This year, Mother’s Day turns 102. Although Anna Jarvis created the holiday in 1908, it wasn’t an official holiday until six years later when Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. It was a day created out of a prayer Anna overheard from her mom, that there be a Memorial Day for mothers to commemorate all they do. And so, two years after her mother’s death, Anna went to work to realize her mom’s hope.
It didn’t take long for a simple day with simple intentions to become much more complicated. Just a few years after it had been signed into law, when she saw the commercialization of the day, Anna herself worked to try to have the day abandoned all together. But that’s just the start of it.
Mother’s Day has become complicated for just about everyone involved—commercialization aside.
It’s a challenge for…
those who long to be moms, this day heightening the ache inside of them.
those who’ve lost their moms, this day accentuating the silence the void their mother left.
those who’ve birthed children gone too soon, this day highlighting a hole their heart shouldn’t have.
those everywhere in between. Who have no stories of loss or pain but who feel this day should somehow be different.
Their kids should be perfect. The relationship with their mother not so strained. The brunch should be peaceful. The realities of life put on hold for just this 24 hours.
Mother’s Day seems religious that way. Because it highlights the gap that exists between what we wish was true and what isn’t, accentuating the breach between our present Earth and a distant Heaven. It’s a day where we are confronted with our highest hopes and our current disappointments. It’s a day that magnifies the hurt, the frustration, the regret and the questions we manage to contain in ordinary circumstances. And yet heightens the desire we have for rightness—for wholeness, for hope, for expectation, for reconciliation and for healing. It’s where we see in stark contrast what we feel ought to be real and what is real.
Any other day we are okay with children who sometimes make us want to pull our hair out; we have learned to manage the hand life dealt us, so different from the one where we imagined we were mothers, or where our mothers were different from what they are; we might be able to get through without stopping up short, confronted afresh with emotions the loss of our mom or our babies have invited into our lives.
But not this day. This day it’s hard to escape what any other day we might adequately push through or cover over. And that makes it hard.
But I am starting to think our attempt to run from the insufficiencies this day brings to the surface is going about it wrong. In fact, I think these are the kinds of days God can do His best work in.
Because the contrast between our expectation and our reality can crush us, depress us, and make cynics out of us. Or it can serve as breadcrumbs, driving us towards the One who put the desire for rightness in us, and walks through the reality of life’s wrongness with us.
In Genesis 1:2, the author begins the creation story describing the Sprit of God hovering over the waters—the word hovering, used later in Deuteronomy to describe what a mother bird does when she flutters over her nest, protecting and covering her young. I love that, as often as we read about God as a loving Father, the first descriptor we read of God in Scripture uses words that depict a Mother.
And on Mother’s Day, this complicated and loaded day, this day where we attempt to manage the seemingly contradictory idea of what we have and what we want, I like to think of God mothering us through the disorder—that God is the mother we actually need. That God is being tender towards us as we juggle our humanity and our dreams for a world—our world—made right. I imagine a Mother, like at the beginning, who has dreams for something new, and the creative power and tender mercy to make it happen, even amid the chaos. I imagine a Mother who covers us, and calms us, who nurtures us, and manages with us the paradoxes of the day, of our relationships, and ultimately our lives.
This year, let’s not run away from the contradictions this day evokes. Let’s not revel in what today deprives us of. But let’s not gloss over the real complications it brings to mind either. Instead, let’s embrace it all, but in the presence of a God capable of handling it all and cultivating us through it all in the process. Let’s celebrate Mother’s Day for all it offers, for all it lacks, and for the God who fills in the gaps.