I’m thirty-four and so Mother’s Day has endured several new seasons for me. There was the season of my birth, which I don’t remember of course. Then there was the seasons of childhood where I came home from church on Mother’s Day with hand-made cards, where I partnered with my dad and siblings to make meals, create artwork, and honor my wonderful mom. There was the season of junior high and into high-school where I offered the obligatory thanks to Mom, but didn’t fully appreciate her investment in my life. And then of course there is college years where I’m pursing my dreams and slowly begin to appreciate Mom.
Then there where new and fresh seasons of Mother’s Day. When I married Angela, I added another mother to my life. Angela’s mom, Linda, was a wonderful new addition. And then, when we began having children, Mother’s Day was given a whole new meaning. The first year of parenthood I didn’t fully appreciate this. That Mother’s Day I went about as usual, buying gifts for my own mother and making sure we took care of Angela’s mom. Big mistake. I had forgotten that this was a day to honor my wife, who is the mother of my children, who was laboring hard to make our house a home for the children God entrusted me. It was a lesson I didn’t ever forget.
This year, as Mother’s Day rolls around, we’re experiencing yet another season. In January of this year, Linda Sullivan, Angela’s Mom, my mother-in-law, slipped from this life into glory. It was a tragic loss for us. This Mother’s Day will be especially difficult for Angela, the first without the woman who so shaped her life. It’s also a hard day for me, to lose a wonderful friend, listening ear, compassionate soul, cheerleader, and mentor. The ten years I knew Linda were good years. We wish we had at least ten more with her, but we don’t.
In a way, the varied seasons of Mother’s Day are helping to shape my own ministry to others. Until this year I didn’t realize the mixed feelings or even outright pain most feel on this holiday when it seems everyone is celebrating motherhood. If you’ve lost a mother, this particular Sunday in May revives those emotions afresh. If you’ve experienced the sting of infertility, this is a day in which you’re not sure how to act. Anger, jealousy, sadness, embarrassment, grief. If you’ve lost a child, you may just want to roll right past this Sunday in the calendar.
As I get up to preach on Sunday, I hope to offer Jesus as solution to the empty parts on Mother’s Day. I hope each new seasons allows me, like Paul, to care for God’s children “like a nursing mother taking care of her children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). But ultimately, I know that each loss we experience on Mother’s Day is a fresh reminder of God’s sovereignty over all things and that even the best relationships, the ones we’ve experienced with our mothers or mothers-in-law are but small pleasures pointing us to the ultimate joy found in relationship to Christ, who fills all the empty places in our hearts.
Sunday, I will do my best to help Angela grieve the loss of her mother and to honor Angela’s own efforts as mother of our four small children. Like most on this holiday, I suppose we’ll limp along less triumphalist as we may have in the past when everything was just right on Mother’s Day. And I encourage you to do the same.
When Sunday approaches, make sure you give your mother and your mother-in-law quality time and affirm your gratitude for their contribution to your life. If you’re married, honor your wife. If you have children, doubly honor your wife. And when the day is over, whisper a silent prayer of thanks to your Heavenly Father, who sustains and holds all things in His loving hands.