Mothering Sunday is a wonderful day for mothers. The community celebrates and acknowledges the sacrifice mothers make for their children. We all bask in the attention, accept the flowers, gifts and chocolates offered graciously because we all like to be acknowledged for what we do.
For my part, I found that I was always moved to tears on mothering Sunday, because I found parenting hard. I said as much once during a Homestart volunteer training I attended. The trainers said that the fact that I found it so hard meant that I was a good parent. Frankly I’m not sure that was the answer I was looking for, I was looking for tips on how to make it easier!
I don’t think there are any ways to make it easier, it’s just a hard slog, with a promised reward at the end, but a hard slog, nevertheless. It’s sacrifice, it’s patience, it’s long-suffering, it’s gentleness, it’s kindness, it’s love , it’s joy and when all this is done, it’s peace. There are no short cuts.
I think it’s a shame that no-one ever admits to how hard being a mother is gong to be, not as a deterrent, but more by way of preparation. As a Christian mother, I found the sacrifice of motherhood easier to understand and being a Christian made it easier to bear as I had the help of the Holy Spirit and the example of the Father through the life of Jesus Christ.
The Suffering and Glory of Jesus
Recently at my Bible study group, we studied Isaiah 52:13 – 53 – The Suffering Servant. It made for sobering reading. It was brought home to us, just how much Jesus went through to bring us back to our father. Words like ‘despised and rejected,’ ‘crushed for our iniquities,’ and ‘oppressed and afflicted,’ paint a stark picture, that brings home vividly, just how much God loves us.
The love God has for us is demonstrable, which he showed in sending his son to die for our sins, so that we can be bought back into a relationship with him. Isaiah 53 is a stark reminder of just how much it cost to restore the relationship between humanity and God.
Therefore, in our lives as Christians, the love we show should also be demonstrable, in which we are willing to sacrifice a lot for those we love.
In this secular, modern, so-called post-Christian era we live in, this is a truth that is often buried. As young women we are bombarded with messages about how we can have it all, how equality means we can compete with men, who don’t bear children, on an equal footing and ‘win’. There is a lot of bemoaning of the fact that women’s pay is unequal to that of men over a career, but that is because most women take time off to have children.
Women who stay at home and sacrifice a career and self-absorption (not to mention their figure )to look after, nurture and guide the next generation are made to feel useless, unproductive and unfulfilled, by other women no less! So they strive, sometimes to their own detriment to redress the balance, and become ‘superwoman’. Doing everything from the school run to pack lunches, laundry and shopping and while you are at it, a bit of corporate lawyering!
In the film Revolutionary Road, for which Kate Winslet won an Oscar, her character was portrayed as this radical woman, who wanted to break out of the confines of her suburban existence, but was held back by a husband and children. A particularly profound scene was when the mentally ill son of their estate agent seemed to see clearly what nobody else could see, namely that she was this really special person who needed to be allowed to ‘find herself’. He expressed as much candidly to the couple on his second visit in the way only a person with mental illness can and ….you can guess how the visit ended.
Without wishing to give away the ending, after I finished watching the film, I felt the film was the antithesis of what it was trying to portray. Strength and courage, lie not in what we seek to achieve for ourselves, but in what we give up in trying to achieve for others, what they cannot achieve themselves.
Sacrifice for others
Of course that is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. No one else could do it, he is unique in that. Many others who followed this principle, whether they believed in him or not, achieved great things for others. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Emmeline Pankhurst, to name just a few.
I hear women screaming at their computers or glaring at their blackberries, saying, ‘No!’ ‘I’m no Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King and who the dickens is Emmeline Pankhurst?’ Who died and made us scapegoats? Why do I have to give up my career when a man doesn’t have to? Why do I have to be the one changing smelly nappies and cleaning up sick off my shirt while he goes to work to have fun? Why should I have to put my life on hold for 18 years or more, while I become chauffeur cook, teacher and general dogsbody?
Jesus echoed these same questions in the Garden of Gethsemane. Why should I die, Lord, I have done nothing. Why can’t I be with you Father where I belong? Why must this be my portion? But Jesus answered these questions with a resolution, ‘….not as I will, but as you will.’
The purpose of the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus is that God’s will shall prosper in his hand. So also it is that the sacrifice of mothers is so that the will of God shall prosper in our hands. It is God’s will that the children he gives us are examples, that they carry on the work we have been called to do, that they preach the Gospel with their lives because of the love we as mothers have given them. The sacrifice we made allows them to go into the world as stable, successful, exceptional people in this seemingly lost generation.
So, as we continue in our sacrificial journey of motherhood, it is with a certainty that no sacrifice is in vain and that every sacrifice of a Christian mother will result in us being exalted with Christ, not just in this life, but also in the next.