A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
9th May 2004
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Happy Mother’s Day, to all mothers and grandmothers.
Mothers are essential to life itself. We have all had a mother. If we value being alive it is thanks to our mother that we are alive. If our life is full of personal joy and security our mother has most likely played a major part in giving us such well-being.
Mothers’ Day is a great day in the public calendar of our society. It is an important annual reminder of the significance of mothers to us all. But it is a day of very mixed emotions.
Being in such a relational task, mothers know the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows in life. The process of birth itself symbolises motherhood’s joys and sorrows, as Jesus said
“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
But mothering is more than reproducing - enormous as that task is. Mothering is a relational commitment that extends over years. In fact never ceases. Once a mother - life is never the same again. It involves a commitment to another person who, unless they sadly predecease their mother, will be the object of affection and concern for the rest of life.
So the joys and sorrows are compounded throughout life: The losing sleep over the health of the child; the anxieties over the first steps out into the world; the tension of the handover to independence in the teen years; the concern over their economic security as adults; the worry over their marriage choices; and then the full circle comes around in the concern over the birth of the next generation and the raising of your grandchildren.
But each of those moments of sorrow, pain, anguish and heartache can also be moments of the greatest pleasure, excitement, joy and fulfilment. For as nothing quite brings the pain to a mother as their children - nothing quite brings the same degree of pleasure and satisfaction.
Within our community there is great variation in the pain and the joy that we feel on Mother’s day. For some of us there is real pain in the behaviour of our adult children and for some of us our adult children bring a real sense of pride. Others are still too deep in the little children stage to know how things are going to turn out. Just getting everybody up and to church on time is a major task - especially as today we are handicapped by the insistence on cold milky tea and burnt toast served in bed!
There is also within our community a deep sense of sadness for many on Mother’s Day. We remember with fondness and pain our mother who has died. Death is a terrible thief. It takes from us what we most value - people and loving relationships. And because we so love and were loved by our mother, this day reminds us of how much we have lost to the curse of death. Even knowing of her eternal security in Jesus does not take away the mourning for our loss.
While still others have today the sadness of unfulfilled hopes for motherhood. Be it not finding the right man or health difficulties in conceiving or bringing to birth, or the death of a child - it can be an acutely sad day for us. The joy of our friends and society only heightens our sadness. We would not wish to diminish our friends’ joys by one iota but the disappointment of what could or should have been can be very deep-seated and bitter.
So it is great that we celebrate Mother’s Day on a Sunday. For it reminds us of the joys of heaven and the reality of living in a sinful world under the curse of death. It encourages us to look ahead to the resurrection day when death will finally be finished and we will be able to enjoy loving each other in the presence of God forever. When all the pain and sorrow of relationships is finished and all the joys and pleasures are permanent.