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A Mother’s Love

March 10, 2013

Mine was a difficult birth, at least so I’m told. I can’t remember much about it myself. But from what I’ve been told there were lots of complications and I was a very long time in coming. When I finally arrived I was handed to my exhausted and traumatised mother with the words, “Here you are Mrs. Tuffnell, you have a lovely baby boy.” To which my mother replied, “I don’t care whether its a rabbit, so long as its out!”

So right from the beginning I suspect that I’ve had this understanding that being a mother isn’t all sweet roses. With that in mind, this is Mothering Sunday, I want to start with a short passage written by a mother, after all I’m not a mother, and never can be!

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
― Debra Ginsberg author of Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son’s Long, Strange Journey Into Autism, which chronicled her long time struggle to get her son the education he was entitled to.

This may be a bit of a negative way to start a Mothering Sunday sermon but it certainly fits with real life and it fits with the Bible. Moses’ mother suffered fear that the baby would be killed or would drown. Mary, had nothing but trouble with her boy. Right from the beginning, when he came before she was married and ruined her reputation, nearly costing her Joseph too. Then after they had managed to settle down in Bethlehem, they had to flee in the night to Egypt!

Then they went to the Passover, bringing Jesus and what happens? Jesus goes missing in Jerusalem. They go back to look for him and finally find him happy and well, discussing theology in the Temple. But, as we know, that is nothing to what was to come. So, it is the words of Simeon to Mary that really stick in my mind, ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2.34-35)

As Jesus grew up he didn’t find a nice girl and settle down like other good boys. Then in his 30s, Jesus leaves his business and his home to travel around the countryside telling people about God. Mary even gets worried about his sanity and gathers his brothers together to try to take him home. It is then that he even seems to disown her, “46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”” (Matthew 12:46-50) However they were meant those words must have hurt Mary. Yes, Mary had no end of pain with Jesus.

Then Mary has to face the ultimate agony for a mother; to watch her son die, but not only that to watch him ridiculed and killed while she had to stand by helpless.

A sword of worry and sorrow certainly pierced Mary’s soul. Fortunately, for most mothers the worries are far more mundane. Will Harry settle in school? Why won’t Jenny find better boyfriends? Why isn’t she home yet? For me and Viv it is almost the other way round. When we go out it is our grown up daughter Ellie who waits up and asks accusingly where we’ve been until so late!

But Debra Ginsberg does seem to be right. What ever the child, motherhood is a mixed dose of joy and pain. So it is right to have a day when we remember our mothers in Church. More than that, it is important that we have a Sunday when we remember all mothers and mothering in general. After all, good mothers are critical to the process of a child growing up to become a good, well adjusted adult.

Motherhood would seem to be bitter sweet. But then so is all love. So must the divine love be for God. He created us. As Psalm 139 (vv12-16) makes clear God care begins even before we were knit together in the womb:

For you yourself created my inmost parts; •
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; •
marvellous are your works, my soul knows well.
My frame was not hidden from you, •
when I was made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; •
already in your book were all my members written,
As day by day they were fashioned •
when as yet there was none of them.

God has created us human beings with so much promise, and how we must grieve him. God has put so much effort into me but I get it all wrong so often. I miss clues. I get angry when I should be loving and comforting. I am soft and caring when I need to be like granite. I must be like a badly made tool in God’s hand that slips and twists and cuts the user.

God wishes to bless me, and all people. I want that I really do. I want the joy of knowing and being known by God. I want the wonder of the Spirit working in me, of becoming ever more like Jesus. But there was a cost for God: Jesus on the cross. There is a cost for me, I will not be immune from suffering. In fact I will be blessed by being allowed a share in the joy and pain of God our Mother as she redeems me from the mess I’ve have got ourselves into.

God is like a mother to us. Caring and nurturing and feeling the pain of our failures. So why should it be any less for us. Mary was blessed and a sword pierced her to the depths of her soul.

This is quite a calling. My calling as a minister is to care and nurture what God is giving birth to here where I am. The hopes, the changed lives, the healing of brokenness and despair. My calling is to share the joy of God when life flourishes. When new life is born, when people find love, fulfilment and contentment. In the words of Paul, I am to give up myself to God; to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” and some of those blessings are painful.

I don’t know what has got into me. This is all so serious. But there is fun too. Fun in being and sharing with people. Just as any mother will tell you of the fun playing with children. The joy of witnessing the innocent joy and excitement of a small child at the littlest things, and achievements. I know that even now I can’t go past a play park without expecting the small hand of my little daughter to drag me there. Even now, in the midst of my daughter’s long term illness, I can celebrate her achievements – She got 94% on her last assignment. Perhaps it is the pain and difficult times that make the celebrations mean something, that make them all the more special – I don’t know.

What I do know is that a mother’s love brings joy and pain, that God’s love brings joy and pain, but despite all that, I know for certain that no one in their right mind would turn it down!

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One Comment
  1. Dianna permalink

    Ditto

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