by Pastor Bater, Prince of Peace, Thousand Oaks, CA
Family of believers,
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. If, for some reason, you didn’t already know that, you’re welcome! What you probably did not know, however, is that next to Christmas and Easter, Mother’s Day is historically one of the highest attended church services each year. What an inspiring sentiment! Dad and the kids ask mom, “What would you like for Mother’s Day this year?!” And her response is simply, “I would like you to come to church with me.” What an awesome thing. God bless all you moms. I hope that having your family in church with you is always your wish and that it’s granted this Sunday and often!
Because it is typically so well attended, many churches and pastors will actually focus the entire worship service around and preach on the topic of Mother’s Day. And though it is a secular holiday, we certainly have the Christian freedom to do so. There is no shortage of passages and beautiful examples of moms in the Bible we could address. That being said, I’ve never preached a “Mother’s Day” sermon and I won’t be preaching one this Sunday either.
Understand, the reason is not because I don’t love my mom or the mother of my children. I most certainly do. I guess you could say I’ve been a little jaded though. Every Mother’s Day sermon I’ve ever heard has sounded exactly the same (perhaps this has been true for you too). Ironically, very few Mother’s Day sermons are actually addressed to the moms in attendance but rather to everyone else, especially husbands and children. And what’s the message? Something like this: “Dad, kids, you stink at loving your mom. Look at everything she does for you! You should appreciate her more; do more for her; thank her more often; etc.”
Now, is that message true? For sure. Do I and my kids need that stern preaching of the law? Of course we do. But what does mom get out of it? What message is communicated to her? Her one wish was to have her family come to church with her and that’s what she gets? A family guilted into doing the dishes? Even more sad though … where’s Jesus in that message?
I think we’ve been programmed to assume that all mom wants for Mother’s Day is to be pampered a little (most probably still do and they absolutely should be). That if we just take some of her “chores” off her plate for a day, she’ll be content. But is that it? While those might be nice gestures, all those chores will be right back on mom’s plate tomorrow. No, mom needs more than breakfast in bed and the house picked up (still do those things! Lol). Having closely observed my wife as a mother and counseled numerous women over the years, here are just a couple things I’ve learned about moms:
1) Moms carry an insane amount of guilt. When I was growing up, most moms were still “stay-at-home” moms. Today, most moms have full-time outside-the-home jobs. And yet, they’re still expected to accomplish all the same stuff their moms did while they were home–even if the only one who actually has that expectation is her! It’s impossible. She can’t do it; no one can. Moms know that, too, but knowing it doesn’t remove or lessen their guilt.
Moms almost instantly feel guilty when they lose their temper with their kids (whereas dads typically don’t, despite losing their temper more often). Moms feel like they should’ve been more patient; more loving; more kind. “I could’ve handled that situation so much better if I had only…” is a regular confession of guilt I hear from moms (but hardly ever heard from dads).
2) Moms experience extremely high levels of anxiety and stress when it comes to their family. Moms worry far more about their kids than dads do–on average four times more! Are they eating right, getting enough sleep, how are they doing in school, who are their friends, how will they turn out, are they happy, where are they at spiritually? “I constantly worry about my kids, pastor,” is yet another common motherly confession I hear.
There are way more activities and groups and teams available for kids to participate in today than in generations past. Most kids want to join in and it is expected that mom will make it happen. The competition for being a ‘good’ mom is heightened by social media. If mom sees another family on the constant go, she assumes her family should be too.
Parenting, especially motherhood, has become more of a job than a joy in many homes and it’s stressing moms out. Understandably so. Despite God entrusting the role of the spiritual head of the household to husbands and fathers, mothers worry about the spiritual welfare of their kids more than fathers do. So if spiritual instruction and encouragement is going to take place in the home, mom is usually the one to initiate that too.
3) Not all moms/women want to celebrate Mother’s Day. Maybe this will be your first Mother’s Day without your mom and it just won’t be the same. Or maybe your mom is still alive but your relationship with her (or with your kids) is so fractured that the day becomes a difficult one to celebrate. Or perhaps you lost a child, suffered a miscarriage, or had an abortion, and despite being blessed with additional children, that one baby still weighs heavy on your heart. Still others of you aren’t moms, and while you’re happy to celebrate the day with your mom (if you can), so far you’ve been unsuccessful at becoming a mom yourself. Each Mother’s Day then becomes an unavoidable reminder of the emptiness you feel. All of these situations can and do also affect husbands and fathers, too, but not to the same degree. “Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for me,” is yet another admission I’ve heard from multiple women.
4) Moms need Jesus more than anything. My dear sisters in Christ, if any of the preceding paragraphs describe you, I’d like to share some important words with you. If you’re carrying heavy guilt (real or imagined): Jesus has forgiven you. He took every last bit of your guilt with Him to the cross where He died with it and for you. And in doing so, He has taken all of your guilt and sin and every last #momfail away from you. It’s not yours to carry anymore. He has redeemed you from living a guilt-driven life. He’s purchased for you a new, more beautiful, more productive, more grace-filled life. A life set free from all sin and guilt, set free to imperfectly love and serve as Christ perfectly loves as serves you.
If you’re feeling lonely: Jesus is with you. Truly, He is. He lives and rules in your heart by faith; He’s made it His everlasting kingdom! He speaks to you through His Word. Reminds you of your Baptism, where you were made His sister, a beloved daughter of God your Father, and an heir of eternal life. He feeds you with His real Body and Blood, strengthening your faith and love. He advocates for you when you pray. This is the powerful promise of His resurrection and ascension: “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” You’re never alone. Your resurrected Lord says so. He sees and cherishes every changed diaper, school drop off, and midday snack–even the ones you’ve long forgotten.
If you’re afraid that you haven’t loved your kids perfectly: know that Jesus does and always will. He loves your kids with an everlasting, unfailing love. In those moments when you feel like your love for them is lacking, point them to Jesus and know that in Him they are perfectly loved–which means His love covers you too. His love for you and your family is never lacking, never failing, never incomplete. Jesus didn’t die for perfect moms because there aren’t any. He died for you. And then, grace on top of grace, He graciously blessed you with a little one(s) to whom you could imperfectly reflect His perfect love.
If you’re worried about your kids: “cast all your anxiety on [Jesus]” because He always cares for you and He always cares for your kids. You’re not the only one who wants what’s best for them. The God of heaven and earth guided all of human history to put that little child into your arms because you, mom, are what’s best for them. Because He knew that you would turn around and bring that child back to Him in Holy Baptism. God has invested far too much for far too long in your kids and their salvation to abandon them now. So, keep giving Jesus to your kids. Nothing calms a restless heart more than placing your kids into the nail-scarred hands of the One who perfectly loved your kids long before you ever knew they existed.
If you’ll be without your mom or without a child this Mother’s Day: I pray that you and they know the hope of the resurrection. That you would be comforted by the promise of a blessed reunion on the Last Day. A promise Jesus secures for all who put their hope in Him. And that in comfort, you might find a moment of joy on Sunday and always until that Day comes.
As for the rest of you? If you’re able, go to church with your mom/wife on Sunday. (Mom, don’t be afraid to ask them!) Not just to show her your love but so that she can once again see and hear and taste and touch the greatest love there is: the love Christ has for her and for you. She needs it and so do you. I hope to see all of you on Sunday. May God bless your weekend and Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. Please know how much we love you, but know that Jesus loves you even more!
Pastor Peter Bater
Prince of Peace Church, Thousand Oaks, CA