A Facebook posting from Saturday garnered my attention early Sunday morning. It wasn’t the kind of posting one would normally expect on a Mother’s Day weekend, but I knew the story and it not only tugged at my heartstrings, it was a story fittingly shared. Mother’s day is one of those special occasions that orchestrate a diversity of emotions depending on one’s childhood and subsequent life experiences.
Early yesterday morning, my first order of business was to pay tribute to my mother through the writing of my blog. For many of us (perhaps most of us), Mother’s Day is a day we routinely celebrate all that we have been given through the threshold of a mother’s love. I suspect that my first understanding of God’s love had something to do with the love of my mother. I smiled as I crafted my thoughts associated to Mother. She told me often, “No one will ever love you the way your mother does”. She also often told my two brothers the same thing. Perhaps she was right, but she also reminded me every time I messed up that whatever I had done would be on my permanent record.
In response to my posting yesterday morning, a friend wrote: “This morning’s blog may be the best yet! Those of us that can’t touch, hug, laugh with or cry with our mothers anymore will someday meet them again in Heaven! It’s especially hard for me and my older brother and my sister because Mom went home to be with the Lord two days before ‘Mothers Day’ in 2001. As scripture reveals to all who believe, it is the best of time and the worst of time for some of us on this day!! Thanks for sharing your mom’s story! Happy Mothers Day to all mom’s!!”
My brother’s response to my posting was exactly as I knew it would be. He wrote from the heart: “She is with me everyday. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of something she did or said. We were blessed to be her children”. My brother’s assessment is faultless. We were blessed to be her children.
Another friend added: “Thank you for another wonderful post!! Your writings stir forgotten memories that bring tears and smiles!! His kind comments made me feel good. I couldn’t refute his claim. For many of us, what I shared about my mother is equally true of your mother as well. If we had the good fortune to have that kind of experience, we can easily relate. I replied to my friend’s posting: “My words are your words and the words of many others. We have been abundantly blessed. Sadly, not all have the same experience. It is for them that my heart hurts”.
There are a host of folks for whom “Mother’s Day” isn’t a favored and special day filled with fond memories. I have a friend who was not the recipient of a mother’s nurturing and protective love. My friend’s entire childhood was at the hands of an evil stepfather who abused her in ways that profoundly impacted her sense of identity and self-worth. She grew up with the belief that she was “damaged goods”.
Following my friend’s abandonment by her biological father at the age of two-years-old, her mother subsequently remarried a pillar of the community, a church leader and deacon, and a man highly regarded by his peer group. No one would have suspected that that he was capable of the unrelenting sexual abuse and child pornography that he forced on her year after year. Finally in the midst of adolescence, she made an outcry regarding the heinous crimes that had been committed against her from a very early age. As another abrupt slap in the face, her mother refused to acknowledge the truth. She quickly silenced her daughter by sending her fifteen hundred miles away to live with her grandparents and for all practical purposes pushed her daughter out of her life.
Trust me, adults who as children were denied humane treatment have a difficult time seeing Mother’s Day as much to celebrate. It only serves to highlight the sense of betrayal they were rendered at the hands of those not capable of meeting their needs. Sadly, it happens more than one might think. Statistically, one-in-four girls are sexually abused before the age of eighteen. More often than not the perpetrator is a close family member. Often times, like my friend, the abuser is a parent figure and the mother fails to intervene or support her daughter.
I have another friend whose experience is very similar. Her childhood was taken from her by an abusing father-figure and she opted never to have children for fear something similar could happen to her own child. When I asked her about her mother’s lack of protection, she responded: “My mother didn’t love me. She didn’t have the capacity to love and consequently had no love to give.”
Years later, she contacted me again to say that she had found the God given strength to forgive her mother and to forgive her stepfather. She said: “I didn’t do it for them. I did it for me. I couldn’t continue to live with the level of anger and resentment that was threatening my own survival. I’ve let it go under the auspices of God’s love and now I’m whole.”
In his book entitled: The Gift of Forgiveness, Charles Stanley asks the question: “Have you been hurt?
- Has somebody, somewhere in your past, rejected you in such a way that you still hurt when you think about it?
- Do you become critical of people in your past the minute their names are mentioned?
- Did you leave home as a child or a college student with great relief that you were leaving, swearing you would never return?
- Have you worked hard all your life not to become like your parents?
- Were you abused as a child? Maybe even molested?
- Did you suffer though your parent’s divorce as a child?
- Were you parents taken from you when you were very young?
- Were you forced by circumstances to pursue a different career from the one you originally wanted to pursue?”
Mother’s Day for many represents the experience of feeling unloved and disappointed. I once talked with a man who basically said he would rather spend the day at the reptile house at the zoo than share time with his mother. Those were not exactly the words he used to express his feelings, but that’s how I interrupted what he had to say. Did I mention that I am terrified of snakes? Consequently nothing creates more fear or feelings of disdain for him than simply being in the same room as his mother.
For him, the concept of Mother’s Day doesn’t generate anything positive in his life. He said to me: I’ve sent the obligatory Mother’s Day card and I’ll make a call on Sunday to simply say: “Happy Mother’s Day”, but that’s it. I can’t and won’t do more than that. Of his mother he said: “She was never there for me with anything but criticism, control and rejection. For my own good, I have to distance myself from her”.
There are others for whom Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of their perception that their life is incomplete. A previous co-worker once told me that she abhorred going to church on Mother’s Day. She said of her church family, they always recognize the oldest mother, the mother with the most children, and the youngest mother. Since she and her husband were unable to have children, the experience always highlighted her feelings of inadequacy and she left church angry and resentful at God.
Somehow all of that seems like a contradiction to the Biblical mandate that we honor our father and mother. How do we work our way around the Biblical principle that honoring family is important? I guess it is probably important to note that Jesus had a broader vision of family than do most of us. Do you remember what he said when His mother came looking for him? He pointed to his disciples and said: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:49-50) Perhaps it is from that variable that we are called to “Honor our Father and Mother?”
Of course, the key could be in the Facebook posting written by my friend on Saturday morning. His posting tugged at my heartstrings. One of the things that I have found about my friend is his authenticity to be genuine and open to God’s leadership and solvency in his life. His credibility as a parent and follower of the Christ speaks volumes. He’s learned much in the classroom of suffering and perhaps as no other, he leads with a dependency upon that which only God can provide.
Mother’s Day, May 13, 2001 was without doubt the darkest day and most painful experience in my friend’s existence. What happened on Mother’s Day 2001, spilled over to the next day and the next and the next… In fact, it will be a memory perpetually carried forward through all of his years this side of eternity. Gratefully, thank God, because of God’s ability to come alongside him at the point of need and recreate a landscape of hopefulness, the memory no longer carries the sting that it would hold for one distant to the things of God.
On Mother’s Day 2001, according to the National Transporation Safety Board report, a small single engine airplane was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near a county airport in the hill country. The private pilot, his pilot-rated passenger and two other passengers all incurred fatal injuries. The “two other passengers” were my friend’s ten-year-old son and his five-year-old daughter. The pilot-rated passenger was the mother of his children.
On the first anniversary of that tragic experience, God intervened in a way that made it abundantly clear that He was still in control and that my friend and his wife had a future filled with hope. Their son’s date of birth was one year to the day of the date of the earthly departure of his two children to their heavenly home. In fact, the record reflects that his newborn son’s birthdate was exactly one year and three hours apart.
My friend shared in his posting on Saturday: “These dry records prove God’s commanding presence even or especially in the darkest hours (Ps. 22:3), a constant source of hope…if you doubt My protection of your interests, behold a son born to you with such perfect timing that you cannot doubt My plans for you”. Saturday he referenced the anniversary of the National Transportation Safety Board’s report of the tragedy, but emphasized: “We mostlycelebrate that birth certificate. May 13 is our holiest of days, Easter and Christmas rolled into one”.
My friend’s story is an amazing story and his faith-walk serves as a pattern to be followed. What if the folks who shy away from good feelings associated to Mother’s Day invested a level of dependency and trust in the Heavenly Father to make all things new? Is it possible that God could restore the landscape of their pilgrimage in like fashion? A God who can orchestrate a birthdate on the anniversary of a death-date certainly has the wherewithal to meet all of us at a point of need.
All My Best!