May 8, 2022
Mother’s Day can be a very difficult time for many who have less than Hallmark moment ‘mom’ experiences in their own lives.
I know women who avoid church on ‘the day’ because it’s too painful: they either feel left out of the celebration or find it all to be a glorified sham, finding that old movie, “Mommy Dearest” to be closer to their truth.
I have four children of my own and am grateful that, for me, motherhood was both a joy and a challenge, though I imagine they would say I was a blend of Auntie Mame, Mommy Dearest, Mary Poppins and perhaps the Wicked Witch of the West (though I wouldn’t have scared Toto for anything!)
If you would have told me before I had kids that I could watch a child sleep for hours and enjoy it, I would have said you were delusional – but it was one of my greatest joys! The thought that I would lie anxiously awake at night when they were old enough to drive until I heard the car pull into the driveway, is ridiculous…but that was totally me!
There were times when I didn’t want to let them out of my sight because I didn’t want to miss a single moment of their young lives; other times I would gladly have sold them to the gypsies! They probably wanted to post me on Craig’s List quite often as well.
Because you see, sometimes those who mother us mess up; even mothers are human! But if one messes up or is unable to mother us, God provides others to step in the space – not as replacements – no human can replace another – but as those who will catch us up in their loving arms for as long as God needs them to keep us safe, encourage us, and help us prepare to live into God’s unique plan for each of us.
It takes more than just one mother to raise our children – it takes all of us working together – grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends as well as teachers, nurses, doctors, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, so many mothers! And so, for me, Mother’s Day is actually about honoring all the women in our lives because they have all been part of making us who we are as the children that God creates and births into the world.
This is a truth I am especially mindful of when I think about the examples of mothering found in the lives of five very different women that God placed in the life of one small child. (Exodus 1:8-22 Exodus 2:1-10)
These women chose to birth, deliver, nurture, save and empower a baby according to their individual skill sets. They had no idea who this child would become, but it didn’t matter – he was a vulnerable human being in need of mothering – and all five stepped up to the plate for him.
The women didn’t all know each other. They weren’t all from the same social, ethnic, economic, or racial background. Still, they had one thing in common – the love for a child. – and they willingly put themselves at risk by choosing to mother this child for a few hours, a few months, a few years. So, when I think of Mother’s Day – I can’t help but think of all of them: the many mothers of Moses.
First: Shiphrah and Puah – the two midwives called to help bring life into the world, protect vulnerable baby boys and put their own lives on the line in order to save children who were not biologically their own. They didn’t distinguish which children should live and which should die – their mothering was unconditional!
Scripture says that God subsequently blessed the women with families of their own. Now, that statement can be read in different ways: perhaps it means the midwives would have their own children; perhaps it means the women would have matriarchal, tribal status because of their self-sacrificing bravery. Regardless, those children would always be the children of their hearts, even if only until the little ones were placed in their birth mothers’ arms! Mothering in times of challenge; making a difference in lives!
Don’t know about you, but I see a correlation between Shiphrah and Puah and the foster mothers of today. In both instances, the women provide a safe space for hope for the future to be born. Such women are mothers in the ‘in-between spaces,’ at times of greatest need, giving strength and comfort to children and birth mothers alike.
Birth mothers like Jocabed. I can’t imagine her anxiety when she began to deliver her baby. What should have been a time of joy collapsed into a time of despair when she was told the baby was a boy. His gender was a death sentence.
Even as the midwives chose to let the baby live despite Pharaoh’s decree, Jocabed chose to put her own life on the line in order to keep her child safe as long as she could; but before long he would be crying, cooing and becoming active. To continue to try to keep him safe put everyone who knew about the child in jeopardy. Jocabed did the only thing she knew to do: trust God to provide someone else ‘out there’ to care for her child in a way that she no longer could.
Being a mother isn’t ever about what the mother wants but always about what the child needs. Mothering is hard in the best of times – but particularly difficult when we know the greatest gift we can give our children is to prayerfully let them go into the care of another whom God provides so that they might live into a future beyond our abilities.
Still, how heavy her loving heart must have been as she made that basket cradle waterproof and lined it with soft cloth to cradle her son and keep him warm, before placing her beloved child in the river.
As one last act of mothering, Jocabed made sure her baby wasn’t alone. She sent the baby’s sister, Miriam, to watch over him. Such a responsibility for one so young! Yet, this was an opportunity for Miriam to begin understanding what mothering means – it means watching over, caring for, and protecting.
How often is the care of the children entrusted to nannies, babysitters and watchful friends? How often do relatives and neighbors keep a watchful eye over children not their own? These are our Miriams –living out mothering support roles when needed.
And finally, Pharaoh’s daughter. Rich, powerful, bold, yet compassionate and merciful; all for the sake of a baby. We often forget that Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t have to save the baby from the river; to rescue him just complicated her life.
The baby was obviously Jewish. She could have turned her back on him or drown him herself. Instead, she chose to mother this child so different from herself and raise the child as an Egyptian prince. By give him an Egyptian name, Moses, she officially claimed him as her own.
Still, she needed help. There were plenty of nursemaids in the palace….but as the princess cradled the child in her arms, she wanted what was best for him…and we know the rest of the story!
During the baby’s formative years, Jocabed and Miriam would imprint Moses’ Hebrew identity upon him. When the child returned to his adoptive mother, he would learn Egyptian culture; both cultures would impact the child’s life and equip him for God’s future.
This child was nurtured through the selfless collaboration of so many mothers who loved him. If even one of the women had chosen not to participate in this child’s life, his future might have been very different. You might even stretch a point by saying these women helped to mother an entire nation – all because so many women said ‘yes’ to mothering!
You may have noticed, I haven’t been using mother as a noun but more often as a verb: mothering – to mother. Mother is an action word and I believe that is what the women of scripture and the women of today demonstrate every day in so many ways that reflect God’s nurturing love for all humanity and give witness to a truth beyond ourselves: no matter what our mothering relationship is to the children in our care, they don’t belong to us. Our children belong to God, we just have the privilege of watching over them, loving them, nurturing them and equipping them as we work together with God in preparation for that time of letting go into God’s future.
We all have so many mothers regardless of the labels we us to describe them: biological, adoptive, step, foster, teacher, counselor, coach. Yet, labels are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. All the women who touch and guide us impact who we are going to be in the future and how successfully we live into God’s plan for our lives.
It may be a privilege but it is also a daunting responsibility. That’s why it takes so many mothers – sometimes more, sometimes less, but always more than one! We all matter when it comes to the raising of our children. And who knows – we might be mothering another Moses – and if not a Moses – we are surely raising some amazing and wonderful children of God!
I give thanks for all the mothers who raised me and for all the children I have had the privilege to help raise as well.
And to God be the glory! AMEN.