Mother’s Day is coming. Father’s Day is not far behind.
For some, Mother’s Day is a day of family gatherings, flowers, and celebration for the wonderful women who extended the gift of life and sculpted each of us into the people we are today.
For others, the holiday represents a cesspool of memories of the stolen inalienable right of loving parents. A day to regret exclusion from parenthood. A day of grief and maybe even a little resentment that you were stripped of the life of a parent or child too soon in your estimation. While churches distribute carnations to all the moms and lapel pins to the dads, you hunker down in your pew hoping you—and your tears—are invisible, yet wishing someone would notice and care. And yes, sitting among us are those whose guilt over their parenting mistakes make them feel unworthy to accept that parent-honoring gift.
I understand. A divorce happened in our family when I was two. I don’t even remember my father. My step-father was not much more than a financial provider. For years, the best part of Father’s Day was 11:59 p.m. when, with much relief, I put aside thoughts of a holiday honoring fathers for another year.
At one point, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have to sit around in misery while the rest of the country celebrated a holiday capitalized on by Hallmark, FTD Florists and Kohl’s. By watching the example of others, I learned how I could be intentional about the celebration of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Here’s what I discovered.
You are not alone
You are not the only one who had selfish, immoral parents. You are not the only one who faced infertility. Others have lost parents and children prematurely too. Even more bemoan the miles that keep them from gathering with their loved ones on these special days or quietly grieve children who can’t bother to even send a card or make a phone call.
Yes, I know you know that. And it doesn’t help much. But here’s my point. Let me gently encourage you to intentionally plan ways to get your mind off yourself and focus on others. Grab a gaggle of other women in the same boat and go to a Chinese buffet for lunch. (For some reason, I’ve found, Chinese and Mexican restaurants are not busy on Mother’s Day.) Give a motherless woman a hug and thank her for being an example children would want to follow. If tsunami force waves of grief hit you, push back with prayer. Think of someone who shares real estate on your boat and pray that God help them through this day too.
Think the good thoughts
It’s all too easy to remember the bad stuff. Take Philippians 4:8 to heart. Revel in the good memories. Focus on the moms and dads who have influenced your life and thank them and the Lord for their example.
As immoral and quick-tempered as my step-father was, he was a great money manager. Knowing the day would come when he could no longer work due to a crippling childhood accident, he put half his paycheck in savings and we lived on the other half. The rule in our family was always, always pay off credit card expenditure by the end of the month. His determination to keep working and to do what he could around the house taught me much about tenacity and perseverance in spite of a physical disability. I’m grateful to him for those lessons.
God also put into my life men I could learn from, men who did teach me about integrity, how to treat a woman with respect, and how to encourage with love and fairness. I’ll be forever grateful to men like Gene, Steve, Galen, Bill, Lowell, and my own husband Jack who demonstrated godly fatherhood.
Seize the moment
I once challenged my pastor about the validity of Christmas. “It’s just a Roman pagan holiday. We don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ birth. So why should I celebrate Christmas?”
I didn’t expect the answer I got. “Use every available opportunity to proclaim Christ as Lord.” Pastor Applebury went on to explain. “People’s hearts and minds are more open to listening about Christ at Christmas than at any other time. We need to be prepared to share the Good News when they are ready to listen.”
After conducting nearly 175 funerals, my pastor-husband has learned that lesson well. He is bold to present the Gospel at funeral services. Why? Because people are asking the question: what’s happening to my loved one? Jack grabs the opportunity to give them answers of truth.
So it is with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Instead of acerbically resenting the intrusion of Hallmark into my life and mulling over my misfortune, I can and should approach the day with the intent to redeem the past. Instead of thinking about my dad, I honor the current dad in my life, the father of my children who is a great dad. I send Mother’s Day cards to my girl friends or to relatives who were Mom figures in my formative years. I point out God’s all-sufficiency to my heartbroken sisters-in-Christ, reminding them that God is father to the fatherless and husband to the widow.
Look at that wonderful promise found in Psalm 68:5,6:
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”
Learn from the past
We determined we would become like Joseph in the Bible whose life of integrity defied his family’s multi-generational lifestyle of lying, stealing, and vengeance. We evaluated the poor choices of our parents and made the commitment that our family would be one of grace, compassion, and mercy. We would speak truth in love. We would encourage rather than criticize. We would not allow outside forces to render our marriage ineffective and broken.
Jack and I have made our share of mistakes both in our marriage and our parenting. Hopefully our daughters will also chose to not repeat our bad behavior. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day become a time to celebrate the new past and our two amazing daughters who reflect our choice to break from the generational cycle. We’ve taken control over our memories instead of allowing the memories to control us.
I walked into church last year on one Parenting Day and saw pain written in large print across the faces of two church members. I intentionally greeted them with, “I’m so glad you’re here.” I didn’t realize how much those words would mean to both of them because both people responded with virtually the same words:
“I didn’t want to come today. This day is a tough day for me. But I knew I need to be here. So I came. I’m glad I did.”
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day always fall on a Sunday. These two dear saints had it right. Whatever day the calendar calls it, their relationship with God and His people is still more important. No matter what has happened in the past, what level of pain resides in your heart, or how life has cheated you of what should be part of a normal, fulfilled life—God comes first. Let nothing come between you and your worship of Him.
No matter how much it hurts, stay faithful.