When a Holiday is an Emotional Landmine

Annie Lent | May 3, 2021 Family Children, Holidays, Motherhood, Parenting, Women

Mother’s Day is a complicated holiday for most women. True, for some, it’s a day flooded with good memories of mom kissing a boo-boo, her warm voice wielding magical bedtime stories, and cheering you on from the sidelines. It’s a day some moms are wakened by the sound of pudgy feet padding the hallway floor and orange juice splashing on the tile as her toddler proudly brings her breakfast in bed. 

But, for many others, it feels more like an emotional landmine. It’s the type of holiday that exposes all types of insecurities, shame, disappointments, pride, and idolatry. It’s a reminder that your mom was not who you wish she was. Or, that you’re not the type of mom you thought you would be. Or that your kids are not as you imagined them to be. Or that you’re not a mom at all, but so desperately want to be. It’s a reminder of your abortion, your miscarriage, your mom’s death, or your child’s death. The flood of advertisements presenting a one-dimensional narrative provokes more shame, sadness, and disappointment than it does honor, esteem, and celebration. 

Depending on where you are in your story, you may be eagerly anticipating the day or you may be planning on hiding under the covers. Either way, I have some good news for you. 

Motherhood Does Not Define You—Christ Does.

Because this is true, this holiday doesn’t get to have a dismantling, devaluing, or pride-inducing power over you. Being a mom is an identifier; not a primary identity. A believer’s true identity is the beloved of God, rescued by Jesus, and indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Your true identity is unshakable.  What may feel up for grabs is, in actuality, not. Though the holiday itself has changed throughout history, the purpose has remained the same—to show honor. Over time, the “who” has been maternal goddesses, the “mother church”, biological mothers, and single, working mothers. Mother’s Day, as we know it, might be commercialized, but to honor another is a biblical concept.

To honor another person means to “value them by which the price is fixed.” We have a fixed value that cannot be upgraded by having kids or being an epic mom. We have a fixed value that is not marred by infertility or abortion. We have a fixed value because of who God says we are and what Jesus did for us. This is what it means to find your identity in Christ. It means to choose to believe what God says about us over any narrative the world tries to pin on us. It means that the things we do—however perfectly or poorly—or, the roles we have—however significant or seemingly insignificant—do not get to define who we are. Brennan Manning says it this way: “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion. God’s love for you and [H]is choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.” 

Be the Body

Toward the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he paints a stunning picture of what Christian fellowship among the body of believers should look like. He describes a utopian-type experience in which each person is full of love, generosity, commitment to using their gifts for the good of the family, who weep when their friends weep, who rejoice when their friends rejoice, and strive to live in full harmony with one another. He details a family who each cherish one another, and who are each attempting to, “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 ESV).

We have an opportunity to reverse the narrative that many women hear and feel on this Mother’s Day (and consequently, every day of the year). What if, instead of heeding the advice of advertisers, we “outdo one another in showing honor” by “consider[ing] how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24 ESV)? What if we think deeply about how to incite the truer narrative in each of the women in our lives? What if we thought about the women who feel marked as a bad mom, non-mom, or best mom and joined God’s voice in calling out what is eternally true? What if our words and gifts were used to stir up the hearts and minds of women to remember their fixed value in Christ?

Stir Up What Is True

Our world is not utopic. It’s filled with pain and pride. But, we have something the world does not have—the Spirit of God who dwells within us and empowers us to live out a different reality. We are a broken, but blood-bought people, who can obey the instruction of God and experience a glimpse of heaven on earth. One way to consider others well is simply to ask, not assume, how they are feeling about this holiday and what would encourage them and affirm them most. Ask the questions below, and utilize their answers to help you consider how to honor them this Mother’s Day.

  1. What is threatening to usurp your identity in Christ (i.e. Failing to meet your expectations as a perfect mom? The death of your mom? A past abortion?)
  2. What emotion(s) are you feeling when you think about this holiday?
  3. What truth do you want to believe?
  4. What lie(s) are preventing you from believing that truth?
  5. What love and good work do you need to be stirred up?

Pray

As you consider how to honor the women in your circle, also consider the women in the larger body of Christ. Pray for women who are separated from their children or whose relationship with their children is severed. Pray for women who struggle in idolizing their children over God. Pray for women who are grieving. Pray for single, working moms. Ask God to help you see, truly see, the women in our body and to give you creative ideas to serve and call out their fixed value in Christ.