My first mother’s day was the worst. I was completely loved by my selfless husband and perfect newborn daughter, and my own mother had even traveled around the world to be a mom to me as a I became one. But I was sick, and I didn’t know it. I was exhausted, and couldn’t sleep. I was anxious and couldn’t pray my way to peace. My hormones were out of control, and my body was fighting to make it through each day without crumbling into an emotional wreck. It was my beginning of motherhood.
The wrong treatment was given for my infection, and so the medicine didn’t work. My body continued to function in overdrive, and my hormones continued to swing for several weeks. However, towards the end of the major swings, I remember a new depth of feeling.
Though I may have not physically been near to death, I was sure that I was. I was also overcome with anxiety for my daughter. Worry that she wouldn’t eat enough, worry that she would get malaria, worry that she also had an infection – I could not have anticipated the depth of emotion that I felt over her. The love that would wake twenty minutes after she finally fell asleep in order to feed her again. That would do anything to be sure that she had what she needed – that she was healthy, happy and safe. At the heart was love, twisted to resemble anxiety.
On one emotional afternoon, when I couldn’t rest yet again, it overwhelmed me. I called Ryan into the room. “Can you really believe that this is a glimpse of the love that God has for us? That he really feels this strongly about us?” Half-dressed, days since last washing my hair, buried under sheets that had become my daily station, I was in the trenches of first-time motherhood, and this became one of my lifelines. That surely, in the midst of all of this, the Lord was with me, protecting me not just physically but emotionally. That though I could hardly pray, let alone read words of truth, He was with me, gently tending to my soul, through his Spirit and through those around me.
I scrolled through Facebook this evening, and took longer than usual. I read some of the most beautiful words of friends honoring their mamas, celebrating the gift of being a mother, reaching out in comfort to those who ache on this day from various circumstances that have led to grief, and recognizing those that have cared for and shaped them throughout their lives.
In the midst of this honor, the Spirit announces His presence, as he whispered it to me on my bed. Our mothers are a part of what we are made of, as individuals and as a people. A part of the design of our lives that increasingly reminds us of our dependence and reliance on another. And, as we take on the heart of a mother ourselves, we catch an ever-present glimpse of the one on whom we depend. Our hearts walking outside of our bodies we say, we are so closely connected to this other person. The heart of a mother, crafted in the shape of our Father.
On May 9, half a century ago, my grandmother gave birth to my mom. Which, in that year, happened to be Mother’s Day. Every year since, my mom’s birthday often falls into one of the days around Mother’s Day, if not on the day itself. Last year, she chose to spend those precious days of significance with me and my family, in Malawi. In the midst of my failure to be able to articulate what I was feeling (I am not often at a loss for words!), she cooked meals so that my family would be taken care of. Though she couldn’t physically force my body to heal, she shared words to help heal my heart. I was spending too much time in my head she said. I needed to get it out. We tried spending time outside, but I was exhausted. Then she suggested reading a book. As I threw myself into the world of Father Tim and the quaint town of Mitford, my anxious self found distraction. The characters walked with me after my mom had to return back to her home. I can’t imagine having to leave my own daughter in such a state of distraught, and I didn’t make it easier for her when we the waterworks began at the airport. But one the best things that I can say to honor my mother this weekend is to tell of her trust and dependence on her Father to take care of me. The extent of a mothers love begins and end in the Father.
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” John 14:9