My first memories of Mother’s Day are sitting in church as a child as the minister recognized all the mothers. I remember them standing in recognition of their day. I also remember them all wearing corsages. The ones whose mothers were no longer living always wore white flowers, and the mostly-younger moms wore red or pink corsages. It was a tradition in that generation, and somehow the men knew it was part of their jobs to provide the corsages for Mother’s Day Sunday.
By the time I became a mother, corsages had vanished, but recognition in church on Sunday morning remained. In the early years of my 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 to be found only in photo albums.
Honestly, Mother’s Day was usually a disappointment to me. 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 always bought me something; usually it was a rose bush or another plant for the yard which he knew I liked. And my kids always made me a sweet card or a crayoned picture in Sunday school. They all said, “Happy Mother’s Day,” and gave me kisses and hugs. But then everyone needed lunch and naps, and there were squabbles to resolve and needs to be met.
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 then 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 long-term 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, worries, and suffering she endured for me and my brothers. Only God knows, and 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. And 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.