Preach It: Mothers’ Day, An Outsider’s Perspective.

It’s been a few months (since the miscarriage – which I think will become a point of departure in my own reckoning of my life).  I have felt like I had nothing to say.

Distraction was the name of the game for a long time, and to some extent I think still is (blessed Netflix!). I want to say that I am moving toward acceptance, and in some ways I am, but the word doesn’t quite fit for me.  “Acceptance” seems somehow too calm – my inner life is far too tumultuous to be called acceptance.  I think there will always be some deep part of me that rages against the difficulties of life in a fallen world.  I will learn to live alongside them, but I cannot name them as friends.  Life hurts, and that matters. I am angry, and I believe God is angry too, at the corruption and disease that plagues his good and beloved creation.  I believe God brings good out of evil, but I don’t believe that God is the author of the evil we experience.

So, instead of acceptance, perhaps I am approaching a kind of resignation that gives way to real contentment.  Following the miscarriage, my husband and I have spent time considering our goals and priorities and to what extent they are in our control.  We still want children, but we are trying not to view a successful pregnancy as the realization of a goal in itself.  We are trying to round out our goals so that they don’t hinge solely on the whims of my biology.  I need to have things other than having children to look forward to.

I should be relating all the wonderful lessons I have learned through experiencing the loss of the miscarriage.  Even if I had lots of wonderful lessons to relate, the loss would be no less real or significant.  I did not lose my child only; I lost the answer to countless prayers.

In these days and weeks and months that follow, I am confronted with my own weakness and self-centredness – I know this because sometimes I have difficulty with feeling like an outsider in conversations about children (and at my age that is what a lot of conversations are), and in situations wherein children are the focus.  From the outside, it looks like love showered on a child extends some kind of affirmation to the parents of that child, while the childless are left empty handed and invisible.  My life, my interests, my troubles are not as interesting or significant as those of people who are also parents.

You will not be surprised to find that I am not fond of Mothers’ Day.  It may seem petty or selfish, but I think that the way we (Christians) celebrate Mothers’ Day communally bears some examination.  Many churches are becoming more inclusive, which I believe is a good thing, undertaken to move away from yesterday’s pink carnations handed out to the smiling, standing mothers in the congregation, while anyone who doesn’t fit that bill sits, unrecognized.

However, even when we are at our most inclusive on Mothers’ Day – when we also acknowledge women with troubled parent-child relationships, women who’ve experienced loss, women who can’t conceive – even then we are suggesting that motherhood is normative of womanhood.  We are footnoting all other women’s experiences under the rubric of motherhood; women are defined by their proximal relation to motherhood – we are “mothers,” “expectant mothers,” “wants-to-be-a-mothers,” and this is reductive.  Now it might seem that since Mothers’ Day is about mothers, this is perfectly reasonable.  And in some ways, perhaps it is.

However, in the absence of a day or tradition of celebrating women who aren’t mothers, of celebrating the sisters and friends and aunts who may not have their own children, the recognition that we grant Mothers’ Day from the pulpit silences and renders invisible many women.  It tells us that we are indeed second-class citizens.  It tells us that our experiences and contributions are qualitatively worth less.

Mothers’ Day is a cultural celebration, not a specifically Christian one.  It is good to honour our parents, and it is certainly not wrong to celebrate Mothers’ Day.  But I do believe that we have uncritically incorporated this celebration into our worship and liturgy and in so doing have caused real confusion about the value we ascribe to women and the grounding of that value.  If I were a mother, that would not be the quality that rendered me valuable in the eyes of God and the reckoning of the church – my humanity, my status as a creature made in the image of God does that –  for me and everyone else.  Motherhood is a good thing.  I hope to experience it.  But I am not less of a person or less of Christian if I don’t.

I would love to see the church find creative ways to more expansively celebrate those people and relationships that have impacted us positively in faith and life.

(The following is a side note in which my crazy shows a bit:

I hereby submit, then, that “Casual Acquaintance Appreciation Day,” “Colleague Whose Surname I Don’t Know Day,” and “Hey, You Live Near Me, Here’s Some Cookies Day” ought all to be marked on our 2016 calendars, and I expect to receive some very strange greeting cards in the coming year).

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