Mother's Day Reflections - Kyle Hanawalt
Welcome on this Mother’s day - It a day full of different emotions Some come in today with feelings of joy and gratitude when they think of their own mother’s. Thinking of all the love and care and support they received And some come in today to be celebrated as mother’s themselves, appropriately so. Mom’s here today - You’re awesome and I am sure you that isn’t said enough. But, others of us find this day to come with a sense of loss, loss of one’s own mother, loss of what they wish their mothers would have been, or loss at their desire for motherhood. This is a unique day in that way, what for some is a good and happy day, for others, it is can be just the opposite. Which is why I am so glad that God is big and caring and dynamic. That he can be here with all of us in all of our emotion while we, here together, go through different things. He can celebrate with us, help stir up gratitude, and also comfort and bring us healing. So, my hope is that today you experience God - Experience him to be exactly what you need.
SLIDE So, Although lots of attention is given to imagery of God as father in the Bible, there is also a lot of imagery of God as Mother - such as Isaiah 66:13, "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you."
Theologian Marcus Borg SLIDE points out that there are many good reasons to identify and take note of these female images of God throughout the Bible: Because when we only look at the male images, we are missing out. For, Male images for God are often associated with power, authority, judgment. domination When used exclusively, they most often create an image of a punitive God. God must be appeased or else. Whereas, the female images of God in the Bible suggest something different. God is the one who gave birth to us and all that is. God wills our well-being, as a mother wills the well-being of the children of her womb. God is attached to us with a love that is tender and that will not let us go. And like a mother who sees the children of her womb threatened and oppressed, God can become fierce.
The Catholic thinker Richard Rohr - SLIDE Expands on Borg’s point when he says - Most people (though not all) have experienced unconditional love not through the image of a man, but through the image of their mother. She therefore became the basis for many people’s eventual God image, presuming it was a good God image. (I am convinced that many people sour on religion because the God they are presented with is actually less loving than their real life mother and/or father!) For much of the human race, the mother is the one who parts the veil for us. She gives us that experience of grounding, of intimacy, of tenderness, of safety that most of us hope for from God. SLIDE -That feels true to me - And to help me flesh this out more, I asked for some help from several women here at BLV. I asked them tell me how their experience as mothers or their experience of their own mother helped them connect with or understand God better. And so, I’d like to share some of these stories with you. And as I do I encourage you to think about positive Mothering experiences in your own life, whether it was your own mom, your experience as a mom, or your experience of a women who may not have been your mom, but played a material role to you at some point in your life. I want to encourage you to consider how that relationship could help you see a fuller picture of who God is and how God desires to connect and care for you. And before I read these, I want to warn you, I cried reading almost every one of these as they were sent to me - so please bear with me if I get caught up in emotion as I read.
And so the first women shares her experience - (Michelle) Being a mom helps me understand God's grace. When I see my child struggle with a task, it reminds me that I love my child so much despite if the child accomplishes the task correctly, or even at all. It makes me contemplate, if this is what my human heart thinks, God must have even more grace with me than I have with my child; that's cool to think about.
Another woman wrote (Linda) If my mom had grown up in America, she could have been Jackie Kennedy. Poised, graceful, compassionate, and rocking some mean two piece dress suits. Growing up, my mom, Pyo Hi, or known as Penny to her American friends, constantly reminded me to “be a lady.” Anyone who knows me would testify to the fact that there are many ways to describe me, but that would probably not make the list. She would chide me to do my hair and makeup, in spite of the fact that I thought I had already done so. Beyond grooming habits, she instilled the best life lessons in me. Managing my money was distilled down to three tenets: 1) It will never be enough, 2) Be stingy with yourself, and 3) Always be generous with your friends. Frugality was a value in my home, one I internalized so much, she once told me that she grew up during the Korean war, but why was I so cheap? She was the constant arbiter between my dad and myself, the peacekeeper. She taught me the art of living: humility, gentility, affirmation, honesty, grit, and compassion toward others, whose lives I didn’t necessarily know but could learn so much from.
My mom is my life coach, friend, conspirator, and role model. She has always taught me about the richness of life, the very many hats we can wear, the impact we can all have on each other, even through the smallest of gestures. And I have seen her through different eyes as I have grown older. As a mom, friend, wife, and now grandmother. Despite the fact that she has many chronic pains, accompanied with a rapidly fading memory, she will sing Happy Birthday to my son any day of the year. She puts on a smile and dances with him, though she can barely climb stairs. She can no longer cook or clean or drive, but she will ask me daily what he ate and where we store his piggy bank. I take all this in and am in wonder of this true circle of life. How God intends all this so that I may be blessed with the richness of others. To be nurtured and then learn how to nurture in return, all through His love, which is tirelessly enduring and grows our family tree.
And then another shares - (Isabelle) Experiencing my mother's unconditional love on a human level has helped me touch the Divine's felt unconditional love. My mother's could be smothering at times but in the best way. From feeling the compassion in the dark night of the soul, I would feel the whisper of comfort from God, similar to that of my mother empathizing and witnessing me. I feel very grateful for my mother and all she has done to support me invisibly and visibly through my self expression and work of service.
Being an immigrant kid and having my mom show us to be proud of our roots - not by telling us but embodying that self-love. Modeling that for my brother and I was crucial in the constant self-love and compassion that we have to give ourselves every day for being simple human beings that make mistakes. I still learn so much from her. Very grateful.
As I mentioned earlier, mother’s day is not always a day of celebration. For some it can be a day mourning, and I was thankful to have a mother of adult children share about the hard part’s of motherhood
She writes -
I held off on sending this because I am in a pretty dark place regarding mothering at this point in my life. It does feel like a dark night period. I am mourning the loss of my family being together and connected. I know this is perfectly normal, but it is still hard. I miss having my kids in the same state. I miss having them share the every day little things that they now share with their spouses and boyfriend. I miss just hanging out with them. For me, mothering was my main job. I did go back to work when my daughter started school, but it was secondary. So now I am trying to figure out who I am at this time in my life. It feels very much like those times when God turns his face away.
The years when our children are young go quickly, but the days seem long in the moment. The days are often hard and frustrating. This is true for fathers too. Those are the days that I remember as a blur at times because they passed so quickly. But I also keenly remember the struggles of raising these little gifts to the light. We do the best we can and God's grace is there much of the time. But when there is sickness or rebellion and you are tired, the dark night is there as well.
So I do not have any answers, only struggle. And I suppose that anything worth doing is worth the pain. This is life, you take the pain and the joy that is there as well. So I cherish the limited times we have together and try to make the most of them.
Then we the story of another women - She writes (Abby) I’ve always thought that God couldn’t really be anything BUT a mother, really. Growing up Catholic, we talked about Mary a lot. And prayed the rosary. A lot. I used to think that the Hail Mary was the most surefire way to an answered prayer - not only are the numbers in your favor (10:1 ratio of Hail Marys to Our Fathers), but you're talking to GOD'S MOM. She can handle anything. The image of Mary always stuck with me as the "real" part of the Bible - here was a woman who, yes, had free will and felt pain and had missteps, but gave of her own body and soul to a child who gave of his body and soul to the world. That was something I could relate to because I saw, and continue to see, her sacrifice, joy, and profound love reflected in so many women in my life.
Just to stop for a second, I think those of us who grew up Protestant could learn a lot from our Catholic friends when it comes to Mary.
But, she continues God as Mother is the imagery that feels truest to my experience and feeling of God. My mother and my friends who are mothers somehow find a way to pair fierce advocacy and unbridled strength with patient, listening hearts full of unconditional acceptance. I remember a conversation I had with my mom in high school after something that had happened in the news - it ended with my mom saying, "there is nothing in this world that you could do or that could happen that would make me stop loving you. The only reason I would ever kick you out is if I was enabling you to live a life that hurts you and others, but you would still be mine, and I would still be your mother." What my fifteen year old self said was, "good to know..." but what I really thought was, "wow, I am truly blessed." My mother lives the spirit of what feels true to me as God - in whatever she does, she shows up. And she shows up with an open mind and a heart full of staunch, stubborn love.
Then we have another women who wrote - (Christina) Being a mom has helped me understand God in a bigger way than I did before we had the girls. One specific example happened very recently. It was one of those moments that if someone asked me when I’m happiest, that memory would be my answer. We were sitting in our backyard having a picnic dinner. Toward the end, The girls were running around, one daughter was chasing the other, trying to get her angel food cake. We were all laughing and there was nothing else going on except for that moment. I was present and totally there. I saw in that God’s reminder that all we have is right now and now is fleeting, so enjoy it. And it reminded me to be so grateful. It’s easy for me to seek God during times of struggle but he’s there in all the joy too. That’s been important for me to learn and remember.
And then another story - (Maria) My mother and gramma have been my role models for faith. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized and appreciated what they’ve done for me in my relationship with God. My mom protected us from bad faith which ultimately lead to us not attending a church regularly growing up. She continued with nightly prayer, Our Father, as our routine before bed. To this day I still discuss faith with my mom openly. We question things that don’t sit right in our hearts.
My gramma was God’s bff and number 1 fan. She went to church every Sunday and would talk to us about the different Angels. I knew some basics of the Bible from visits with her. So when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I got angry with God. Why would He allow this?! To His best friend?! It was a very dark time for me. When she passed away, I was distraught. I remember being back at school in my dorm room surrounded by my roommate and neighbors consoling me but my mind was not focused on them. I remember this event in third person for some reason. I see myself sitting on the floor allowing the darkness to fill me. It almost completely did- and that’s when the warmest feeling hit my back. It pushed the darkness out. I have no hesitation in believing that my gramma restored my faith. She gave me hers that night. She was okay- healthy- and smiling on all of us- and she took that darkness away- with a little help from Jesus These women, strong in their own right, gave strength to their families through their faith and example of God’s love.
And finally we hear from a women who begins by referencing Ephesians 4:2 - (Amy Fink)
Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant of one another.
My experience as a mother has taught me quite a bit of patience. My daughter is only a year old and needs quite a bit of help and love. As a mother, I am able to provide for all of her needs, just like God provides for the needs of his children. Taking care of someone constantly, requires strength, love, courage, determination and patience. My relationship with my daughter is very similar to God’s relationship with me. I am His daughter and He will love me unconditionally. He will provide for all of my needs. He will do this patiently, abundantly and gently. Because God loves me like this, I am able to show my daughter the same kind of love and patience.
I just want to take a moment and thank all the women who choose to share a story, I feel really really privileged and blessed to have heard them. (Applause)
One thing that I took out of all of that is how looking at God through the image of Motherhood helps Jesus feel so close. Each of those stories were real and honest and beautiful and heartbreaking, and in the midst of it all it just blew me away with how close it feels to see God as Mother.
Not as something far off, not as some distant thing, but here with us in our struggles, in our joys. Loving, persistent, fierce.
Now for some of us God the Father may really resonate and connect with us - that seeing him as abba - Daddy - gives us a good picture of a God who is here right now with us, one who is loving and caring, and not going to leave us on our own.
But, if you have had mixed or bad experiences with father figures in your life, and that is the only image you are given to understand our relationship with God. It can be unsettling, that God is unsafe, mean, distant.
both Male and Female in are made in God’s mage, he is not one gender or the other, he is seen in all of us man and women. And everywhere in-between.
So. if it’s helpful for you to pray to God the mother, or try to relate to God the mother. Go for it. You are not betraying God, or insulting god masculinity - that just doesn’t happen to God, that some broken human thing - God just wants to connect with you regardless of what imagery helps you do that. Because that is all it is - imagery - Father, mother, lamb, lion, Shepherd, bread, light, rock, shield, refuge, doctor all of it is just to help us understand something so beyond our understanding. Help us understand the the God of the universe wants to be with us. Be there for us, heal us, protect us, care for us.
So on this mother’s day I want to pray a special prayer of blessing on Mothers in the room, and also that we would find God to be with us here today like a Mother, close, steadfast and fierce in love for us.
If you would stand with me, I would love to pray.