My first memories of Mother’s Day are sitting in church as a child while the minister recognized all the mothers. I remember them standing in recognition of their day. And each standing mother wore a corsage. The ones whose mothers were no longer living wore white flowers and the mostly younger moms wore red or pink. It was a tradition in that generation and somehow the men knew it was part of their jobs to provide the corsage for Mother’s Day Sunday.
By the time I became a mother corsages had vanished, but recognition in church on Sunday morning remained. In my early mom years, I felt funny standing in church as if that role still belonged only to my mother and not to me. But by the time I had three or four kids, I was firmly convinced of my new identity.
As my daughter Ashley said during her fourth pregnancy, “I don’t know what happened to the old Ashley. She got lost somewhere along the way.” Mother was indelibly who I was and the vestiges of the old me were now only in photo albums.
Honestly, Mother’s Day was usually a disappointment. The inherent promise and expectation in a day set aside to honor mothers was never met. It’s not that my husband didn’t try. He bought me something, usually it was a rose bush or another plant for the yard, which he knew I liked. And my kids made me a sweet card or a crayoned picture in Sunday school. They all said, “Happy Mother’s Day” and showered me with kisses and hugs. Until they needed their lunch cut up and afternoon naps. Squabbles to resolve and needs to be met did not stop on Mother’s Day.
The kind of honor I longed for and needed in those harried years of selfless, endless labor was not to be found on the second Sunday in May. Not that I’m against a day to honor mothers. Hardly. But really being appreciated for the enormity of service to your children is not possible from children.
What I wanted was a day free from sibling rivalry and a simple, genuine, “Thanks, Mom” that was unprompted by my husband or the Sunday school teacher. In hindsight, I now understand what I longed for is only possible when your children become adults and finally parents. Then they begin to get it!
You see, mothering is a ministry to the future. It’s a very private, unseen ministry. It’s like a 20-year investment in which you cannot withdraw any of your money until the 20 years is up. You place your bets and then wait to see the outcome many years ahead.
In mothering, there are moments of glory when you see hints that your investment is paying off, but they are not permanent until the end. Interestingly, it’s only now that my children are grown that I really appreciate my own mother. And even so, I really have no idea what sacrifices and worries and suffering she endured for me and my brothers.
Only God knows. He is the One who will give the ultimate honor when He says one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Until that day, happy Mother’s Day to all who are in the trenches of that holy and mostly thankless job. May your focus be on the honor to come on That Day and may you raise your children to walk closely with Jesus all their days.
Remember, as I so often forgot in the daily-ness of life, that a mother’s job is laborious not because it is minute, but because it is gigantic. Mothering is the most important calling on a woman’s life. Mothers can indeed change the world.