According to the National Retail Federation, the average Mother’s Day shopper will spend $180, or a total of $23.1 billion. That is a lot of flowers and jewelry. It seems that we all want to celebrate the blessing God has given us through giving us mothers. In recognition of Mother’s Day on Sunday, allow me to share the story of a remarkable mom who lived a few thousand years ago. She was poor, widowed and responsible for a child. Things have gotten so bad for her that she had given up hope. But God has other plans for her and her child.
We really know little about this mother. While we do not know her name or her lineage, we do know she was married, but her husband died and left her with no source of income: according to the scriptures, all she had to her name was a jar of flour and a pitcher of oil. We also know that she was not part of the “People of God”: she was an “unclean” Gentile. Lastly, we know that she was commanded by God to help a certain prophet of God named Elijah: she was commissioned to use that last of all she had to feed this stranger.
Before I conclude the story, allow me to digress. I am not at all surprised that God used a mother, especially a single mother, to save Elijah. Is there any other class of human being so willing to sacrifice as a mom? When there are five mouths and four slices of pie, it is the mom who says, “I’m too full from dinner for dessert; you guys have it.” When it is three AM and thundering, it is the mom who gets displaced so that her child can be comforted. She picks up the underwear, wipes up the barf and cleans up the bathroom. There is seemingly no need too demanding or distance too far to travel for a mom.
Getting back to the story, this mother prepares her last meal for herself, her son and her visitor. But the flour and oil never run out. She and her household (including the guest) were fed for three years, miraculously. Despite the fact that they were in the midst of a global famine, God was able to meet her needs. Just when one might think everything is going to get better, tragedy strikes when the son of this woman becomes ill and stops breathing. No one would blame her for her outburst:
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 1 Kings 17:18
After all she had sacrificed, was this really how her story was going to end? No. Elijah immediately cries out to God and her son’s life is restored to him. Then they all lived happily ever after (though not together).
I thank God that the mothers I am most familiar with (both biological and metaphorical) have yet to lose hope. They sacrificed for the sake of those they loved, expressed outrage when something hurt those they loved and never gave up hope for those they loved. Some of that has to do with their personal resolve – they are all formidable people of character – but some of it has to do with their faith in the God who can resource and restore them as He did for a Phoenician widow, her son and her house-guest.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those who have given more than they will ever get back from their families.
This Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day. It is the day that we, as a society, honor the people in our lives who have sacrificed their sleep, their youth, their livelihoods and their plans to provide for us. We all have someone in our lives worthy of celebration – a mother (or mother-figure) who has loved, comforted, taught and trained us; a person who has given us advice, assistance and correction when we needed it; and someone who was willing to give all they had to help us achieve all we are intended to be. No human being, and therefore no mother, is perfect; they are simply closer to the ideal than the rest of us.
From last Mother’s Day to this, it has been a particularly difficult year for the three mothers in my life. The mother I was born to has been hampered by some minor health, home and hearth concerns. The mother I am married to has seen one child graduate college only to be rocked by an uncertain job market and unestablished credit, one child graduate High School only to live at a college 500 miles away, all while she was required to perform her functions as a mother in a downsized environment. The mother I gained through marriage has had the toughest year: she suffered the loss of her son in December and an extended hospitalization and rehabilitation since March. Life has not been easy for the mothers of my family.
As I witnessed how these three remarkable women coped with the challenges of life thrust upon them, it seems that I am the one who is still learning the lessons of life from these moms. Their stalwart persistence teaches me that God provides all that we need: a few dollars or a few kind words just when we are at our wits’ end. Their steadfast love teaches me that the difficulties of our day are diffused when we bear the burdens of someone else. Their sincere concern for their children teaches me that love is empowered only when it is released for the betterment of another. I am blessed by the love and care of these moms.
My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 6:20
The events of the last year, and the ways that these wonderful women navigated them, reinforces in my mind the notion that we need our moms. We also need to uplift the mothers among us. Let me encourage you to celebrate the mothers around you. If your mom is still living, acknowledge the integral role she has played in your life. If all you have is memories, share one this Sunday. Recognize the full spectrum of motherhood in your community – greet the new moms, the single moms, the empty-nested moms, the mourning moms, the expectant moms, the motherly role models, the future moms, the moms who care for others’ children and the prodigals’ moms. It is a tough world and we can use all the love and encouragement we can get. Praise God this weekend that He has given us great mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Earlier this week I met with a few colleagues in ministry. At some point our conversation turned to questions about how our respective churches would acknowledge Mother’s Day and the challenges that honoring mothers in worship entails. As a pastor, let me share that publicly recognizing mothers in the midst of a worship service is fraught with dangers. On any given Sunday a typical congregation includes single women of all ages longing to be married with children, married women who are facing infertility issues or stressed over an unsatisfying work/family balance, mothers who are overwhelmed with the needs of children with disabilities or raging hormones, women with expiring biological clocks, mothers of prodigals who haven’t shared a kind word with their child in years, mothers of the deceased and mothers of moderately well-adjusted offspring. What is the best thing to say before this varied audience who are all seeking comfort and strength before the throne of God?
First, we can affirm that God is sovereign. Despite the ubiquitous presence of sin, God remains in control of all creation. God is able to work through people “whose quiver is full” and whose “womb is closed” and His blessings are unrelated to any individual’s physical or relational condition. Certainly children are a blessing. So is the unconstrained time and treasure to serve others. God knows our trouble and is able to perfectly satisfy every longing heart.
Next, we can affirm that God is compassionate. Throughout scripture God is the champion of the widow and the orphan; particular to the subject at hand, God commands the people of God to care for those among them who are females without family. God hears the prayers of the childless and, occasionally, miraculously provides a child while, always, providing comfort. God promises to dry every tear shed by the faithful and replace what sin has consumed.
“And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 1 Samuel 1:11
Last, but not least, we can affirm that our greatest hope is never fully realized on earth. Not all pleas and prayers find a positive answer on earth. And all that God does provide – food, shelter, life (and even children) – do not truly belong to us; we are simply stewards of God’s blessings. Everything we possess is simply on loan from our Creator. All these temporary blessings develop a longing for God’s permanent and eternal blessings. One day, all that God promises will be realized by those who trust in Him, not on earth, but in the heavenly places. When we are gripped with longing, we can be encouraged that the Lord will satisfy our every pang.
Wherever you find yourself this Sunday and however you choose to identify yourself, allow me to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Join me in acknowledging the mothers among us and the blessings – of all kinds – that the Lord provides through them. And for those who will be hurting this weekend, I pray that the God of all comfort and hope will remain close to you as we acknowledge those who have been otherwise blessed.
Today is my mother’s birthday…and, no, I will not reveal her age. As I think about Mum, I realize that, while she is many things, I tend to see her only as a mother. She is smart (valedictorian of her High School class, I believe). She is hard working (a master in as varied fields as retail, design, banking and insurance). She is a college graduate (receiving a B.S. in sociology ‘later in life’). She has marvelous culinary skills (being able to prepare dishes that rival those of master chefs while maintaining a tight budget). She has been a member and leader in the church (serving as secretary, clerk and substitute teacher). She is a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a cousin, a grandmother and a great grandmother. But, to me, she is simply my mother.
All accomplishments in the real world aside, I know her as the one who kissed my boo-boos and soothed my rashes. She is the one who took her boys to ride go-carts and swim in the ocean. She is the one who forgot to save room for dessert when there wasn’t enough to go around. She is the one who comforted my broken heart and confronted my stubborn streak. She made birthdays and Christmases special despite the limitations of her financial condition. She went to football games in November in New England to see her kid in the marching band. She attended concerts, plays and courts of awards and cheered on a child with more passion than ability. All this was done with little recognition, at least from this child, of the sacrifices she made for my benefit.
“Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3 (NIV)
Much has changed in the nearly 50 years since I first met my mother: we now live 1,300 miles apart, we don’t speak every day and I have a wife who will kiss my boo-boos. I am tempted to say that I don’t need her anymore, but I know that would not be true. I guess you never outgrow your mom: you never get so old that you no longer need the cheerleader in the stands, the champion in your corner or the virtually unconditional love that is found in a mother’s presence. I am so grateful to God that He blessed me with such a special mom.
So, I appreciate the opportunity to indulge a selfish impulse in writing this week’s post. Allow me to conclude by encouraging those who are reading this to contemplate God’s hand of blessing in granting you your mother. If she is living, might I suggest you give her a call? If she has passed, might I suggest you tell someone around you how wonderful she was? God truly made something great when He made ‘mother’.
Happy Birthday, Mummy. I pray that God will bless you as greatly as you’ve blessed me.