All across the country today, churches are handing out flowers to mothers in honor of Mother’s Day. And all across the country, women stand at the doors of those Christ-dwellings, trembling.
They are the women who yelled at their children just five minutes before.
They are the women who conceived but never bore.
They are the women who feel their motherhood is trapped inside where no one can see it.
They are the women who fought for a child and lost.
They are the women became mothers in their bodies before their hearts were ready.
They are the women who do not love motherhood.
They are the women who long for motherhood.
Long ago, when someone pondered the good and lofty calling of motherhood, she could not know that declaring a national holiday to celebrate maternity would end up being such a nasty business. After all, everyone has a mother.
Yet not everyone is a mother.
Suit-clad ushers stand at church doors with buckets of roses to thrust at the women who come in with a gaggle of children, but they cannot know the depths of motherhood in the hearts of the women who come in alone.
This one suffered a miscarriage just the month before.
This one is putting part of her paycheck aside every month for an adoption that may never happen.
This one has put more miles on her car and gotten more invasive exams than any woman ever should just to find out why.
This one hugs neighbor kids whose own mother cannot be bothered.
This one struggles to be the mother she knows she needs to be, even though she feels the weight of failure night after night when the kids are in bed and she relives the day.
This one knows she is a mother, and she knows she is not a mother, all at once.
It is a beautiful, nasty business the way God created women to mother. He wove the threads in so tight, they pull and rip and ache sometimes, especially when some women are clothed in motherhood, and others are half-naked and clinging to rags.
Women, we are mothers; we are not mothers. All of us.
All across the country, the church doors are open and meager roses try to distinguish which is which. Only it cannot be done. If motherhood was nothing more than a biological distinction, it might be easier.
But motherhood is so much more than pregnancy. It is so much more than birth. It is even more than sheer emotional attachment. It is all of it and none of it all at once, and just as soon as you think you have it all figured out, another mother comes along and messes up all the algorithm.
So who gets a rose?
You who have borne children.
You who have nurtured children.
You who have lost children.
You who love children and you who want to love them more.
Take the rose.
Reach out your hand, not with trembling fear of judgment but with bold confidence that the God who made you made you to mother, whether you bore those babies in your body or not. Take the rose because mothering children is so much more than procreation. Take the rose because it is procreation.
Take the rose because you are a mother.
Take it because you are not yet the mother you want to be.
Take it because motherhood is more than a becoming. It is a being, and you can be a mother long before you have children, and you can not be a mother for a long time after.
It is a beautiful, nasty business, motherhood.
But if God wove motherhood into you, it was because He chose you for it. He is the one who determines your motherhood. Not a baby. Not a rose.
And He is not bothered in the least if your motherhood defies convention. He is big enough to glory in a motherhood that is messy. He is big enough to bless a motherhood that is barren. He is big enough to rejoice in a motherhood that plays out on a stage only He can see.
If He put within you a heart for children and whispered “Mother” into your ear, then it is done. It cannot be undone by any force on this earth.
You are a mother.
Take the rose.