In November of 2007, my family suffered a great tragedy. My oldest brother and his wife were expecting their first daughter. However, because of complications with the pregnancy, my sister-in-law delivered a stillborn child at seven months. Thanksgiving weekend became a weekend of tears rather than a weekend of actually giving thanks. The solemn graveside service could not have been any more perfect in a negative sense of that word. The air was cold and brisk. There was a light rain. It was as if the Lord Himself commanded His creation to mourn the loss of a child. It is a moment that no person should witness—parents burying their children. The sight of a coffin shorter than the length of my leg still haunts me to this day. The family stood separated a distance from my brother and his wife as they said their final good-byes to their daughter.
Now you may be saying you yourself, “this isn’t exactly what I was expecting on mother’s day. Isn’t this supposed to be a celebratory day?” My response to that is, yes, it is that kind of day. However, I want to put forth one question: Did the death of my little niece make my sister-in-law any less of a mother? Granted, today she is the mother of a beautiful toddler—but on that day in November she stood by a grave childless; but does that mean that she wasn’t a mother simply because her child was dead?
You see, there are many women in this world who long to be mothers but for countless reasons are not. Singleness, divorce, infertility, or countless miscarriages leave millions of women around the world child-less each day. But what is it that makes a mother? And who is it that assigns that title? Is being a mother only possible when you physically give birth to a child? I would argue that the title of mother and the calling of motherhood runs deeper than the physical act of delivering a child.
There are many women today, and even some amongst us at this moment, who are child-less for some reason or another. However, that reality makes them no less of a mother than those who have children. I think of Sunday school teachers, Awana leaders, day-care providers, Vacation Bible School directors, and other roles that are motherly in nature. Now hear me, there is a uniqueness and something special about being a physical parent to a child and I in no way want to downplay that—but I do want to say that it is one thing to be a parent of a child and just so happen to be female, and another thing to bear the title of mother.
Being a mother has less to do with being the one who signed a child’s birth certificate, and everything to do with committing to pour your heart and soul into a child in order to express the love, kindness, and care that Jesus Christ shows toward His children.
And if that’s the case, then there are many in this room that fit the description of mother with ease. So this mother’s day morning if you sit here with no children know that Jesus sees you, He hears you, and He knows about the void that you sometimes feel because of that. And is the times that you feel less adequate because of your childlessness that Jesus invites you to claim the promise of Psalm 73:25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on this earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
So, when my sister-in-law wept over the grave of her lost child many would feel inclined to say that the glaring truth of that situation is that she is not a mother. But I refuse to believe that. On that brisk, rainy day in November of 2007, Jesus Christ wept with my family all the while knowing that the beaming truth of that situation is that God was, is, and will always be faithful.
So in conclusion, celebrate more than just mothers today—but celebrate God’s faithfulness to those who are childless. And maybe you know someone here who is not a mother physically, but has poured her life into raising children whether it be through Sunday school, Awana, or day-care. We have flowers in the back for mothers, and I want to encourage you to give one to someone that you feel is a mother who may not be for one reason or another, and if you do that—thank them. And finally I argue that when mothers stand before the Lord—those who have children and those who do not—and give an account of how they raised children in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ, God will not divide them based on how many birth certificates they signed, but will say to them: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”