Did you celebrate Mother’s Day this past Sunday? There’s a good chance of it: Maybe you took your mom to lunch or cherished fond memories of a mom no longer living.
Mothers deserve all the appreciation they can get. Can you imagine where we would be without them?
In 1907, Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia held a memorial service for her activist mother at her home church in Grafton, West Virginia, and it sparked a movement. Within a few years, most states had begun to observe Mother’s Day, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday.
In time, many other countries also began to celebrate motherhood on the second Sunday of May.
In my early years as a pastor, the highest attendance of the year was rarely Christmas or Easter; it was Mother’s Day. Everyone wore a flower in tribute to their mothers, red if she was still living, white if not.
People wore rosebuds if they had them. Ladies would provide chrysanthemums for the unflowered.
At one time, it was popular to recognize the oldest and youngest mother, or the mother with the newest baby. That tradition faded as it became more common for the youngest mother to be unwed.
As a pastor, I preached my share of Mother’s Day sermons, but over time I became particularly sensitive to the number of women present who had no children – and to the many folks, both men and women, who tended to look after others in motherly ways.
Instead of praising those who had given birth alone, I tried to celebrate the broader concept of motherhood and encouraged everyone to “mother each other.”
Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist occasionally passing along an old tribute written by the late Erma Bombeck, whose columns about the joys and travails of suburban housewifery were syndicated across the country from the mid-1960s into the late 1990s.
The column first appeared in 1974. Here’s a slightly adapted version:
When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”
And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic; must have 180 moveable parts … all replaceable. She has to run on black coffee and leftovers, have a lap that disappears when she stands up, and a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands? No way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked, “it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
God nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”
“God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently, “Get some rest tomorrow …”
“I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick … can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger … and can get a 9-year-old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.
“But tough!” said God, excitedly. “You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”
“Can it think?”
“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.
“There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.”
“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius,” said the angel.
Somberly, God said, “I didn’t put it there.”
God must often be disappointed with how some aspects of creation have turned out or grown corrupt.
But I suspect God also smiles when something in creation – or somebody – turns out even better than expected.