Dear Members and Friends,
Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone,
it has to be made, like bread;
remade all the time, made new.
-Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Lathe of Heaven”, 20th century
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It actually is not a special day on the Church calendar, but it is, for many, a sacred, high holy day on the American calendar. It is a day when we remember and honor those who gave birth to us, or raised us. It can, and perhaps ought to be, a day when we also remember and honor all the people who may not have been called “mothers,” but who still “mothered” us. On Mother’s Day, UCC pastor & Stillspeaking author Lillian Daniel, likes “to focus on mother as a verb, rather than a noun.”
When I was a student pastor, serving as a part-time youth pastor in a UCC church in northern Alabama while also in seminary, that vibrant church celebrated Mother’s Day in worship. The Pastor recognized the oldest mother, the youngest mother, the mother with the most children, and of course had all the mother’s present stand up. Even back then, in the 1970’s, that did not include all of the women in the congregation.
Over the years of serving churches I became aware of what a difficult day Mother’s Day was for many women. There were those who no longer celebrated the day because their mother had died; those who did not celebrate because their child had died; those who had never been able to conceive a child; those who chose not to be a mother; those who never found the right spouse to help them create a family. Mother’s Day in the traditional sense has a complex array of emotional responses.
But there is something worth celebrating when we think of mother as a verb. Not everyone might be a mother as a noun, but everyone can have the qualities of a good mother. Two of those qualities are the ability to translate and the ability to “be with.”
Lillian Daniels states:
A lot of what good mothers do is translate. They tell children “Use your words!” They help siblings to understand each other. They interpret the world of adults into games that a child can understand. They reflect back what a child’s words sounded like, maybe helping them learn to say it differently the next time.
Those who mother us, women and men, are those who help translate the world for us and help us learn to navigate the pitfalls, the obstacles, the challenges, and the opportunities. They help us find our way in the world.
The other quality of good mothering is “being with” us, especially when life grows difficult. This is modeled for mothers, and all of us, by God who promised Moses “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12) when he was called at the burning bush to go to Pharaoh and advocate for the release of the Hebrew slaves. Again, Jesus made the promise to his followers, and to all of us, after his resurrection that “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) God does not promise to “fix” everything, but rather to always “be with” us.
Someone who offers really good mothering often does so primarily by their presence, their willingness to “be with” you and not leave you alone. They don’t have to fix it (usually nothing can fix it), but their very presence is powerful. Their willingness to be present – not to shrink from the circumstances life has forced upon you, not to run away, not to leave you on your own – that is the best, and most important, care anyone can provide. When we clamor, as a child, teen, or adult, for our mother, more than anything what we are longing for is her warm embrace: those arms that encircled us, held us close, and never let us go until we were ready to venture forth on our own again. What we long for is that security of unconditional love, and the safety and healing that came from mother’s arms.
To translate for one another and to “be with” each other are gifts we can all offer to those around us. We can all offer the nurturing gift of mothering. It is also a wonderful gift which can be celebrated not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.
See you in church.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida