From a very early age she knew she was different, and it never seemed to bother her. About this time of year from 1st grade on, our daughter would come home telling a version of the same story- over the years becoming more and more eloquent and articulate about this difference. Having two moms was a big deal on the eve of Mother’s Day you see, and it was very important to her she always be allowed to make two macaroni noodle cards or whatever the special project/gift was that year. And she did it year after year without fail. I suspect there were times she had to advocate for extra time or materials and maybe had a few eyebrows raised, but it happened and she learned early on what I think this holiday is really all about; what I choose to call, Mothering Love.
Mothering love, from my perspective, has very little to do with procreation or progeny for that matter and instead, everything to do with a kind of love that is willing to risk discomfort for the sake of honoring another. It is, in fact, the kind of love we will hear about in Sunday’s gospel reading when Jesus says: “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. …”
Mother’s Day, in the way we now approach it as a greeting card, flowers, breakfast in bed kind-of-holiday has lost almost all of its primary intent. Originally, this day was proposed as Mother’s Peace Day in 1870 by activist Julia Ward Howe; it was intended to be a way to underscore the pain and suffering caused by the Civil War- particularly to the mothers, who were watching their sons be sent off to war. It was a call to women everywhere to come together in solidarity against war of all kinds.
Then 42 years later, in 1912, President Woodrow Wilson made an official declaration dropping the word “peace”, leaving us with a still important, but somewhat more innocuous holiday celebrating the role of mothers in our lives. Over the years, this holiday has become a veritable landmine of emotionally charged and obfuscated landscapes for many to traverse. It is also a very hard day for many women who have themselves lost children or the dream of becoming a mother or any other myriad of complicated contexts.
So, this Sunday, I invite us to celebrate and respect the various facets of this day. May we refocus our hearts and minds by remembering the origins of this day by honoring Julia Ward Howe’s witness for peace lifting up the power of Mothering Love in each of our lives- how we experience it, how we offer it and how we can source that kind of love through Jesus and his words in the Gospel.
I end today with words that will be used for our Prayers of the People this Sunday. Written by Elizabeth Hagan, a Baptist minister who shares openly about her struggle with infertility and what it took every year to survive the discomfort of this holiday, eventually reclaiming the power of Mothering Love. May they touch you as deeply as they do me.
Mothers come in many different forms, and today we remember them all.
For those women who have left earth too soon and in whom we miss dearly.
For every woman who is raising children now making sacrifices for her children’s becoming.
For those women who have taken in others’ children through adoption and foster care, showing us that the love of God far extends beyond biological ties.
For those women with grieving hearts for children that could have been with futures so different from what they planned.
For the special neighbors, teachers, and friends who’ve nurtured us, supported us and helped us to become the people we are today.
For mothers in which our relationships are complicated, difficult or strained, but who have forced us to choose healthier paths for our lives.
Mothering God, help us all to reflect more of your compassion, kindness and strength to those around us today.
Thank God for all of these mothers in our lives. AMEN.
(By Elizabeth Hagan)
May you never forget that you are loved,