By Stacey Monaco, Crosswalk.com
As a young Christian woman new to the faith, it seemed that the whole of my life in Christ wrapped itself sweetly around the construct of being a wife and a mother. I was new to this trusting in Jesus thing, and had watched my life go from messy to miraculous as God restored my young marriage, that had been fractured and left in separation less than two years after my wedding.
As we moved into this new hope of life in Christ, we followed suit with the many young couples in our church that were growing their families.
One baby came after another, and I dressed myself, and my children up to match every Mother’s Day. I rejoiced that I was bringing life into the world and that my children were born healthy and growing more adorable with each day, as well as that my husband and I were raising them as Christians.
Subtly, everything in my church and my faithful group of friends, pointed me to the conclusion that marriage and motherhood were the highest calling for a Christian woman.
Secretly, I tucked away the hidden hurt of a terminated pregnancy previous to my life as a Christian woman. It never occurred to me that there were other women sitting in church with hearts aching and broken over issues related to motherhood.
In the almost four decades that have passed since those early white-picket-fence days of being a stay-at-home mama, surrounded by other women in the same life stage, I have experienced the loss of a teen son due to a tragic accident, single motherhood, severe post-partum depression, becoming a stepmother, and most recently in this past year, the loss of my own mother.
I have also had the profound privilege to walk alongside women who have experienced the grief and trauma of infertility, miscarriage, children with mental illness, and those who have had significant impact on the raising of children, and yet never had the honor of the title mother.
Here are 3 things to consider that can help to bring compassion and joy to women who struggle with heartache on Mother’s Day.
1. Enter Into Mother’s Day With Eyes for the Unseen
Holiday seasons are known to be difficult for those walking through unresolved grief, as well as for those still in the process of healing. Mother’s Day can be especially difficult for women who have faced some of the grievous motherhood-related issues previously mentioned.
As individuals, as well as corporately in the church, scripture guides us into a place of seeing the hurting, and having true empathy for those whom we walk alongside. In Romans 12:15, Paul writes to instruct the believers of the church in Rome to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
He is describing the practice of empathizing, and he places the call to empathy within the context of presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices, as well as understanding that we are all a part of one body, belonging to each other, together through pain and happiness.
The church, and relationships within the church become a place of safety and joy when we set aside prescribed traditions that fail to see the unseen, and comfort those suffering.
As we rejoice and honor mothers and motherhood, we also have the opportunity to step into the biblical mandate toward compassion by making room for those who are suffering.
As individuals, we can intentionally look into our circle of women, and look for ways to affirm and step into their pain, or bring unexpected joy. In my circle of women my sister and sister-in-law, while having no children, significantly contributed to the lives of my children and my husband’s sons.
Consider ways that you can bring joy by expressing gratitude for the great value contributed by those in your “village” that helped or are helping to raise your children.
For the mother who has empty arms due to the loss of a child, or the woman who is grieving the loss of her mother, we can share a note remembering their child or parent by name, or a simple text message with the words, “I am thinking of you.”
Taking the time to pray for a woman who has endured a great grief, and then letting her know that you have been praying for her, can be both a comfort and a source of hope.
Offers to sit over a cup of coffee, or lunch or meandering through a local place of outdoor beauty may give you both an opportunity for heartfelt conversation, tears, and even laughter. Women who have experienced a loss want to know that they and their loved one are remembered and of importance. They want to share the joyful and funny stories, as well as the heartache: to rejoice in life, and weep over loss.
As a local church, pastors and women who lead can step into Paul’s exhortation in Romans to love sincerely, through considerations as to how the church can be a safe place for all women on Mother’s Day, and a haven for healing year-round.
Some intentional ways to work this out in practice include dignifying the mothers in attendance verbally, but not singling out the non-mothers by asking mothers to stand to be honored.
Also, décor or photo opportunities can be inclusive, life giving, and beautiful without the words Mother’s Day emblazoned across the top. It is also an excellent time to share on the value of all women, or offer prayer for those facing motherhood related challenges.
2. Strive to Reflect Jesus in Caring For Women in All Seasons
As a woman with great brokenness in my story, I found Jesus most sweetly in his interactions with women.
I found hope as he sat alongside the woman at the well (John 4), and cried tears of loss as he restored life back to the widow’s only son lying dead in his funeral procession (Luke 7:13-15). I found freedom in his kindness as he knelt to comfort and bring dignity to the woman cast in the dust by those standing in judgment over her (John 8:4-7).
He loved well, and at every turn elevated the dignity of all womankind. He stepped into the aches of women, and became the embodiment of empathy and loving-kindness, exampling this to the disciples that walked alongside him, and to the church today.
How we care for and minister to women both in and beyond the church should be a clear and salient reflection of how Jesus cared for, and still cares for women.
As the church we can be healing hands and bringers of joy through validating and giving permission for grief to those who ache, and creating a place of safety, while moving toward the ability to hope and once again celebrate life in Christ, who is the source of all joy.
As we approach Mother’s Day we can endeavor to reflect Jesus well through seeking to see those who may be hurting. We have the opportunity to bring to our Mother’s Day service and to our interpersonal interactions compassion that leads to joy.
We can communicate honor through seeing their needs. We can appreciate by valuing the dignity and contributions of all women. We can show love through listening well and providing a shoulder of support to lean upon.
Throughout the year churches have the opportunity to build and strengthen their church through ministering to women through intentional prayer, teams that minister to those experiencing infertility, miscarriage, the death or disappearance of a child or other loved one, survivors of abuse or the brokenness of a terminated pregnancy, as well as any experienced loss related to motherhood.
In my season of life, I find Mother’s Day may bring out the deep hurt of an estranged relationship with a child, or the longing over a prodigal.
Several years ago, I had the honor of formatting a Mother’s Day service that offered time to reflect on loss and deferred hope. Women were available to pray for women, and hope and connectivity grew as the women learned to care for each other with a depth of compassion, and look to God as the healer and bringer of all hope.
3. Celebrate and Dignify Womanhood
Being a woman is a beautiful thing.
A few short years ago, as a seminary student, I fell in love with two simple, yet all-encompassing, Latin words that redefined my mindset about the beauty and purpose of being a woman.
These words are meant to speak to every woman ever to walk the earth, regardless of any other distinction, title, or perhaps label they may bear. There is a vast holiness that is breathed out for womankind in two words: Imago Dei.
Imago Dei. To be made in the very image of God.
Genesis 1:27 serves to inform the reader of scripture of the concept of Imago Dei as it declares, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
As women, we are beautifully and equitably designed specifically for the task of imaging characteristics and distinctions of the character of God. As we look to women in the loveliness of humanity, we have the opportunity to understand dimensions of the personality and nature of a loving creator God.
For the woman who has accepted Christ as her personal savior, the concept of Imago Dei is heightened as 2 Corinthians 3:18 reveals that the Christian life is one in which we are in the process of being transformed into Christ-likeness for the very purpose of reflecting the glory of Jesus to the world.
Motherhood. Marriage. Singleness. Age. Ethnicity. Economic Status. Career. Grieving. Rejoicing. Not one of these distinctions changes or levels the singular and absolute purpose for which women were designed, and indeed all of mankind was designed.
We are created as image-bearers, and our vast and varied differences are the fibers and threads of unique personalities each meant to reveal and reflect God.
The call of womanhood is not to motherhood, marriage, or singleness, or any other facet of the paths our lives might take as we live out our faith on this earth. The call of womanhood is to reflect Jesus in whatever capacity we might find ourselves, and to cling to Jesus in our pain, and love and comfort others in their circumstances.
As we act in empathy and intention we fulfill the call of scripture to love sincerely. Through compassion, we build stronger relationships that result in joy and a church and womanhood that reflects Jesus.
We can honor mothers while seeking to not push others away by choosing to acknowledge those who might be suffering.
In these ways we most do our job as the church, and we create a fertile ground for honoring all women as vital and valuable image-bearers of God.
Consider printing this litany to bring joy and compassion to all women on Mother’s Day for your church service.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio
Stacey Monaco has been speaking and writing since her first unpublished children’s book in the fifth grade. Her journey as a writer has taken her from the depths of blue water exploration, to the simplicity of crafting words to encourage and educate in the areas of loss, legacy, leadership, and living life passionately with purpose. Stacey received her Masters Degree in Christian Ministry and Leadership from Talbot School of Theology, and has worked in many roles from slinging coffee to pastoring women. To find more on living the Christian life with intention, head over to her website at StaceyMonaco.com.