Who Is A Mother?

It is Mother’s Day and I am not a mother. Other ladies open their pretty cards, and cuddle their babies. Bouquets declare it and preachers proclaim it: today mothers are the most special, honoured people in the world.

But my arms are empty and so are many of my friends’ arms. Who are we on Mother’s Day if we don’t have babies to cuddle or older children to give us flowers and fancy cards? Are we extras in the play, supporters of the star roles?

We are women. And being made in God’s image, we are life-givers. Because of His power in us, we give birth to miracles. Not biologically, necessarily. The miracles don’t always involve babies. But when our life goal is to accurately reflect God’s character, we will be nurturers in some way.

In creative ways, in diverse ways, in beautiful ways.

A school teacher patiently tutors a slow learner. A girl writes notes to encourage a homesick room-mate. A shop keeper befriends a lively family. A pat on a child’s head, a  smile for the cleaning lady at the mall, patience with co-worker’s prattle, a chat with a widow: all are tokens of the life-giving love and self-forgetful acts that characterize mothers.

No woman is exempt from these privileges.

It was women who followed Jesus to the cross when His disciples ran away. It was women, crushed with grief, who came to the tomb to do the last thing they could for Him. To accompany loved ones and care deeply for them even at great cost, this is what it means to be a woman and a mother.

Besides nurturing people who enter our world, we also nurture attitudes that shape our hearts. We can nurse grudges and complaints. Or we can incubate gratitude and acceptance that will spill out into our world and shape it. We nurture feelings just because we’re human, and we nurture Christ-like virtues because He has made us holy.

If you sit with empty arms on Mother’s Day, and your life feels devoid of beauty and miracles, ask God for opportunities to be His reflection of love and nurture.

In Isaiah 54:1, He promises that the childless woman will have more children than the mother with a husband and family. God keeps His word in amazing ways—try Him and see! When I asked God to help me be as Christ to people, He gave me opportunities that I would never have imagined. But, as all birth mothers know,  high callings and great privileges come with the price of servanthood and selfless love, and sometimes the cost makes me stagger.

After the Emmaus walk with Jesus, it was in the breaking of the bread that the men recognized Him. If we women symbolize bread as nourishment for our world, it is in the breaking of that bread that Christ is made visible. Spiritually broken and consumed in hidden, thankless, ordinary places, we are part of a calling that is bigger than any of us—the privilege of introducing the real Christ to people for whom He may be only a dusty relic.

Motherhood—nurturing in brokenness—is a beautiful but demanding calling to which childless women are not exempt.  This calling is not just a spare hole to fill in life’s puzzle. It is the whole purpose for which He created us women.

Following Christ’s example of love and service can make us feel drained and exhausted. But God anticipated these feelings of being used and spent. In Isaiah 58: 10 & 11, He promises that if we spend ourselves in behalf of others, He will satisfy our souls in return. While we pour out our lives as Christ did, God pours out even more life to us. We can never out-give Him!

And His care is not only spiritual or intangible or theoretical. He sends people at just the right time to remind us of our worth and help us feel the sun on our shoulders.

When my sister-in-law became a mother and was looking forward to celebrating Mother’s Day for her first time, she anticipated how some of us would feel, and she ordered a bouquet for the church house. After the Mother’s Day service, all the ladies who encouraged and influenced younger ones were invited to choose a flower from the bouquet to take home.

I chose a white tulip—white to symbolize purity and a tulip to symbolize hope. Because hope does good things to my heart even if I’m never given what I long for. And I can know that even if the shape of my life is different from most women my age, my calling still carries value and beauty.

It is Mother’s Day and I am not a mother. But because I am God’s daughter and want to reflect His character of care and nurture to a world devoid of these virtues, my identity is already sure. My value is not based on how many babies I have borne. That He should trust His perfect character to be reflected by this fallible, easily-distracted lady is a high honor indeed.

For this privilege, I thank Him today.


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