We don't set aside many special days in our family, and we try to make every day one of mutual respect and honor.
Mother's Day is pretty hard to pass by, though. Somehow it takes on huge implications as the time for family members to repay countless maternal sacrifices made over the previous 12 months. If any mom is tempted to feel unappreciated or undervalued, a Mother's Day celebration is supposed to make amends.
But a string of disappointing "second Sundays in May" has got me thinking. As deserving of honor as motherhood is, a sense of entitlement is rarely rewarded with the greeting-card brand of unalloyed joy. Husbands forget, kids are busy, and indignation sets in.
How can families temper this holiday's emotional punch? On the surface, mothers may need to be more outwardly appreciated all year, or to fight the temptation to feel a martyr's need for compensation. But tinkering with behavior and feelings doesn't heal. And healing is what's called for on this holiday - healing that comes from considering what is spiritually true and lasting.
A close look at why we honor mothers clarifies what's honorable about motherhood. Spiritual qualities come to mind - tenderness, purity, patience, constancy, humility, grace, and more. We each know mothers who demonstrate these in spades. But the beauty, strength, and continuity of motherhood aren't personal; they don't depend on any one person expressing them. The real source and power of motherhood is God, our divine Mother.
Celebrating God's presence in our lives as Mother has great benefits. It frees us from looking to ourselves or others for compassion and love. We express mothering qualities effortlessly, by virtue of our close relationship to God. A mother who looks to God for guidance and support drops burdens or personal responsibility. This kind of recognition isn't limited to one day a year. It's ongoing, habitual, joyous.
My most uplifting mothering experience didn't happen on Mother's Day. But the day felt like a celebration of real motherhood. And it convinced me that God's mothering for all of us is indeed eternally accessible.
I was in charge of 12 young teens during a trip to France. In the middle of an outing to a far-off tourist site, one of the girls became ill with symptoms of food poisoning. A doctor was located, but his efforts to relieve her pain failed. We brought her back to the home of her host family to determine our next steps.
As the other adults discussed the options, I went into her bedroom to talk with her. This lovely young girl, usually outgoing and confident, tearfully told me she wanted her mother. My heart went out to her, and I found myself holding her close and talking to her about how I saw God as our ever-present Mother. I explained how dependable and caring this Mother is - that She was with us right then and there, providing everything we could want or need for our health and well-being.
The effect was immediate. The rigidity went out of her body, and she relaxed into sleep. When she awoke, the symptoms were gone.
Our Mother-God's presence and power were definitely evident that day. This child's heartfelt desire for mothering was answered by my natural expression of it - even though this girl's mother was far away, and even though I wasn't yet a mother. The prophet Isaiah's promise came alive for us: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you" (Isa. 66:13).
This year I'm going to be ready for Mother's Day. By watching for God's mothering action in my life every day, I feel sure that this Sunday will hold no unpleasant surprises. Kindness and generosity - all Her qualities, wherever I see them - will register as continuing evidence of my Mother's presence and love. I'll expect to feel mothered, and to be able to mother others, no matter what day it is.
The Mother who comforted two of Her children years ago in France is currently on the job, comforting all Her offspring on every continent. That's cause for celebration.
... maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)