It's Mother's Day this Sunday in the USA. What a joyous occasion. For many. It is a time to say thank you to the one who often holds the family together and who often carries the heartache bound up in hope when no one else sees beyond their own personal pain. Today offers a chance to say thank you to the one who brings order out of chaos, who can find the missing sock and the lost homework, the one who remembers how much laundry detergent you need per load and the reason why some plastics won't work in the microwave and some will. This is a chance to say thank you to the one who rarely gets thanked for all that she does day in and day out. Thank you and I love you. Mother's Day on Sunday, what a joyous occasion.
It's Mother's Day on Sunday. What a delicate and difficult commemoration. How do we ignore the many whose experience of mother was more painful than joyous? How do we pretend that being motherly isn't something that is bestowed with the birth or reception of children under care? What about those who long to be a mother but for some reason are not able to receive that blessing? What about those mothers whose children are no longer around to send them cards or buy them flowers? And what about those who love their mothers but no longer are able to speak in a language she can hear or comprehend? Mother's Day, what a delicate and difficult occasion.
So now what? Yea or nay to Mother's Day? The truth is neither response is completely satisfactory to everyone. Someone will be upset either way. We may not hear about it, but wounds might be inflicted. Are we being overly sensitive? Some think so. It's a cultural event, for heaven's sake; don't make a theological issue out it.
Except, that's what we do. We followers of Christ. We examine everything we do, everything our culture does, from a theological point of view. We ask how is Christ celebrated, how is Christ honored, how is Christ followed in this event? OK. So, how?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
Can we be commanded to love? Well, apparently. Jesus did it. Does it. That wasn't a one-time thing. Just for the disciples, and not for us. This is an ongoing, new every morning kind of command. Love. Love one another. This isn't even a love your enemies kind of thing. This is one another. Those around you. Those close to you. Those who need you. Those in your care. This is the kind of thing a mother ought to do. And a father, for that matter. Or a teacher, or pastor, or caregiver. Love one another.
In my experience, no one loved me like my mother did. No one sacrificed, no one laid down her life for me like she did. Not in one big martyr-like gesture, but in the daily setting herself aside in favor of those in her care. She was parceling herself out, piece by piece so that we would have our needs met, our desires catered to. It was never about her, but about those in her care. When she became a victim of Alzheimer’s and lost the essence of who she was, there was a corner of my soul that felt she was lost to me now because of all those pieces of herself that she gave away so willingly throughout my life. And I felt that maybe if I had returned that love more directly, more frequently, more obviously, there would be more of her left to us now. I know that made no sense medically, but I felt a sense of guilt, and I mourned the loss all the same. Now that she is gone and no longer suffering in front of our eyes, I have a better perspective. I can accept her daily sacrifice of love as the gift it was, the greater love that no one like her gave. No, my mother isn’t Jesus Christ. I do understand that. But she was a disciple, a follower of the one who told her to love like that. And she did her best, and that is all any of us can do. Do our best to love.
Loving is who we are. Loving in a way that lays down our lives for those we love. Loving in a way that honors God and the commandments of God. Loving that is a response to the love we've received. Maybe from mothers and fathers, maybe from spouses and lovers, from brothers and sisters of blood and in Christ. But even if from none of these, we have been loved by God in the definitive sacrificial act of loving, which means that all the loving we are able to do is response. We've already been loved; all we can do is respond.
Why not respond with more loving? With greater love?