to them by the pastor) has begun to change them and their marriage for the better in just the two weeks since they’ve started. At the conclusion of the service Pastor Steve challenged the entire congregation and all visitors to begin praying with a companion daily and to keep this habit through the end of this month. Jonathan and I have accepted the challenge and I am excited to see what great things God is going to do with this window we have opened up in our life to him.
In addition to the wonderful church service, we enjoyed many other happy moments this weekend. We flew into Seattle Friday night and spent all day Saturday with my husband’s brother and our sister-in-law and their children. I always look forward to our visits with them because there is such love and positive energy in their home. Their sons are crazy about their Uncle Jon and it warms my heart to see their faces light up when he plays with them. We went running and hiking through the park with our oldest nephew and enjoyed giggles and playtime with the younger kids. We even had a bit of cooking (we made a pie together and I also taught my nephew the secrets of transforming canned soup into a masterpiece lunch with a few added ingredients and spices). My sister-in-law is one of the most wonderful people I know. She’s open and friendly and always welcome us with hugs and kindness. I know that she’s got my back and she’s very trustworthy. And my brother-in-law is steadfast in his faith and works hard to model that for his sons and I very much admire that.
In thinking about mothers on the ride home from the airport last night, my mind was immediately drawn to my best friend (who is a very good and loving mother). I prayed that she had a very rewarding day of honor and I thanked God for bringing her into my life. Here is an interesting tidbit about my best friend: I prayed her into my life. I prayed for a long time (years in fact) for God to bring a good friend across my path with whom I could laugh and love and share a deep and edifying friendship. When it finally happened, it didn’t play out quite as I envisioned. Even for an extreme extrovert like myself, letting someone in so close and establishing such an emotionally intimate friendship has been hard. All the great fun and social companionship that I imagined is there and I am so happy about that. She has also been there by my side through some very difficult experiences such as the death of my father and my sister. But there is a whole other side of Christian friendship that I didn’t anticipate. The experiences I share with my best friend and the emotions that surround these experiences hold up a mirror to my eyes that reflects my deepest thoughts and feelings. And sometimes those thoughts and feelings are just ugly. At times I wrestle with envy or pride or fear (of rejection, of abandonment, of losing in comparison) in our friendship and I didn’t even know how deep these sinful tendencies ran into my soul until the Holy Spirit began uncovering them and rooting them out in the light of our friendship. In this way, our friendship has been edifying and I am a better person for it. Along the way I have seen her grow in her faith as well and the fruits of her discipleship to Christ continue to blossom and ripen. Of course in addition to these subtle acts of transformation going on behind the scenes there are the direct challenges to the ego and conscience that we lay upon each other as friends when we see each other heading off course. My best friend has saved me from myself more times than I can count. I find that the friendship that God has given me; the Christian friendship that I asked for, pushes me to grow and change in ways that are challenging and uncomfortable and sometimes when it seems too hard I want to give up and go back to being isolated and comfortable hiding in the darkness. But I won’t give up (and I suspect that if I tried my best friend would hunt me down and pull me back out of myself) because I hold fast to this truth: in our relationships with one another we are working out what it means to be like Christ; we are practicing (and sometimes fumbling) the real work of self-sacrifice and unconditional love and edification and we are better for it.