The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
[Luke 2: 33–35]
I am not a mother, and the chances of me becoming one now are slim. I have always found Mothering Sunday particularly difficult, even when I was younger, because I love children but have always felt they were not part of the path God has for me. Whilst I am happy to follow God’s path, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel sadness that motherhood will pass me by. In Mothering Sunday services, particularly in the past, a lot of focus was given to those in the congregation who are mothers, and those who have lost children or are unable to have them are treated sensitively. But sometimes we neglect those who may never be a mother or even those who are more than happy never to be a mother. Celebrating motherhood is challenging, not just because of those who are excluded and those for whom it causes pain, but it also doesn’t always reflect the realities of motherhood.
Mary was given a warning about her future grief – that she would watch her beloved son die a horrible death for a crime he didn’t commit. Many other mothers know that pain, or one like it. Some mothers have to make difficult decisions to keep their children safe. Some will know pain and suffering when their child dies before they do. Some will have to watch, helpless to save their child. Some will be frustrated and feel guilt that no matter what they do it never seems enough for their child.
This Mothering Sunday, try to think of a mother who is struggling, and offer them support and encouragement, or someone who is not a mother, and try to see the world through their eyes. The one song that comes to mind is one that you may be unfamiliar with: ‘She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters’ by John Bell and Graham Maule, which speaks of the Holy Spirit mothering creation; it is a beautiful song to reflect on.
We thank you for those who mother us:
Those in whom we see your tender love and care;
Those in whom we see your fierce love and protection;
Those in whom we see the strength of your love and depths of your grief.
May you mother us, as your Holy Spirit mothers all creation.