The weekend surrounding May 11th, I was filled with emotion across all gamuts as I witnessed the displays of Motherhood unfold all around me, including on Facebook. I have to say, my favorite posts were the photos from my friends and their mothers, circa 1970, 1960, 1950, 1940 and so on. I’m a sucker for all things retro, vintage, pre-technology. (Ironic, right?) It’s so easy to wrap up Motherhood in those nostalgic photos, isn’t it? And now that we have at our fingertips the ability to snap a photo at a moment’s notice… I especially do it. Every. Single. Day. I am guilty of capturing almost all of my children’s moments… on
film an iPhone. (They will have scores of life photos to scroll through in future years.) But all of the endearing childhood photos of my Mom and me are back in Nashville. This is one of which I actually have an image. (She’s so hip.)
Anyway, I’ll save the Ode to My Mom for a later post. Instead I’m dedicating this post to all the mothers. I mean ALL the mothers. And in order to do that, I’m going to redefine Mother a bit…
Webster and its counterpart dictionaries will tell you that mothers are females who give birth to or adopt a child. I dug a little bit deeper to find Motherhood defined more like this: ‘a female who creates, nurtures, and protects’. Wikipedia went on to say, “Because of the complexity and differences of a mother’s social, cultural, and religious definitions and roles, it is challenging to specify a universally acceptable definition for the term.”
Well, based on Wikipedia’s statement, I can offer you a ‘religious definition and role’ of Motherhood. Actually, I can sum it up in just three words: “Behold your mother.”
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple,
“Behold your mother!”
And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
I have always been touched by the truth that in Jesus’ last moments on this earth, His concern was for His mother. Ensuring her protection was one of His last acts of tenderness. Under the weight of His own suffering, His thoughts were on her. Mary’s suffering was so excruciating that she probably was not even thinking about what would become of her own life. But He was: “Behold your mother.”
This disciple John was not Mary’s son, not born of her, not adopted by her, but became her son– and she his mother — through genuine affection for, care of, honor and respect for her (paraphrased from Gill’s Exposition). I have a note scrawled beside this verse in the margin of my Bible. It says that this exchange between Jesus, his mother Mary, and his friend John was a restructuring of family on a spiritual level. It’s like at the Baptism during worship this past Sunday, a precious baby girl was introduced to the church as “our sister”. She is our sister in our church family, and together as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers… we promised to nurture, care for, and encourage her. This was a restructuring of family. And like the restructuring at the foot of the Cross, in this action, a new relationship was established.
It is relationship that fosters Motherhood.
…The tender relationship that you sometimes witness between a teacher and her students, a nurse and those in her care, a Sunday School teacher and her flock, a childcare worker and the little ones she lovingly guides. I know several women who have neither borne nor adopted children, therefore not considered ‘mothers’ by the textbook definition. But they are mothers. I can see it in the way their arms fold around a child, how their eyes light up when they listen to a child’s stories. I can hear it in their laughter, the excitement in their voice, the melody in their song. Just because they don’t write ‘Mother’ on the line of the form that asks their relationship to the child… well, it doesn’t dictate that they don’t actually mother.
I am imagining one of these mothers in my head right now. Just because this precious woman did not bear the child, adopt the child, become stepmom to this child, doesn’t mean that she cannot mother this child.
Her delight in children is no less worthy than mine.
Yes, it is a beautiful blessing to have borne children– three full of grace gifts that I cherish. A blessing for both the mother and for the child. But it is also a beautiful blessing to mother… a blessing for the one mothering and for the one soaking in the tenderness lavished upon them… regardless of the DNA or what a piece of paper dictates.