You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8
“We have a flower for all the moms here today,” said the pastor.
My shoulders tensed. I bit my lip to hold back the tears. It was my second Sunday visiting this church, and it was Mother’s Day. But then the pastor surprised me. He continued, “So, there is a flower for every woman here. The biological moms and the women who nurture and love and invest in the lives around them.”
I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore as I accepted my carnation. I felt seen and loved and honored. More importantly, I felt space to grieve that which I didn’t have – without guilt.
I have mixed feelings reading those two little words. You see, my life hasn’t gone according to plan. I never wanted to be single and 41 and childless. At 20, my life stretched out in front of me as the matriarch of a big family.
And from my earliest memories, I pretended to be a mother. Above all else, that is what I dreamed and desired. I played house and had 10 children and five dogs. Yet I’m single and childless.
I’ve lived all around the US and traveled the world. I was “Mama Mikkee” to groups of interns navigating the wilds of DC, I spent five years living in a basement and loving my godchildren, I’ve taught Sunday School and mentored pre-teens, I’ve rocked babies and blew countless bubbles for toddlers. But no matter how my one beautiful life has turned out, I still ache for what I don’t have. And this one Sunday a year, it feels like a slap in the face.
Honestly, it is the hardest day for me to go to church. Because Mother’s Day somewhere along the way went from the sappy Hallmark and Folger’s commercials to a dull, painful yearning.
I know I’m not alone because Mother’s Day is a loaded day for many. Whether you lost your mom to death or estrangement. Or you just need her to be someone she’s not. Maybe you’ve prayed and prayed for a baby of your own, but your arms are still bare. Perhaps you’ve said goodbye to a child you got to love only for a season. Perhaps, motherhood has disappointed you or left you bereft. Whatever the reason you mourn this Mother’s Day, I see you. I know the mixed emotions of joy and emptiness.
I believe in living without regret. Every moment of failure, humdrum existence or huge wins provides me a chance to learn and grow and draw closer to God. I can’t change the past, I can only live in the present. But this desire for motherhood, it is hard to reconcile.
This Mother’s Day, we can honor the beautiful, amazing mothers around us. I love to celebrate my own mother and all the amazing women around me who love their children with the closest picture to the purity of God’s love for us. But in the celebration, I ache. I mourn for what I don’t have.
So, let us also honor the stinging grief of loss. Because Mother’s Day isn’t about ignoring the bad stuff. Whatever loss you may carry around this day – I see you.
And more importantly, God sees you and holds your aching heart close to His. He sees and counts each tear you shed. And He is gathering all of us close in our loss, under the shelter of His wing.