Not Forgotten

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. The stores are stocked with “World’s #1 Mom” cards. The greenhouses are filled with husbands and children picking out hanging baskets and flower pots. Mothers and grandmothers everywhere are receiving hugs and text messages of thanks.

They are not likely to be forgotten.

And this is perfectly appropriate. For many of us we have had faithful, loving mothers. We are appreciative of their devotion, hard work, and self-sacrifice, and we want them to know it.

But there are some for whom this day is not one of rejoicing. Rather it’s a day of sadness. It’s a day in which they hold their pain close and pretend like everything is alright. It’s a day they wish would be over again for another year.

Sadly, these women are likely to be forgotten.

They might be forgotten because we don’t know about their struggle. It’s too private, too personal, and they aren’t ready to share it. They also might be forgotten simply because, well, we forgot. We didn’t stop to think about what they’re going through.

But they’re there. They’re present among us, shouldering silently a heavy burden.

There’s the single woman. Maybe she’s in her late twenties, and still hasn’t been asked on a date. Maybe she’s in her fifties, and the reality of being a lifelong single has fully sunk in. She wants to be married. She wants to have children of her own. But she doesn’t.

There’s the barren woman. She’s happily married to a faithful, Christian husband. But, like Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah before her, she’s childless. She wants to be a mother. She wants to quit her job and stay home with her children. But month after month the test is negative.

There’s the woman who has miscarried multiple times. She’s felt the joy of conceiving and having a little one growing within her! She’s felt the nervous excitement of being a mother! But then her doctor can’t find a heartbeat. They tell her something is wrong. The child within her is no longer alive. And no one else knows.

There’s the woman who has a child. Maybe several children. But she’s unable to have any more. She hears the whispers, “Her youngest just had his fourth birthday. Why isn’t she expecting? Maybe she’s being selfish.” This cuts her to the quick. She wants more children. She isn’t being selfish. But her quiver is full at one or two.

There’s the mother with adopted children. Unable to have children naturally, she’s decided to adopt. For others who have adopted, it has gone well. But for her it’s been difficult. There have been countless struggles with her adopted children.

There’s the single mother. Her child was conceived out of wedlock, and she feels a sense of shame that she’s become a mother under these circumstances. She’s afraid, “What will others say? What will they think? How will they treat me? How will they treat my child?”

There’s the mother whose child has died. She can identify with Naomi-Mara. Her child was stillborn. Her child died at six months. Her child died at six, at twelve, at eighteen years of age.

There’s the mother with a prodigal son (or daughter). Her child has gone into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living, even with harlots. She prays. Nothing seems to change. She pleads with him. He doesn’t call for months.

There’s the mother with many children. Her struggle is different. Far from struggling to get pregnant, she jokes that she could get pregnant if her husband simply looked at her. She physically could have a child every nine months. She catches stares driving her “bus.” Strangers at the grocery store comment on her large number of children. The Christian school tuition is staggering. She’s physically, mentally, and emotionally drained from the care of her children. And then she finds out she’s expecting again.

On Mother’s Day, amidst the cards and flowers and joy, remember these women as well. Remember the silent struggles that they endure. Bring their needs before the Father in prayer.

And for those who are struggling and feeling neglected, you are remembered. We may not always be able to be there for you. We may not always understand. We may not always know the right thing to say. But you are valued as an essential part of the body of Christ. You are loved, by the Father and by us.

You are not forgotten.

______________________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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To: Mom

Dear Mom,

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to let you know how thankful to God we are for you. Our gratitude certainly isn’t limited to this one day, but we don’t mind having a special day to show our appreciation for all you have done and are doing for us.

Time would fail us to tell of the many things for which we are thankful. We could go on for quite a while about your love, your patience, your self-sacrifice, and a host of other things. But we’ll save that for another time.

What we want to say “thanks” for today is the different roles you fill so capably in our lives. We know that the world doesn’t think too highly of your position. We know they look down their nose at you as someone who is uneducated and has no real skill set. We know they like to run down your calling as something unglamorous and undesirable.

But we disagree. We know better. And here are just a few of the reasons why:

  1. You are a highly trained doctor and nurse. You keep a fully stocked pharmacy in the house and know how to use it. You are always ready with a kiss for that stubbed toe, a Band-Aid for that skinned knee, and regular doses of ibuprofen for that high fever. When we feel like we have to throw-up during the middle of the night, you’re there to catch it with a bucket and clean it up when our aim is off. And when you need backup, you’re always happy to cart us to the doctor’s office and get us what we need. And don’t get us started on your bedside manner. Simply unparalleled.
  1. You are a renowned nutritionist and chef. Every week you plan our meals and return from the grocery store with hundreds of dollars’ worth of food for us. You keep a close eye on our junk food intake, and are quick to supplement our diet with a steady stream of fruits and veggies. Your kitchen is open seemingly around the clock—for breakfast, lunch, and supper, and every moment in-between. And, what often goes unnoticed, is that you double as head dishwasher as well.
  1. You run a top-of-the-line clothing department. We’ve never lacked for clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet. You’ve spent countless hours at the mall, at the second-hand store, at the garage sales, hunting for new pants (because we wore holes in the knees) and new shirts (because we spilled supper on them) and new shoes (because our feet grew two sizes over the summer). And then you wash them. And fold them. And mend them. And iron them. And put them away. And pick them up off the floor. And then wash them again.
  1. You operate a chauffeur-service that could rival Uber, except you don’t make a dime. You take us to and from school. You make a special trip with the lunchbox that we left on the counter. You take us to doctor and dentist appointments. You drive us to practice and ball games. You take us to piano lessons. You haul us to and from our friends’ houses.
  1. You are our first and favorite teacher. You helped us learn history and science and spelling and geography. You stayed up late helping us with our math homework. But especially you taught us about our heavenly Father. Since we were just a few years old, you taught us about God, and creation, and sin, and forgiveness, and the cross of Jesus Christ. You read us our first Bible stories. You taught us to pray on our knees before bed. You taught us our catechism lessons. You reviewed our memory verses for school. You taught us to sing the Psalms. You taught us about repentance and forgiveness, about love for God and love for our neighbor.

And, what’s even more astounding, is that you manage to fill all these roles (and more!) at the same time!

The reason why we mention these things is not to praise you (because we know you wouldn’t want that), but just to let you know that what seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated was noticed and was appreciated.

So, thanks, Mom! And know that we are deeply grateful to your and our Father for placing you in our lives.

We “arise up, and call [you] blessed” (Prov. 31:28)!

With all our love,

Your children

__________________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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“The One Thing to Tell Pregnant Moms: ‘Congratulations’”

Today I call your attention to this post written by Brittany Meng for Christianity Today’s blog called “Her - meneutics.” She opens by writing, “I’m pregnant with my fourth baby right now. Any mom who’s bore that many children—and even some with just two or three—knows what it's like to share the news of another pregnancy. People are quick to make comments…” I won’t repeat all of the comments Meng lists. Suffice it to say that they are all insulting comments that meet the news of another pregnancy with disbelief, dismay, and/or sarcasm.  

Meng explains that such comments are to be expected from people in the world. She writes, “in a country where more women are delaying childbirth and having fewer children, “big” families are bound to face pushback. Parents are told that it’s not financially responsible. Or that it’s bad for the planet.” But Meng writes, “the comments I heard all came from faithful, Christian women.”

I do not agree with all of the logic Meng uses to reach her conclusion, but it is a correct conclusion: “No matter the context, the gift of a baby is always worth affirming—without judgment, without eye-rolling, rude comments, or snide remarks. Just celebration. Just ’Congratulations.’”

I also agree with Meng that Christmas time is an appropriate time for Christians to celebrate God’s gift of children. Mary was given a special and unique gift, the opportunity to give birth to Immanuel, God with us. God may not use other believing women to bring forth the Savior of the church. But he does use believing women to bring forth the elect children of God who are gathered into the church. Meng argues that every pregnancy should be celebrated as a life created by God. And I would not argue with that. I would only add that it is all the more appropriate for the pregnancy of a believing woman to be celebrated because the child is not only created by God but also incorporated by God the Father into his covenant and church, redeemed by God the Son, and sanctified by God the Holy Spirit.

This is not to say that God saves every child of believers. He saves only the elect, and he has promised to give elect children to believers. God uses believing families to build up the family of Christ! Is this not reason to want many children and to rejoice over the “big” families in the church? Prof. Engelsma comments on the fact that Christ uses Christian marriage to build his family (church) in Marriage the Mystery of Christ and the Church (the RFPA informs me that the reprint of the 2nd edition is due in about two weeks). In a section entitled “God’s Large Family” Prof. Engelsma writes,

Even the fruitfulness of the marriage of believers belongs to the symbolism of marriage as a picture of the marriage between Christ and the church. . . Christ begets many sons and daughters by his word and Spirit . . . Christ brings these children forth from, and rears them by, the church, his bride. The union of Christ and the church is fruitful in many children of God . . . So closely connected are the symbol, our marriages, and the reality, Christ’s union with the church, that God uses the symbol to bring forth those who participate in the reality (p. 73).

As Christians we need to be careful not to give women who bear children a special, sainted status above women who do not have that privilege. And those who have many children should not be viewed as more saintly than those who have fewer. But do we not also need to recognize the danger that also in our Reformed circles we begin to have a bad attitude about the “big” families in our churches? For some of the mothers in our churches the next pregnancy may be number 12, 13, 14, etc. Are you ready to thank God for another precious, covenantal gift? And are you ready to say to the mother and father, CONGRATULATIONS!?

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