Recently I’ve been reflecting on Motherhood (in addition to doing motherhood). Maybe it has something to do with wanting to be able to say wonderful things to the mothers in my life on Mothers Day and in order to do that well and to say true and uplifting things instead of empty or Hallmark marketed things that don’t actually have the thought behind them. It also has something to do with the journey I’ve personally been on in figuring out motherhood while watching other “moms” in my life.
Although Mothers Day is frustrating and painful for many women and men, I also believe that it can be a significant day of hope. Here are the two reasons why I enjoy Mothers Day (I had hoped to think of a “top five reasons” or a “top ten reasons”, but really, all of my reasons boiled down to these two main themes):
Honoring the Women in our Lives
1. Mother’s Day has the potential to seriously honor the women in our midst — their individual and unique stories and our collective human story by understanding motherhood in a much broader sense than what is often communicated.
This means it is a day to honor women who are not yet moms, women who have lost children (aborted, miscarried, death, given away through adoption, violence and crime… loss is a significant burden to bare so why not come around the mothers and other family members who have known child loss and honor their suffering with them), women who have adopted children, women who in anyway are caring for the next generation of our society, single dads who are trying to be both a mom and dad, dads who want to be as much a part of nurturing their children as moms are stereotypically seen to do in our culture, uncles, aunties, neighbors who care about raising the children in their lives, etc. Motherhood is about caring for and nurturing life so celebrating Mothers Day can and should be about these broad amazing forces that motherhood represents.
God as Mother
2. Because it is a way to understand God as mother and how our mothers are as much a representation of Christ to our children and communities as our fathers.
I was thinking just how profound this realization was for me in my own feminine and Christian identity and now as a mom myself. When it had been communicated to me over and over growing up that it is the dad/husband who (being compared to Christ), serves the wife/mom like the church, I felt patronized and devalued. I stand behind our dads and husbands and other men in our lives to be held to the lofty standard of self sacrifice, service, and love for others that only Christ has embodied in perfection. I affirm that wholeheartedly.
But when that same lofty standard is not also being asked of me because I am a woman, a wife, a mom then I felt it communicated a few lies. First that women don’t need to be Christ-like if they’ve got a good Christian man in their lives. And also, that women are less capable of living like Christ than men; or women just aren’t as important as men are.
When I started to understand God as both mother and father, and that I was made in the image of God as a girl, it empowered me to want to live more like Christ for the sake of my family around me and others in my community. It affirmed my marriage to be more mindful that Brandon and I can better represent Christ to our families and our neighbors together better than individually. It wasn’t just Brandon’s responsibility to be like Christ as the dad, it is mine as a mom as well. We are partners in the same call.
And the reality of that is very profound, because although we all fall short of perfection all the time, I notice that typically women are (whether expected to or not) sacrificing more for the sake of their children and their husbands. More so to the point where it isn’t even noticed by our communities anymore because it is seen as the “normal” thing that women should and would sacrifice (their passions, vocations, careers, where they live, their schedules, their bodies, etc.) for the sake of their husbands or families. So here we are as an evangelical Christian culture emphasizing how great our dads are for their Christ-like calling, and ignoring the connection between our moms’ sacrifice and Christ’s sacrifice.
This is obviously not to say that men (husbands, dads, uncles, grandpas, brothers) aren’t sacrificing things for those they love, but I just see women doing it more often. I’m also not saying that sacrifice is bad, unless of course it is demanded and expected and forced of someone else, so I’m certainly not heaping shame on women for sacrificing things in their lives… sacrifice is an necessary part of love when offered freely.
My mom is an amazing woman, she deserves a lot of respect, and I’m left a little speechless when I actually spend time thinking about all of the ways she’s sacrificed herself (her desires, her vocation, her physical body) for her kids and husband. Let me put that another way: She has laid down her life so that others might have life more abundantly.
To all the Bible readers out there, does that language sound familiar?
I remember when Brandon and I finally got pregnant and how thrilled we were! We had walked through a season of infertility that was particularly painful and difficult for us, and especially me. I can recall the intense emotional pain but I wouldn’t change the long and difficult way that we got pregnant because it made having our daughter mean so much more to us.
Pain brings meaning and significance, it makes the fight worth the effort. God went through the agonizing pain of being rejected, sending his son, watching his son be rejected, slandered, betrayed, and killed, and all that was (and still is) worth it to God because it He was able to give life to those He loved so much (us)!
This is the reason why I chose to try to do a natural childbirth. I didn’t want to medicate away the pain that would help me relate to God in a way that unfortunately my husband will never be able to personally physically experience. Again, I’m not saying that men are incapable of “being like Christ in his death” (Philippians 3:10) to bring about new life, but they are incapable of experiencing childbirth personally, which is a HUGE way that women are like Christ.
Maternal Suffering: Devaluing Curse or Empowering Call?
Recently, I came across an article called Pain in Childbearing, that talks about the suffering involved in motherhood, specifically at birth and how Eve’s sin is the reason for the pain of birth. What it doesn’t present is a full picture of motherhood. What it misses is the redemptive power of Christ. Don’t get me wrong, childbirth will always cause immense pain, and this pain of motherhood will continue well after children have been birthed.
However, with the power of Christ, motherhood takes on a whole new meaning. Motherhood can be compared to God’s desire to have a meaningful relationship with us and to see us grow and prosper. I love being a mom because even though its painful (remember, painful also means meaningful), it is another way I can partner with God instead of being used as a symbol of an evil curse.
Another article I read recently is about an interesting study Barna did to try and observe whether Christians are more like Christ or more like pharisees. What I found specifically noteworthy was one of their findings that said men were 9% more likely to be less Christ-like in actions and attitudes and women were 18% more likely to be Christ-like in actions and attitudes.
Again, I do not bring this up to boast over my male partners in the Gospel, as if there is some ridiculous competition between men and women as to who is the best or the most holy. Instead, the goal would be to see men and women working more closely together, learning from and valuing one another so that together we could understand a more holistic and healthy view of God.
This way we may approach Him (Her?) more wholey and be healed ourselves individually and collectively. To do this, we need to be humble enough to learn from one another, women listening and learning from men, men listening and learning from women.
Privilege Plays a Prominent Part
My new friend and colleague, Steve Mattson, pointed out in his article Am I a Christian Bigot?, that privilege many times can hinder our ability to see beyond ourselves. This seems it might be directly related to how one is able to be Christ-like or not. In our culture, men have historically had more privilege than women, and even though we’re making progress in gender equality, men still hold more privilege be it subconscious or conscious. I wonder if this is what Jesus was getting at when He talked about the ease of a camel getting through an eye of a needle versus the ease of a rich man getting into heaven. Perhaps the rich man’s privilege had built a huge barrier in his ability to be Christ-like? Perhaps men who are unaware of their privilege and their need to steward it well have let their privilege grow into a barrier that hinders them from being like Christ?
This can also be said of those of us who have privilege for other reasons: our race, our monetary wealth, our physical appearance, our ability, our sexual orientation, etc. I have been born with privilege that others haven’t been given at birth, nor will ever have in their lifetime, and I believe that another way I can model Christ is to be aware of my privilege and steward it well for the sake of my brothers and sisters who don’t have as strong a voice.
Some might assume that I’ve digressed a lot from my original topic: Mothers Day. But for me, all of these ideas join together in my celebration of Mothers Day. These are some of the big reasons why I love being a woman and a mother. The vast scope of what motherhood means to me is that you don’t have to be a mother in the conventional sense to be about “motherhood”. And that is beautiful. Motherhood represents life in all its messy glory: privilege stewardship, Christ-likeness, sacrifice, love, progress and development, wisdom.
Happy Mothers Day to Everyone!