As Mother's Day draws near, churches are preparing for one of the highest attendance days of the year. Many are planning to honor mothers with flowers or other special gifts. And I'll admit--I look forward to it. Mother's Day is one day I can usually get all my family dressed nicely for church and corralled long enough to take a decent picture. A nap is usually as elaborate as my gift wishlist gets, but it's nice to feel appreciated and honored.
But I also know Mother's Day is not a day of celebration for everyone. I have friends who have lost their mothers this year. Others have lost children. There are women in our congregation in the midst of a painful struggle with infertility, and there are both mothers and children who mourn the broken or difficult relationships within their families.
It is good to honor mothers and those who have been like mothers to us. It is also good to be sensitive that for many, Mother's Day is a difficult, even painful day. How can we as church strike that balance? Here are a few principles that may help:
- Let Scripture speak. There are a few passages that are perennial Mother's Day favorites, but the Bible is filled with stories of women whose lives were not the Hallmark ideal. Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel struggled with infertility. Leah was unloved. Jochabed saved her son from Pharoah's genocide, and Jehosheba saved her nephew from being executed by a murderous queen. The widow of Zarephath and the widow of Nain both received their sons back from the dead. Naomi mourned hers. These women all coped with difficulties, but they experienced God in the middle of their struggles and found their place in God's great story of salvation. As we honor mothers, perhaps we can benefit by listening to and learning from biblical women whose stories are less frequently told.
- Listen and acknowledge. There are those in your congregation for whom Mother's Day is a difficult day. Let them know that they are heard. This might simply be an acknowledgment from the pulpit and a mention that your prayer team is available for those who need comfort on this day. It might be included in a congregational prayer, responsive reading, or as part of the welcome address. Honor mothers, but find a way to publicly acknowledge that Mother's Day can be a bittersweet celebration.
- Honor those who have loved us well. It is interesting that the only direct command in Proverbs 31 is not addressed to the Proverbs 31 woman but to her family and community: "Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring praise at the city gate" (Proverbs 31:31, NIV). It is good to honor those who have physically and spiritually mothered us. Even when relationships are difficult, there are often things there that are worth honoring. Give thanks for those who have nurtured and mentored us. Recognize those who have given us life, and honor those who have given so much to us. We become what we honor.
Q: How does your church honor mothers on Mother's Day? How do you honor mothers while still being sensitive to those for whom Mother's Day is a difficult day?
About the author:
Leigh Powers is a pastor's wife, Bible study and devotional author, freelance editor, and mother of three from Houston, Texas. She is passionate about helping women find hope and healing by meeting God in his word. You can connect with Leigh on Facebook or Twitter, or follow her at her blog, My Life. His Story (www.leighpowers.com).