As Mother's Day fast approaches, my heart is heavy for the many who cannot celebrate with the joy and festivities that are often marked by this day: a special corsage for mom, adorned with mini-flowers representing every precious babe she has born. A special dress or hat, perhaps gloves or a sash. Breakfast in bed; a splendid day at church together; then off to a deliciously prepared lunch with all her favorites. Dinner out, if she desires, at her favorite restaurant, and of course, a scrumptious dessert follows.
The entire day is spent with the sweet affection of her loved ones all around her, celebrating her tender, faithful, loving, sacrificial and gentle godly character. Her children and husband rise up and call her blessed (Prov 31:28-29) for her deeds and words prove she's a woman who, above all things, loves and fears the LORD God Almighty (Prov 31:30).
Ahhh...isn't this just the picture perfect day? It's brimming with love and overflowing with God's grace and mercy displayed in one beautiful life; the life of a godly mother. Though she's not perfect, her life exudes the aroma of Christ and is a cherished blessing to her husband, her children and others close to her.
But this picturesque vision of a mother is not true for everyone. Some of us grew up in homes with parents who were atheists, agnostics, followers of false religions, or even worse...some of you were raised in homes with mothers who professed to be a Christian, but neither her living nor teachings were in accord with God's word and she defiled your mind and polluted your heart with the vulgar, self-centered, and obscene things of this world.
The ideal mother, the kind that many will celebrate and will thank God for this Sunday, is best described by these verses:
"An excellent [warrior strong] wife, who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
"She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
"Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all."
"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates."
~Proverbs 31:10-12, 20, 25-31 (ESV)
But not all of us were raised by mothers like this one described in this beautiful chapter of God's Word. Rather, some of us were raised by mothers whose character is best portrayed by this passage:
For among them are those who creep into households, and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth."
~2 Timothy 3:6-7 (ESV)
I wasn't raised in a Christian household and was never close to my parents due to our diverse outlooks on life: mine was based on God and His Word, and theirs was based on the futile ideologies of this world. Though the Lord has been so gracious to reconcile us to some degree, there is always a great divide between those who've been washed by the blood of Christ and those who haven't. I continually pray for their salvation, for what greater gift can a child desire for their mother whom God chose for them?
Those of you who weren't raised by godly mothers painstakingly look for cards that share a godly and loving sentiment, without all the gush of how wonderfully she raised you, or the fond memories you have of her sacrificial love for you and others, or how she taught and lived out God's word for you. You just wish those card companies would make a nice and simple, "I love you and am praying for you Mom" card. Something that's pretty, perhaps even a bit elegant so that somehow you can share how you care for her without lying to her with flattering words that simply are not true of her character.
For years, I've struggled to find a card for my mother because they all seem to take you down memory lane. And as I just shared, the memories of my childhood were not so memorable...at least not the kind that make one smile and wish for more. But I was so delighted to find several cards that I could honestly give my mother this year. One that shares our love for her and our hopes for God's goodness in her life; namely, salvation found only in Christ Jesus.
But many of you don't have a reconciled, honest, trusting and loving relationship with your mother or mother-in-law and may be wondering how you can share God's love without the deceit and emptiness of flattery.
Here are some suggestions on how you too can join in this blessed celebration with God's truth, grace and love:
- Prepare your heart by seeking God's truth in His word on how to love others (1 John 3:18);
- Love your mother (or mother-in-law) as she really is, not as you'd like her to be (Rom 12:9);
- Be honest with your expressions of love, being careful you aren't enabling her to sin by flattering her with words that do not describe her true character (Prov 27:5-6, 28:23);
- Say/write kind words of love that are true and exhort her with God's words (Eph 4:29);
- If you can't find a card that cannot truthfully convey her character and your love for her, then make one yourself—be sure to take time to make it lovely (Prov 31:26);
- Purchase a thoughtful gift (within your budget) that rightly conveys your love for her, or make a simple, considerate gift if you can't afford to purchase one (Prov 31:16, 20);
- Then bathe the card and gift in prayer and if she is a unbeliever or false convert (someone who thinks they are saved because they said a prayer one day, yet there is no fruit to prove she is attached to the Vine), pray the Lord will continue to give you courage to speak the truth of His Gospel with great love and care to her with every opportunity you get—Mother's Day is one of them (1 Cor 9:16-19)!
The most important part of expressing love to an ungodly mother or mother-in-law is to love them in God's truth so that you may keep from getting angry or offended because she doesn't receive your gifts well. She may resent, belittle or even reject your gifts of true love as God defines love. If she is an arrogant unbeliever or false convert, she may despise you for lovingly expressing your deep concern for her eternal salvation. Do not be dismayed; press on and love her the way God expresses love and never be bullied into loving her the way the world defines love; something that only makes you feel warm and fuzzy for a while, yet has no eternal value (Mk 8:36).
If you're going to be deemed a fool, let it be in her eyes and in the eyes of others, but never the LORD's.
"It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools."
~Ecclesiastes 7:5 (ESV)
**NOTE: If you have bitterness or any unresolved issues with your mother or mother-in-law, it may benefit you to read: "Never React to People, But Always Respond to God" and "When and How to Forgive."