The other day, I was talking with a younger friend whose mom is now dead, but even when her mom was alive, my friend was ignored first, abused next, and eventually, abandoned. This was the woman who was supposed to nurture her.
Another young woman I know, when she was 10 years old, was given the equivalent of $20 by her mother, who then left the country to chase after a lover. Left in mom’s wake: a devastated and damaged ten year old child with two younger brothers, and twenty dollars to sustain them all until mom decided to come back…three months later.
This afternoon I had a conversation with a 20 year old who never knew his father, and before his mom died of AIDS five years ago, she demanded of him: “Promise me you will take care of your younger sister.” Though this mom treated her son like dirt to be walked on, he desperately tries to honor his mom by fulfilling that promise.
And yesterday I was on the phone with an 18 year old unmarried girl who will give birth to her child next month, not even knowing who the father might be. You see, not long after her mom died of AIDS, an aunt arrived to groom this girl for a future of prostitution. Even though there were other options to choose from, this motherless child followed the path of promiscuity. The sad truth: I barely recognize her now. In one years time, she looks as if she has aged two decades.
I could continue to tell you stories of pain and suffering, but there is no need to continue down that track, for I don’t have to convince you that this world is riddled with heart-wrenching hurt.
So, what’s my point? After all, this is Mother’s Day in many countries of the world, so shouldn’t I be posting photos of flowers and babies and happy faces?
Of course, I have that option, but to be honest, I think on this day, there are an abundance of Facebook pages where you can saturate yourself with such sunshine. And let me be perfectly clear: I am grateful for those pages. Very grateful.
Yet, I find myself thinking of those who are battling with darkness today: hiding behind a Netflix-numb, or saturating their wounds with wine, or searching for some coping mechanism that might hasten the arrival of tomorrow, because Mother’s Day carries too much pain.
So, today’s post is for my troubled tribe, whomever and wherever you may be. You might be single, you might be married. You could have children, or you could be childless. Perhaps you are a foster mom, or maybe you are the woman who gave up a child for adoption. Possibly you struggle with the sting of infertility, or you cry for the children who have cast you aside. To all of you, and anyone else who cares, I submit to you my story.
The tears refused to remain bottled tight like I wanted them to, safe and hidden behind my eyelids. But I tried. I really really tried. But there were too many of them. So it made no difference that historically I’d been pretty successful at such efforts. Not this time. Mothers Day, Mozambique, 2014.
I’ve never been one to cry in public much. Even as a child, I can recall that my tear times were usually spent hidden behind a curtain or under a pillow. I didn’t want others to see my tears or hear my cries. Maybe it stems from being the only girl amongst three brothers, or maybe it traces even farther back to my Mom and her four brothers. Surrounded by males, an ‘emotional’ female stands out, so perhaps me and my Mom just wanted to ‘fit in.’ Whatever the origin, the takeaway is that I am not the weeping willow type.
But, ah, the exceptions. Isn’t that where so much of life is lived, in the exceptions? Sometimes the notable notes of life seem to be those ‘off notes.’ Those ‘this isn’t normal’ moments.
So, yes, Mothers Day 2014 in a Mozambican church, I found myself silently, but furiously, wiping away evidence of the cascading waterfall spewing its liquid down my cheeks. A simple request,“Please, if you are a mom, stand up,” triggered my tsunami. Do I stand up or do I not? Technically, I’m not a Mom.. but, of course, motherhood and fatherhood have nothing to do with technicalities. As one teenager in pain poignantly remarked, “My dad is nothing more than a sperm donor to me.” Even children recognize that being a Mom or Dad runs deeper than DNA.
So why did I cry me a river on this date a few years ago? Well, I could come up with a number of explanations, but I think what hit me hardest was truly recognizing I’d never give birth. No Sarah storyline was in my future.
Nonetheless, I have no regrets regarding these circumstances. I’ve long trusted God that since my life is in His hands, He knows best. Waiting for David to arrive in my life was right, even though some of my friends had become grandmothers before I even married. But make no mistake: if there had been no ‘David’ changing my status from single to married at the age of 41, I would still be celebrating God’s goodness. Because God’s goodness has never been dependent on Him providing me, or anybody else, with a spouse. And likewise, with child, or without child, God doesn’t ‘owe’ me anything.
Does that make God into someone who is cruel, callous, and cares less whether a deep desire of our heart remains unfulfilled?
We have a God who identifies with our pain. A God who becomes man, so He can walk besides us in our valleys. A God who is there to hold our hands when we ask, and even endure those times we turn from Him to seek relief in methods other than Him, including those Netflix binges. He is a God who knows that man can sin against man, and on this side of heaven, innocent children can be hurt. Yet, He is also a God who knows though He has finished the work on the cross, the story is not yet fully revealed to us all.
So by all means, if today triggers tears for you, cry. Even Jesus cried, so I figure being female and not being Jesus, gives me a whole lot of ‘crying cards’ to play if I want to.
But as I said early on, I don’t play those cards often. I don’t need to, because at my core, I trust in His goodness, even though I live in a broken hurting bleeding world. A place where I can look into the eyes of a burdened 20 year old orphan, who longs to honor a mom who abused and abandoned him before she died, by caring for a 18 year old pregnant wayward sister who posts on Facebook, “If anyone has a brother to buy or trade with me, I don’t want mine and am looking for a better one.”
Mother’s Day 2017: I confess I cried again this Mother’s Day. Nevertheless, the teardrops running down my cheeks this year, were due to beauty in the midst of brokenness. How else could I respond upon seeing my 20 year old friend post on his sister’s page, “There is no money, no car, no clothes, no house big enough, to buy the love of a brother. It is a free gift.”