Yes, we all know it’s Mother’s Day. I’ve been seeing ads for days for the perfect mother’s day gift, and today my Facebook feed blew up with pictures of everyone with their mothers. Even the priest at Mass this morning extolled the virtues of mothers in his homily.
It made me wonder – what about those who have never had that kind of relationship in their lives? There is an assumption that EVERYONE has a mother. Everyone has had someone who has given birth to them, but many have not had a loving, stable mother relationship in their lives.
I don’t mean the people who have lost their mothers. Most of them have at least their memories, their belief that their mom is still loving them from heaven. But there are some who have never known that kind of love.
Not all mothers have lived up to the standard of motherhood that the world presents as the norm. Not all mothers have loved unconditionally. Too many mothers have compared their children unfavourably to others, wished they were fairer, smarter, or a different sex. Too many have reminded their children again and again that they are disappointments. Too many have looked at their children and seen their own failures. Some children have never felt seen and valued just as they are.
Not all mothers have been a stable presence. Some have abandoned their children. Some have had fluctuating moods and tempers, sometimes mentally unstable, sometimes even abusive. Some have been slaves to their own addictions, and have been more of the child than the mother in their relationship with their children.
Not all mothers have been affectionate and loving. Some have been cold and critical, doing to their children what their parents did to them. Some have been emotionally manipulative, only pleasant when they get their way, withholding affection when they haven’t. Some have been just emotionally unavailable, unable to say a kind, affirming word, or offer an affectionate physical touch.
Not all mothers have been a safe haven, a welcoming embrace. Instead they have been demanding, pushy, and accusing. No choice has been safe from criticism. They may still be trying to control their adult children, criticizing their bodies, their parenting skills, their life choices, and their beliefs. Every encounter has left their child feeling shaky and insecure.
For those who do not have loving mother-relationships, Mother’s Day must be salt in the wound. If this is you, I want you to know you are not forgotten, and you are not alone. Our hearts were made for a safe mother-love, and to be deprived of that is cruel and painful, and the effect of the ugliness of sin in the world.
But the love you crave is still available. God is not just Father, but has the tender, fiercely protective love of a mother too!
Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.
Isaiah 49: 15-16
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.
I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.
Mothers were not supposed to fail us, but reveal the love of God. But they often have. And God comes to redeem that ache.
Like a good mama, God’s embrace is always available to us, his love tender and compassionate. He does not wait for us to get our act together before He will love us. He is willing to give us second chances. He is gentle when we are wounded. He has compassion on our weakness. He will always be the shoulder we can lean on, the strong, steady and calm presence we crave.
As a Catholic, I know of an extra gift He gives us – Mary, who in a special way takes on this role of motherhood for all those who need a mother. She too has an embrace that takes everyone in. If you have struggled with your own mother, ask her to be your mother. I pray for all those who are aching with the pain of an unfulfilled desire for a mom, that you will crawl into the arms of Mary, and allow her to take you to God. His love is more than enough.
You are loved.