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The complex issues surrounding Mother’s Day are reminiscent of a couple of famous lines from classic literature: motherhood can literally be the best of times or the worst of times; and it certainly involves and can lead to both agony and ecstasy. Regardless, celebrating and commemorating a special day in honor of mothers and motherhood evokes strong feelings within most everyone.

To begin with, the nature and process of reproduction, pregnancy, and birthing is in itself mystifying, miraculous, and marvelous—unlike anything else in all God’s universe. The profound creation of a precious and eternal human life is absolutely awesome and amazing. The warmth and wonderfulness of a loving mother’s bond with her newborn infant is indescribably beautiful, vibrant with life.

However, when for various reasons that profound attachment between a healthy, loving, and nurturing mother and her abjectly dependent baby does not or cannot occur, huge psychological, and perhaps even physiological, difficulties ensue. The mother-infant bond is the primary foundation for healthy psychological, emotional, and relational functioning.

Since we are all breathing, that proves we had a mother. Yet not everyone had a good or healthy mother or someone who knew how to be one or was capable of adequately nurturing and caring for their child. It could be said that nothing is better than having a good mom and nothing is worse than having one who was not or was unable to be one.

Thus, we usually have strong feelings one way or another, depending on our circumstances and our relationship with our mom. Mother’s Day can evoke our highest joys, but also our deepest sorrows. Beyond syrupy sentimentality and fuzzy fondness there are a multitude of intensely emotional factors involved in the dynamics of motherhood and therefore in celebrating it or not.

Consider these facts and issues which typically make Mother’s Day very painful and difficult for multiple millions of people:

  • 1 of every six couples in America is infertile (yet almost no one talks about it)
  • 1 of every 6 pregnancies is miscarried (and mothers grieve those losses deeply)
  • 1 of every 4 women in America (and men!) have had an abortion (and those losses are also grieved deeply, despite frequent denial to the contrary)
  • nearly half of all births in America are to unwed parents, frequently resulting in shame, stress, and stigma
  • persons who had an abusive, negligent, or unloving mother
  • persons whose birth mother gave them up for adoption
  • persons who gave up their child for adoption
  • persons who have had a baby or child die (stillborns, infant deaths, or later in life deaths)
  • persons who have a child living in rebellion and/or otherwise estranged from them
  • persons who for a variety of reasons choose to not have children may receive negative messages from others
  • persons whose mother recently passed away

So if a pastor merely pontificates poetic platitudes about the values, virtues, and vicissitudes of motherhood, look around the church. You will see the hurts from the above etched on many, many faces, yet they often silently carry that pain like a continuous pregnancy which is never delivered (and also make note the many who are in church because it hurts too much to come and hear traditional Mother’s Day sermons) Pray for them. Then pray how to reach out to them. They need to be loved and cared for.

The collective numbers of people in our congregations (and of those who need to be!) in the categories represented above and the collective pain they carry are staggering. Mother’s Day can be sweet, but it can also be bitter or even bittersweet. So to be sure, celebrate Mother’s Day. Just be aware of, sensitive to, and compassionate with those who don’t, or can’t.