Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Don't Like Mother's Day

I love my mother. I do. I hope she knows that based on my actions 365 days a year and not because of my actions on the second Sunday in May.

We have to begin with admitting my personal idiosyncrasies. Those who know me would call BS on this post without them: 1) I am a non-conformist by nature; if someone tells me I have to do something, my first response is to figure out a way to avoid it. 2) I've got a beef with the greeting card industry; I consider them entirely worthless and thus the holidays they create are less than exciting for me.

With the bias out of the way, let me explain why Mother's Day is something we could all do without. The first reason is simply the mental state of such a day - we subconsciously relieve ourselves of guilt for taking Mom for granted most of the year by buying flowers and brunch once a year. This is a terrible relational plan.

As a Christian, I do have some issue with telling time based on secular holidays. I appreciate the liturgical calendar as a way of telling time that also reminds us of the story in which we live. Instead of Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year's - we have Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. I'm not opposed to secular holidays - you don't have to ignore Mother's Day, but Christians need to be careful not to make it something we celebrate as a Church holiday (in many congregations, Pentecost, a few weeks later, goes nearly unnoticed).

Again, I'm not advocating an end to celebrating Mom. It's always appropriate to celebrate mom - just as it's always appropriate to throw a party or honor those willing to die for something they believe in. At the same time, we do have an obligation to do so responsibly.

It's great to celebrate Mom throughout the year. Last month, as we all gathered for my brother's wedding in Colorado, we spent a Friday lunch at Chik-fil-a, where my Mom loves helping and serving people. We got to meet her co-workers and regular customers - whose lives she knew and cared about. I'm not sure how many of us were super happy to be eating at Chik-fil-a during the lunch rush, but we were overjoyed to be able to honor my mother in this way. The two things she cares about most in the world are serving people, and her family; that lunch was an opportunity to join the two together.

I'll confess that I don't appreciate my mom in those ways as much as I should - not nearly on a regular enough basis. That failure doesn't excuse the treatment of Mother's Day as a way to avoid forgetting mom. If we make one day, when everybody does it - then we don't have to remember Mom the rest of the year. It's a collective alleviation of guilt.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly (meaning I probably should have started here) - Mother's Day cruelly leaves people out in terrible ways. US culture (well, really any culture), tends to celebrate some things while forgetting the sadder, other side of the coin. We celebrate partying and drinking culture while trying to marginalize alcoholism and other effects. We celebrate military service while trying to forget the horrible effects of war. These are two examples of many - in which we inappropriately elevate something as good, while forgetting those who suffer.

There are a lot of women in our world who cannot be mothers, many women who never will be. There are women who have lost children in various ways. For these women, a public celebration of motherhood is a public celebration of their pain. Of course, the revelers don't often even notice how these women stand out - but for many of them it's as if their apparent deficiency is on public display.

I appreciate the way the faith communities of which I've been a part celebrate Mother's Day. This year, our congregation will have a Mother's Day brunch hosted by the men of the congregation. But it will be held on a Saturday - not a part of corporate worship. Other congregations have made mention of the day and given a gift - but universally it is a gift to all women present.

Our mothers are not confined to blood relations. In joining the Church, you join a family and you inherit many brothers and sisters. You also gain many mothers. Whether they've given birth, these women serve as mothers for the congregation. All our mothers deserve recognition - not just the ones with their own kids.

One of the key social differences of Israel as opposed to neighboring tribes, was an uncommon respect for elders. Whereas most cultures sent their feeble off into the desert when they could no longer contribute to the community, Israel gave them extra attention and honor. "Honor your Father and Mother" is more than just "obey your parents" it's a command to respect those who've gone before you. It's inclusive of all elders.

So please, this Sunday, call your mother. Don't use this post as an excuse to forget altogether. Instead, hopefully, it's a challenge to think about what we're doing in celebration and to expand the scope of our appreciation. Be intentional. Our mothers are worth more than one day.

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