Mother’s Day is one of two annual reminders to parents about what the most important leadership role in our lives is. The other reminder is Father’s Day.
In life’s seemingly continuous and competitive pursuit of opportunity, status and security – all in a very uncertain world -- it’s often easy to lose sight of what matters most in life.
If we are parents, what matters most should be loving, nurturing and forming our children – helping them to fully develop their God-given gifts while getting them to see that those gifts are not given to them for their self-aggrandizement but to serve the common good.
They need to understand and appreciate two critical things in life:
- They are each God’s unique gift to the world; and,
- So is everyone else.
There’s a strange anomaly in our society today. Even while we focus more and more on the individual and developing the individual’s independence, we are learning ever more that the human being is a social phenomenon who comes to be, to grow and to blossom in an intricate web of interdependence.
Today in this culture we seem to grow up assuming, with René Descartes, that, “I think, therefore I am.”
Poor René. The guy needed a sex education course. His own thinking had nothing to do with his coming to exist. Instead, we are, as my dear friend Dr. Ray Stoik puts it, “one-anothered into existence.” We are also one-anothered into development, into maturity and, yes, eventually into eternity.
Erik Erikson knew this. So did Walt Whitman, who even while he sang of himself and celebrated the individual, wrote:
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he looked upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
In more recent decades we have come to scientifically verify with ever more empirical evidence just how much a child’s earliest relationships help shape him or her as a person. In fact, we have established that the process begins even before birth.
There is more than a little truth to the insight of poet William Ross Wallace, who declared in 1865 that “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Fortunately, most of those hands are not connected to hearts with aspirations of world dominance. Instead, they are focused on the vastly more important work of human development.
The hearts of good parents are probably the best models of selflessness we have in all the world. Good parents would die for the sake of their children without having to think twice about it. In that regard, healthy parental love imitates Jesus’ love for humanity.
Moms are an incredible group, no matter whether they are stay-at-home moms or outside-career moms. Some are part of great partnerships with their husbands and the fathers of their children. Some -- too many -- are persevering alone, often trying to hold down a job and fill the roles of mom and dad at the same time.
Whatever their circumstances, moms are icons of heroic sacrifice.
If you were blessed with a good mother and are still blessed to have her on this earth, I hope you reach out and embrace her, one way or another, this coming Sunday. I hope you tell her how grateful you are for her love, her guidance, her discipline – for how she cherished and formed you, changed you and toilet trained you, how she taught you to read, to brush your teeth, get dressed, tie your shoes and pick up after yourself.
Thank her, too, for teaching you how to love – with her words, but even more with her deeds, day in and day out, over and over again. Get her a card and maybe a little gift.
If she has already gone to her eternal reward, talk to her and thank her just the same, being sure to smile at her memory as your words break free and rise from your heart.
Whether she is living or dead, be sure to thank God for her. Without her you would not be the person you are today.
Lastly, do something for her and for yourself at the same time. Resolve to try to be as good a parent everyday as she was on her best day. If you do, that will be progress. But even more, it will be yet another step in building the Kingdom of God.
Dear Mom, one day long ago you came to a fork in the road and you made a choice. You chose the life of loving parent as your first priority in life. As Robert Frost would surely say, “that has made all the difference” ... in your life and in mine.