In my family growing up, my dad was the one who bought cards for special occasions, occasions like Mother’s Day. All I knew was that a few days before some card giving day, he’d call me to the kitchen table and pull out a selection of cards from a brown paper envelope and have me choose one of the cards, like one to give my mom on Mother’s Day. He was ever so thoughtful in not wanting me to fail in her eyes on account of me not having a card for her. You’d think I’d be an avid card-giver now as an adult; you’d be wrong. Despite being practiced at giving cards, I was never practiced at buying them—browsing the display, touching this one and then that one, pulling one out, reading it, slipping it back as my eyes scan for another. Consequently, I am a last minute card shopper, of the sort who rushes in on the eve of a special day and grabs whatever is most quickly appropriate. This is just to say that Mother’s Day is coming up, so . . .
I mostly don’t know what to say in church on Mother’s Day. In our time, it has become a day of cloying sweetness with little purchase on the reality of moms or any who find themselves in the mothering role with others. It has become a day for to put an ideal on a pedestal—perfection!—and who can live up to that? I suspect Anna Jarvis, a Methodist and the founder of the Mother’s Day holiday in our country, would have a hard time finding a Mother’s Day card today which reflected what she had in mind when she first proposed the holiday: a day to honor her own mother’s hard work mothering those who returned home wounded from the U. S. Civil War. Again, I just don’t know what to say without playing into the hands of the Mother’s Day Industrial Complex.
One thing I can say, though, is that being a mom is hard work, the hardest I’ve seen. From bringing forth new life, to nurturing those in her path, to living with the tension of providing both freedom and a safety net, there is no work more demanding physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
One might, also, if you’re of a mind to, see in the work, the real work, that moms do every day a reflection of God’s own work in the world. Here in the flesh is a reflection of the Imago Dei (Image of God). You see, the stories of our faith are filled with mothering images of God: bringer forth of new life, nurturing parent, living in the tension of a love which both grants freedom and offers a refuge.
Chances are, I won’t be able to find a Mother’s Day card which will commend a mom for the way she reflects God’s work of mothering love in the grit of the real world. Yet, that is the card I’d buy.