There are a whole bunch of people around me who are acting like the prophet Jonah, as recorded in Jonah 4 (Jonah is despairing to the point of death over the withering of a weed as he witnesses the repentance of the people of Nineveh). Like the Old Testament prophet, they are disappointed that things did not go their way, pouting due to a perceived personal slight and an actual adversary’s blessing. These community members are distraught over the Patriots’ early exit from the NFL playoffs – not that they had a losing season (they won three times the games they lost this season) or failed to make the playoffs (unlike 20 other teams), but that they simply did not advance to the Super Bowl.
Instead of rejoicing in the blessing that the home team has appeared in nine or the last eighteen Super Bowls, they are mourning their demise; they might find partners in commiseration in fans of the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Texans, who have never been to the championship game. Instead of reflecting on the good times experienced in six NFL titles (and six more by the professional sports teams in the Boston area), they disparage the players and coaches; I suggest these sentiments not be shared with the fans of the Vikings, Bills, Bengals, Falcons, Panthers, Cardinals, Titans or Chargers, who have never won a single Super Bowl.
As human beings, we are susceptible to the temptation of maximizing our self-importance and minimizing the value of others. We expect our lives to be a series of progressive blessings and we resent when others are blessed besides us, or – the horror – instead of us. Jesus share a parable about it when he shared the story of a vineyard manager who paid the first workers in the field (who worked a full day) and the last workers (who worked less than an hour) the same amount. Can you imagine? Those first workers (who we naturally identify with) got what was fair; the last workers (slackers if you ask me) received way more than they deserved. Jesus concludes his object lesson with the response of the vineyard foreman:
“Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ Matthew 20:15 (NIV)
As a fan of the New England Patriots, I have been compensated handsomely over the past nineteen seasons. And the greater truth remains that God can (and does) bless others with compensation just as handsome as mine. There will be a new champion in a new town – maybe Minnesota, Nashville or Houston for the first time – and I am good with that. I am glad that God is so generous. And know this: His generosity is not limited to football games but extends to every area of life. We are wise to rejoice with those who rejoice instead of mourning that it is not our day in the sun. And who knows, maybe Duck Boats will still carry a champion (the Bruins, Celtics or Red Sox) this year!
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, allow me, as an unbiased observer, to champion an often overlooked attribute of motherhood – commiseration. According to Merriam-Webster, commiseration is ‘the expression of sorrow or compassion for another’. Mothers hurt when their child is hurt, cry when their child is crying and empathize when their child is suffering. My experience as a child and as a parent tells me that that mothers and fathers are frequently diametrically opposed when a child is sad: typically, dads are fixers and moms are feelers. We certainly can appreciate the fatherly instinct of making things right, but there is nothing like the motherly comfort of hearing, “It’ll be alright.”
Mothers are a gift from God when a child is suffering. They will comfort the 4 year-old who just showered mom’s lap with intestinal juices. They will cry at parent-teacher conferences because the educational system is in danger diminishing the potential of her child’s young mind. Mothers understand the fragility of the teenage heart during a break-up. Even well into adulthood, when their babies have babies of their own, they will encourage from a distance their son or daughter when they hear of the pain of a troubled grandchild.
Mothers are the ones who make sure that their children know that they will never be alone in the dark. They are willing to lie down at bedtime and sing lullabies when they are small and they are willing to wait up through the night when they are ill. They are the ones to whom little voices cry out in a thunderstorm and to whom big voices call when they get fired. Personally, I am blessed because when I need a word of comfort there are two places I can turn: to the mother of my children and to my own mother.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15 (NIV)
God uses as an illustration of His steadfast love the compassion of a mother. Isaiah’s words, if I could paraphrase them, are saying that while it might be possible, however logically remote, that a mother might forget a presently nursing baby, God will never forget us. God’s commiseration is exemplified by our moms. If you desire to know the heart of God for His children, talk to a nursing mom about hers!
I hope that you have the opportunity to spend time with your mom this weekend, if only via technology. I hope you have a chance to acknowledge all the times she suffered beside you.
For those who will be mourning the loss of Mom this weekend, may the truths of Isaiah 49:15 uplift your spirit.
If you are a mom, let me say this so that you hear it at least once – Thank you so much for all you do. If you are a mom with children still at home, please know what a precious calling you have and know that your commiserating is accomplishing much more than you can imagine.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!