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Happy Mothering Sunday!

March 14, 2015

As some of you know, mine was a difficult birth. I’m told there were lots of complications and I was a very long time in coming. My Mam obviously made me too comfortable!

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 if its a rabbit, so long as its out!”

So I know that being a mother isn’t always easy, but sometimes all the love that a mother gives to a child can be turned into deep and bitter pain. The sort of pain that Mary must have suffered when she saw Jesus on the cross.

I have a memory that haunts me. It is the memory of sitting with a mother who had just lost her 6 month old baby. There was no real warning. They were in church one Sunday for her baptism and the little girl wasn’t too well, but nothing really alarming. Then I got a phone call to get to the hospital fast. I went as fast as I could, and when I arrived she had just died. What can I or anyone say to that mother and father; to the little brother and the two grandparents standing there?

I hugged them. I prayed over the little girl, commending her to God. I prayed with the family asking for the Spirit to fill them with the strength of faith that they would now need, to sustain them, even in the midst of that horror. The faith to know the promises of God that she was His child too and that she was safe with him. I prayed for comfort and peace.

What haunts me most is the empty look in her mother’s eyes.

That is how I imagine Mary to have looked as she watched Jesus slowly die on the cross. When Jesus was presented in the Temple as a small child, Simeon told Mary “and a sword shall pierce your own soul too” (NRSV Luke 2.35), now 30 odd years later that ‘blessing’ had come true.

When pain hits or tragedy strikes, we ask, ‘where is God’. We can’t see him anywhere around. He is not ‘around’ because he is in us. God is in us ‘laughing with in when we laugh’, and now, ‘weeping in us as we weep’ (see Romans 12.15). That is what we together discovered in that hospital room: God was in us. That is a hugely powerful thing for those with faith. But inevitably the question will come, ‘Why’, ‘Why didn’t You stop it happening’? From experience there is rarely an answer to why a specific tragedy happened at that particular time. But our Father God, our Mother God, has acted, and it cost Him dear.

Each pain in this world is a response to the sickness running through this world, as it groans waiting to be transformed, healed, made new (Romans 8.22-23). It is this sickness that Jesus came to cure. It is this sickness that the Spirit heals in us each day. It is this sickness that will go forever when the Father’s kingdom is fully recognised. It is a sickness that will be healed when our God gathers us like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings.

Part of me is sorry for sharing these thoughts on Mothering Sunday. But a greater part knows that without hope in the pain, Mothering Sunday is just escapism. It is unreal. It has no roots deep enough for the difficult times. So I need to face the pain. And as I do I find that it hollows out more of me to be filled by love: Just as Mary was hollowed out by God so that she became the loving mother of our Lord who is famous even to today.

I know from experience that God weeps with me – it is an absolute Truth. And knowing that I can be confident that he also laughs with me, celebrates with me, parties with me, rejoices with me – makes it possible for me to say happy Mothering Sunday from the very depth of my soul.

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