Portrait Of A Mother
May 14 2017
| Mother’s Day
Erma Bombeck, in her book Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession tells a fable that goes something like this. It seems that the Lord was engaged in the task of creating mothers. He was having trouble when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?” “She has to be completely washable but not plastic, have 180 moveable parts, all replaceable, run on black coffee and leftovers, have a lap that disappears when she stands up, have a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair, and have six pairs of hands. But the hands are not the major problem. The problem is the three pairs of eyes. One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, “What are you kids doing in there?” when she already knows. Another set of in the back of her head that see what is going on behind her, and the ones in front that is can look at a child when they make mistakes and say, “I understand and I love you” without so much as uttering a word.” The Lord went on working, then announced “I have one who heals herself when she is sick, can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger, and can get a nine year old boy to stand under a shower.” The model was finally finished and was complete with a tear of which the Lord said, “The tear is for joy, sadness, disappointment, compassion, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
That fable touches somewhat heavily on sentimentality but it has a hard nugget of truth. Many of us would confess with gratitude that the closest we come to knowing the love of God in human form is found in a mother’s love. As the fable says, God indeed created something close to Himself.
There is certainly no question but that motherhood, especially in our day, is a difficult and demanding vocation. It is an art and part of the trouble is that a mother is compelled to undertake the task with no previous experience. Especially with a first child, the mother faces the experience forced to learn as she goes along. Most mothers would confess a need for a model, some indication of what should be done and how to do it.
So let’s look at some selected scenes out of the relationship between Mary and Jesus. As we look at the relationship between Mary and Jesus we also might find some guidance for mothers today.
All motherhood begins in awe and, perhaps, more than a little fear. Something essential is missing if these emotions are not involved. Mary certainly knew awe and apprehension. When the angel appeared to Mary and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you …. And behold, you will be with child and give birth to a son, and you will give him the name Jesus.” Mary was “greatly troubled.” But the apprehension did not cancel out the acceptance: “Behold,” said Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant; let it be to me as you have said.”
The apprehension felt by Mary and probably by a great many mothers since her time is easily understood. Not only does motherhood launch a person into an uncharted wilderness, with no nice, easy paths to follow, but it confronts one with a frightening sense of responsibility. No doubt this is one reason why some people are not only reluctant to have a child but determined not to enter the murky region of parenthood. Also involved nowadays, of course, is the feeling of not wanting to bring a child into this kind of world. Over against that mood of despair, however, is the wonderful fact that every birth of a child is a gesture of tough-minded confidence in the future.
It would be a strange kind of person who did not feel to some degree the awe and wonder of the power possessed by a mother. Anna Quindlen is the author of a wonderful series of columns in The New York Times in which she shared her feelings as a mother. In one column she wrote that there is so much written about the cost and the changes in your way of life that motherhood brings, but that no one ever tells you that you will be handed power when you have a child. You will have the power to make your child feel good or bad about themselves, which is the greatest power in the world.
Every human being is in a real sense a mystery. We never can fully understand one another. Husbands and wives, despite the intimacy of their relationship, will at times exclaim, “I really don’t understand you!” It is not always said in anger. It is an honest admission that there is a blessed aura of mystery about each of us. If this is true of adults, how much more vividly do we feel it when we look at an infant and wonder what life will hold for him or her. It doesn’t matter much what others tell us; we listen to their words, but we are still uncertain. This was Mary’s feeling at the time of the birth of Christ. She heard many things about the Child and she did not understand fully, but,we are told, “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
Another picture of the relationship between Mary and Jesus is the account of when Jesus was 12 years old and Mary and Joseph take Him to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. They made the journey in the company of friends, and when the feast was over, they started back. Jesus, however was not with them on their return trip. At first they simply thought that Jesus was in the group. But after the first day of Hs absence they went back to Jerusalem and spent three days looking for him. They found him ultimately in the temple. Mary’s reaction is both interesting and understandable. She was angry. “Son,” she said, “why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
This was a note of discipline and it is part of the difficult responsibility of motherhood. Because this is such a difficult art, it is often not done well and sometimes not done at all. What is needed, of course, is what has been called “tough love,” a love which cares enough to dare to say No! when that word is needed. Without the discipline of such tough love, a mother fails to prepare a child for effective living and does the child a disservice.
So the first few chapters of Luke teach us something about motherhood as we explore the relationship between May and her child Jesus. We see the sense of awe and wonder and the great responsibility of motherhood, as well as the need for tough love. These are some of the things a mother needs. Later in Luke we see a heartbroken Mary standing at the cross as Jesus dies, and all she can do is stand and watch. At times a mother has to stand by and watch as her child suffers, and some mothers have to stand by and watch as their child dies.
The great responsibility, the awesomeness of being a mother, the need for tough love and the pain mothers sometimes have to endure are all reasons that we need days to say “Thank you” and “God bless you” to our mothers and the mothers here at Edgewood, but we truly need to also say “Thank You” and “God bless you” to all the women of Edgewood who do so much in the Church to help Edgewood be the Church that it is. I call them “the Godly women of Edgewood”.
“Thanks” and “God bless you” to the women who work so hard here at Edgewood. We need you, the Godly women we have at Edgewood! In fact, we need more women who, whether they are mothers or not, married or single, are willing to play a vital role in our Church. We need more Godly women who are willing to play a vital role in the Christian education and nurture of our young people, who are willing to play a vital role in all aspects of our Church, who are willing to serve in the kitchen as well as on the Session, who are willing to busy themselves with crafts as well as with leadership, who are willing to work behind the scenes and in the spotlight, who are willing to work wherever and do whatever is needed, and bless us all by their commitment to being the women God has called them to be. We need Godly women who are committed to leading us as to be the Church God has called us to be.
So, thank God for mothers who are willing to take on that great and awesome responsibility. But beyond that, thank God for all the “Godly women” of Edgewood. I, and I trust that all of us, want to say on this Mother’s Day “Thanks” “Bless you!” “Thanks for all you do!” to our Godly women! Amen.