Sometimes in our modern world we focus on the exception at the expense of the rule. We are so sensitive to the minority view that it is the only view we consider.
I felt that way yesterday, as I heard Mother’s Day discussed and preached upon.
There was the stuff about women who don’t have children, there was the proclamation of women’s rights and power, there was the call for men to be more nurturing and to take a greater role in the raising of children.
But there wasn’t much about mothers.
And there was nothing about gratitude.
All of which seemed, to me, to miss the point.
As opposed to what Mother’s Day is, and what it is meant to make us do and contemplate, it seemed like this was one more piece of American culture twisted to the agenda of political correctness. We bent over backwards so far not to offend anyone’s personal, social or political sensitivities that we sort of missed the point.
It was all exception, and no rule.
So let me make some things clear.
Mother’s Day is not about getting, it is about giving. It is not about receiving honor, it is about bestowing honor. No one is entitled to receive, everyone is obligated to give.
Mother’s Day is about honoring and thanking your mother. Directly, if you can. In your heart, if you can’t.
It is about being obedient to half of the biblical injunction to honor your mother and your father. It is about recognizing that the woman who gave you birth is a woman to whom you are eternally indebted.
It’s not about women’s rights, it’s not about women’s roles, it’s not about society’s structure.
It’s about your mother.
Everybody has one.
Whether she is alive, or whether she is dead. If she raised you perfectly in nurture and love, or abandoned you the moment you took breath. Whether she held your hand and guided you, or wrestled neglectfully with her own demons. Whether she was a saint or a drunk, a protector or an exploiter, a friend or a foe.
She was your mother.
And yesterday was her day.
And you were supposed to send her a card or some flowers or pay a visit or make a call.
And, living or dead, you were to have the gratitude and humility to recognize her role in your existence. What that role is, and what we are to learn from it, vary widely between individuals.
Some mothers literally laid down their lives to give us ours, or lived every day after we were born in some sort of service to us. Most stumbled through, doing the best they could, succeeding some days and failing others. A few at the other extreme may have been less loving or available, or even downright cruel.
And yet we are to honor them, love them, and, if need be, forgive them.
That’s the commandment of God.
That’s the message of Mother’s Day.
There are chocolates and picnics, gatherings and remembrances, or quiet stops at graves.
But it’s really a mental and emotional thing.
It’s also a universal thing.
The contemporary vanity is to begrudge our parents their faults, to so extend our spirit of entitlement that we consider those who gave us life and food and shelter through our childhood to have somehow shorted us. Perhaps father worked too much or mother was inattentive. They didn’t come to enough of our sports or read to us long enough at night. They may have smoked or drank or argued or spanked us.
And 40 years later we condemn them and carry our supposed wound like a chip on the shoulder.
All of that is in violation of the commandment to honor your father and your mother. In this context, particularly, your mother.
That commandment is unnecessary for sainted mothers who made no mistakes and tended our every need. Honor for them ought to be automatic and natural. No, the commandment of gratitude and God applies to all mothers, even the bad ones, even yours. If you fail to live up to it, then the problem isn’t your mother, it’s you.
Mother’s Day is about saying, “Thank you.”
It’s not another preaching opportunity for the women’s movement. It’s not a talking point for progress.
It’s a sacred and joyous duty.
Love your mother. Make you and she both are clear on that point.
That’s Mother’s Day.
No matter what you heard yesterday.