This Mother’s Day, I find my heart dwelling on the ways in which we who never knew the thrill, the pain, the fear, or the joy of the miracle of birth mother the children around us.
As my 21-year-old nephew prepares to make the long journey from West Virginia to Idaho in order to live with me and begin a new chapter in his life, I am reminded of the profound way he has shaped my heart.
The first of my nieces and nephews born, I gazed at his skinny, long body and wondered how in the world we had ever existed without him in our lives. Wriggling and grunting in my arms as a newborn, I looked at him and knew that I would die for him if I had to.
“If you were a mother, you’d understand…”
How many times have I heard this statement, uttered by well-meaning but foolish people?
If there is anything I have learned over and over again as I’ve held the tiny, fragile bodies of nephews, nieces, and godchildren it is that you don’t have to give birth to know the way a child can open and expand your heart.
So, this Mother’s Day, I offer you the following prayer:
For The Mothers We See and the Mothers We Don’t
Creating God, who nurtured us in the womb of the universe, we offer you thanks for the mothers we see and the mothers we don’t.
We see the perfect picture of a mother in a safe space, rocking a child with a sweet lullaby and we give you thanks for that peaceful moment.
But let us also see the image of a mother in war-torn places, clutching terrified children to her frightened breast. May we see her with hearts of love rather than with minds of fear.
We see the mother who kneels beside her injured child, kissing away tears, kissing away fears.
But let us also see the mother who, through her hurts and sufferings, has become immune to the suffering of another: The abused women whose sense of worth was stolen long ago and whose skin has thickened against the blows; the addict whose mind has been twisted by the effects of chemical dependence; the neglected women, the lonely women, the abandoned women who have never known the gift of being nurtured. May we see them with hearts filled with love and may we offer them healing rather than condemnation.
We see the mother pushing polished babies in their polished prams and our hearts soar as we see your Divine Love shining through them.
But let us also see the mother struggling in poverty and hunger. Let us see the mothers trying to raise their children in places ravaged by violence and anger and hate. Let us see the mother seeking shelter in the ruins of the world. May we see them with hearts filled with love, and may we demand justice for them.
We see the mother cradling her sleeping baby in the places we frequent and we smile with affection and admiration.
But let us also see the women who shed tears for babies they never had the chance to cradle, or babies stolen from their arms too soon. Let us see the grief of those who had hoped for something that would never be. May we see them with hearts filled with love, and may we honor their pain with our compassion.
We see the mother on the sidelines of the soccer game, cheering for her child and we are delighted to see the joy shining forth.
But let us also see those who stand on those same sidelines, cheering for children that are not theirs. The grandmothers, the aunts, the friends, the cousins, the sisters… but also the brothers, the fathers, the grandfathers, the uncles, who have learned well the best parts of a nurturing love and share them unconditionally. May we see them with hearts filled with love, and may we rally around them as a community of support.
We see the mother struggling to console a tired baby in a grocery store, or the mother trying to console an uncomfortable baby on a flight, or the mother trying to shut down a temper tantrum in a parking lot and our compassion is sometimes tested in these moments, but we understand the struggle with sympathetic hearts.
But let us also see the refugee mother crying at night in fear as she wonders where her child might be. Let us see the mother who carried her frightened and crying child across thousands of miles and across oceans and seas, seeking safety when home was no longer safe. Let us see the mother who clings to her child in cages under highway bridges as she pleads with strangers for asylum. May we see them with hearts filled with love and may we cry with them.
Almighty God, who gathers us together as a mother hen gathers her chicks, we give you thanks for the mothers we see and celebrate, and for the mothers we do not see and sometimes forget. May our eyes be opened by hearts that are always filled with your love. Amen.