Nearly every culture has some observance honoring the role of mothers in its society. But for some, Mother’s Day is freighted with baggage that’s not altogether positive. Perhaps you can identify with one or more of these essays.—Editors.
Growing up in an Adventist home, we were all about behaviors: church attendance, entertainment, shunning jewelry, family worship, etc. You could say we proudly adhered to a set of rules that, under ideal circumstances, strengthen faith.
But despite adherence to the sorts of things that made us distinctively Adventist, our home lacked the experiences where faith in Jesus makes a difference in one’s life. The fruit of the Spirit: ”love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23) were, for most of my life at home, missing.
At the time, we didn’t understand exactly what was wrong. My mother would speak of her faith carrying her through her difficulties, and then immediately begin a tirade of verbal abuse.
Mental and emotional abuse directed against me and my brothers were pretty pervasive, a never-ending roller coaster ride of mental and emotional onslaught, pleas for forgiveness and hysterics, followed by promises to do better. My parents’ marriage was far from healthy, but the facade was real. My parents were pleased at the seemingly convincing outward picture of a stalwart Adventist family that had no issues to speak of.
So it wasn’t until adulthood, working through my own quest to do better with the help of a professional therapist, that I came to understand that my mother was possibly suffering from certain mental health challenges. Had she come to that conclusion on her own or received a diagnosis from a medical professional? No. But that possibility has helped me better understand things in order to stop asking “Why?”
Instead, I focus on growing into the person the Lord wants me to be, seeking His guidance to have my character reflect His. Many days I’m not even close. Yet God has delivered me from the situation of my younger years with a stable and happy home of my own.
But when Mother’s Day rolls around each year and it’s time to do the gift-giving thing, I often stand at the card section unable to make an accurate selection. None of the messages inscribed on neutral or pastel-hued card stock speaks to the truth of my experience as a child, and I can’t bring myself to buy them. Parent-child relationships can be complicated in healthy situations, but almost impossible when rampant dysfunction is present.
So will things be made right in this life? I’m not sure. But I know that in the earth made new all things will be made new: including difficult relationships. I’m already focused there. And I believe my mom is too.
Taylor Clay is a pseudonym.
I’ve had many Mother’s Days, not always on the second Sunday in May.
Mothers’ Day began for me when a social worker placed a handsome baby boy in my arms while his birth mother and others looked on in celebration. Smiles and praises filled the day, for God had given me the opportunity for which I had long prayed: the chance of becoming a mother. I sat in the back seat of our car and talked to my 7-day-old baby boy who looked back at me with expectant eyes and delightful facial expressions. I’ve had many Mother’s Days since then, not all as pleasurable.
I recall one early Mother’s Day when we drove more than 60 miles to the Los Angeles County courthouse to sign final adoption papers. As we always do, we offered a prayer for protection before we left. But on the way it seemed the enemy had a different plan. We were sandwiched in a multiple-car accident. As we waited for the police to arrive I began feeling a pain in my neck. I kept looking at my baby to make sure everything was OK as I worried that we’d miss our court appointment.The pain and anxiety was tough to deal with. But we prayed even as we waited and God brought us through. By the end of the day we were singing and praising God as we drove back home with signed adoption papers in hand.
Some of my toughest Mothers’ Days involved me using my maternal marketing skills. “Son, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Pathfinders!” Or, too many times to count: “Son, you need to pick a piece and practice for the recital. It’ll be great!” It occurred to me that it was because I was a bad mother that I got so much “pushback”. It was always super-tough. But again, occasional investitures and flawless performances brought relief to my heart.
I used to think that my worst Mother’s Days were during my son’s teenage years. For a mother who thinks of herself as very communicative, those days were excruciatingly painful. It seemed that my son could reply to me only with groans and grunts. On his expansive days those mumblings would bloom into two or three-word sentences. The saving grace of those years was the delight in seeing my son grow into a young man. The future looked bright and beautiful.
Then just when I thought I could relax and reap the results of my having produced a self-actualized young adult, the lights in my son’s room went dark, as he was struck with a deep depression. Those Mother’s Days were a nightmare. I often found myself on my knees, asking God to give me strength and insight to deal with his deep despair, coupled with his refusal to get the help he needed. He seems better now.
But every (Mother’s) day is tough and I continue to pray that he will surrender himself to God’s will.
Donna Dublin is a pseudonym.
Most days I carry the pain hidden deep inside. Some days I don’t even realize it’s there. Years ago I gave the death of my dream to God, choosing to trust Him with the “why.” Choosing to serve Him where He’s planted me, finding joy and meaning in marriage and ministry.
Many days I feel joy and peace, thankful that I am well over that pain. Then something triggers a memory, and I’m transported back more than 10 years to the day the pain of Mother’s Day first became real.
That first Sabbath, only weeks after the doctor’s verdict, is forever seared in my memory. The roses handed out to the mothers and the anguish of the knowledge that, unless God worked a miracle, I would never receive one of those. Or at best, it would be a Band-Aid, a cover, a front by sympathetic people to make me feel better. They’re just being nice because I’m not a mom. I smile and take the rose, while something inside me cries. You’ll never be one of them. A simple rose can never turn a woman into a mom. It takes more: someone to love, someone to care for, someone to nurture. Someone you don’t have.
I try not to let myself feel too deeply. After all, what good does it do? So I swallow the lump in my throat and will my mind someplace else, anywhere but here. Oh, God, why does it still hurt after all these years?
I recently bumped into a woman who had read an article I wrote years ago for Adventist Review* about Mother’s Day and wanted to thank me for my honesty. Many people offer prayers or suggestions, but this was different, for she too had her own pain. She and her husband decided to adopt, waited years for their children, and then, devastatingly, the adoption fell through. We talked and traded stories. As we said our goodbyes, she reached out and squeezed me tightly. “Here’s a hug from one wannabe mother to another.”
She disappeared into the crowd while my tears spilled over. We had different stories but the same pain. The same longing. The same unanswered questions.
Will the pain ever go away completely? I used to think that surrender and trusting Jesus were enough. Surely Jesus could fill that void inside. And He does! I’ve experienced His peace and contentment in ways I never thought possible.
But on Mother’s Day the void remains.
* Jill Morikone, “The Pain of a Rose,” Adventist Review, May 14, 2009, p. 31.
Jill Morikone is general manager for 3ABN, a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.