This post is a little off topic for this blog, but since it's apropos to the weekend, here goes.
Mother’s Day must be awkward for some pastors. Always falling on Sunday, it begs to be acknowledged, but how should a church recognize mothers while being sensitive to those who can’t be mothers or whose family ties are broken?
While my bleacher seat opinion is that churches don’t need to fuss about it, it’s okay to spotlight the role. But it’s also okay to zoom out and admire how women, very generally speaking, make such better mothers than men - even quite apart from pregnancy and childbirth.
There are a million directions this topic could go with varying degrees of tact, so I’ll keep it simple.
Women naturally stay by their people. No, not always, and not always well. But this is a tendency easily observed. In a boys-versus-girls grade-school game of Capture the Flag, the girls cluster in a social circle while the boys spread and dash to win. Give the kids a jump rope, and the boys will go for repetitions while the girls invent group singing games. Men rove, mentally if not physically, after their objectives. Women stay, because they see the people they’re with as the objective.
We see this in the biblical narrative, too - as an observation, not necessarily a prescription. There’s Rizpah, who stays night and day by her sons till she gets help to bury them (2 Samuel 21). There are the two Marys and Salome, who return to Jesus’s tomb as soon as they can to honor the body of one they loved. (They were rewarded with good news. Understatement.)
Despite the cruel order of Pharaoh, Moses’s mother keeps her newborn son. Then, when finally forced to part, she can’t simply lay him in the reeds - she makes a little house for him, a protective basket, probably comfortable, too.
His sister is standing by, and in her I see just about every older sister I’ve ever met. Of course she’s around, watching. Of course she follows her mom. Of course she stays in sight of her brother when her mother must withdraw.
Then who comes along and has compassion on the baby? Not a man, as in the legend of Sargon, nor a wolf, as in the legend of Romulus and Remus, but more believably another woman, the daughter of Pharaoh. Moses’s sister steps into action and volunteers to find a nurse (his mom) so Pharaoh’s daughter can raise him.
Moses has only one biological mother, but God uses the female inclinations of all three women to preserve his life and heritage.
The lines fall for us in different places. Each woman has a different lot when it comes to motherhood. On Mother’s Day, I remember that all women really do have a life-giving part to play in this world, no matter whether they bear children.
I heard a sermon years ago that explicated this idea well. Afterward, every female in church from the youngest tot to the oldest woman received a rose (or was it a carnation?). I loved seeing the young girls take hold of the flower, an emblem of their innate beauty and the beautiful role they were just beginning to play.
That image became the genesis of this sonnet. I’ll leave you with it now. Happy Mother’s Day.
On Mother's Day, a rose in hand was laid
For her whose years were fewer but by one
Than all the fingers round the rose that played.
At once she saw not rose but reed, and sun;
And water at her feet and water on
The cheeks of one whose arms let go a form,
Which, patched with pitch and weave, did hold her son,
Whose breath and arms still moved with skin still warm.
The mother hid and could not look, but fled.
The girl stood by and saw another hand
Outreach to calm the crying boy. She said,
"His nurse I'll find if he returns to land."
Among the reeds moved impulse womanly.
There was not only one mother, but three.