Mother’s Day is one of the most emotionally difficult days for a variety of women. Christian women in particular have a rough time sitting through sermons on the virtues of motherhood when they struggle with infertility, when they’ve lost a child, or when they have a strained relationship with their mother.
This past weekend, some well-known evangelical teachers encouraged hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day. I appreciate their sensitivity to women who have trouble with the holiday, but I question whether or not their counsel really reflects a Christlike attitude.
One friend of mine miscarried just a few days before Mother’s Day one year. Another friend lost her mom to a terminal illness the day before Mother’s Day a few years back. Although both ladies courageously attended church after their losses, other friends of mine simply found the thought of enduring a Mother’s Day service unbearable.
In one respect, I understand the desire to avoid church on Mother’s Day. Despite the wonderful fact that our current pastor doesn’t break from expositing Luke’s gospel to deliver a sermon extolling motherhood, I realize well-meaning people will wish me Happy Mother’s Day and tell me I’m a spiritual mother (to whom, they never quite say). With both my mom and my mother-in-law now dead, the whole day is just awkward.
I also identity with women who find Mother’s Day painful as I remember avoiding weddings early in my battle with singleness (I didn’t marry John until I was almost 49). For a couple years in my mid-twenties, I’d explain to my girlfriends that attending their weddings would just be too crushing for me.
Usually my girlfriends accepted my decision without complaint. Finally, however, one had the guts to confront me with my selfishness. She wept with me over my romantic disappointment, but now she very much wanted me to rejoice with her. The man who had broken my heart would also be there, she admitted, but having me there meant a lot to her.
I went. I saw the man who had broken my heart, but then I actually enjoyed myself! More importantly, I showed my girlfriend love by putting her needs before my own. In subsequent years I asked other friends to forgive me for selfishly refusing to attend their weddings.
I don’t deny that attending church on Mother’s Day causes some women immense emotional pain. I sat with the girlfriend who miscarried only days earlier, and could physically feel her heartache. I’ve sympathized with infertile friends who chose to stay home rather than watch a baby dedication and hear a Mother’s Day sermon.
But as gently as possible, I encourage women who have difficulty with Mother’s Day to set aside their own sorrow in order to rejoice with their sisters in church. Yes, it means laying down your life for your friends. It means imitating Jesus.