There is no good way for the Church to observe Mother’s day. Trying to fit the man-made national day for honoring mothers into the church service only results in awkwardness and hurt that far outweigh any possible benefits to recognizing it. Let me explain.
When I was a child, we wore carnations to church on Mother’s Day. My mother had to wear a white one, while the rest of us wore red, because her mother was dead. For those who have lost their mothers, especially recently, the day brings new pangs of grief.
Other women have given birth to children, but the children have died. Or they were able to conceive, but suffered a miscarriage. Or they had an abortion, and perhaps no one in the church knows. Recognizing Mother’s Day for them is a fresh reminder of their empty arms.
Many women find the relationship with their mother to be a challenging and difficult one. In those cases, Mother’s Day brings regret, frustration, artificially motivated cards and visits, or longing for the reconciliation for which they have tried and failed so many times.
My single women friends tell me that they, too, dread the day. Many of them want to be married and to be mothers. These are good and godly desires. But the struggle with contentment is a real and difficult one, exacerbated by the day.
In my case, after ten years of marriage and seven years of battling infertility, my husband and I learned we would never be able to have children of our own. Then, several years of trying to adopt ended with the final door to being parents closing shut. Mother’s Day had been torturous during those years, but now it became something to be avoided if at all possible.
Not that some of our pastors through the years didn’t try to make it a good day for all of the women in the church. They acknowledged in their pastoral prayers all of the above circumstances and asked for God’s comfort, which only drove the knife deeper. Thankfully, it’s been longer than I can remember since a pastor had all of the mothers in the service stand so that we could applaud them.
One church had their high school girls hand carnations to all of the women as we left the service. That was awful. I remember looking at the carnation in my hand with added realization that I would never ever be a mom.
Some years, the years when we did not live in town with either of our mothers, we would try to find an alternative way to spend the day to avoid the celebration of Mother’s Day. But that never really worked. We love to be in church on Sunday.
One place we never had to think about it and were never confronted with it was at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The pastor at the time, the late Dr. James Montgomery Boice, had asked us to go work for him there in 1999. Before we moved from St. Louis, I half-jokingly said to him, “If you in any way acknowledge Mother’s Day or preach a Mother’s Day sermon, we’re not coming!” “Oh!” he said. “We never acknowledge Mother’s Day! Dr. Barnhouse said that the Lord’s Day was for worshiping God, not for yielding to some Hallmark invention! We have never recognized Mother’s Day in our services!” “Okay, then,” I replied, “we’ll come!”
We definitely should honor our mothers. In God’s good providence our mothers were hand-picked just for us. The day to do that is on the day they became our mothers. I was probably 35 before this realization hit me. So that’s when I started sending Mother a beautiful flowering plant on my birthday to thank her for giving me birth and being my mom. That is the true Mother’s Day, and one that everyone can recognize and enjoy.