My first memories of Mother’s Day are sitting as a child in church as the minister recognized all the mothers. I remember them standing in recognition of their day. I also remember them all wearing corsages. It was a tradition in that generation, and somehow the men knew it was part of their jobs to provide the corsages for Mother’s Day Sunday.
By the time I became a mother, corsages had vanished, but recognition in church on Sunday morning remained. In my early mom years, I felt funny standing in church, as if that role still belonged only to my mother and not to me. But by the time I had three or four kids, I was firmly established in my new identity. As my daughter Ashley said during her fourth pregnancy, “I don’t know what happened to the old Ashley. She got lost somewhere along the way.” Mother was indelibly who I was, and the vestiges of the old me were now to be found only in photo albums.
Honestly, Mother’s Day was usually somewhat of a disappointment to me. The inherent promise and expectation of a day set aside to honor mothers was never met. It’s not that my husband didn’t try. He always bought me something; usually it was a rose bush or another plant for the yard, which he knew I liked. And my kids always made me a sweet card or a crayoned picture in Sunday school. They all said, “Happy Mother’s Day,” and gave me kisses and hugs. But then everyone needed lunch and naps, and there were squabbles to resolve and needs to be met …
The kind of honor I longed for and needed in those harried years of selfless, endless labor was not to be found on the second Sunday in May. It’s not possible for children to really appreciate you for the enormity of your service. What I wanted was a day free from sibling rivalry and a simple, genuine, “Thanks, Mom,” that was unprompted by my husband or the Sunday school teacher.
In hindsight, I now understand what I longed for is only possible when your children grow up and become parents themselves. Then they begin to “get it”!
You see, mothering is a ministry to the future. It’s a very private, unseen ministry. It’s like a long-term, 20-year investment in which you cannot withdraw any of your money until the 20 years is up. You place your bets and then wait to see the outcome many years ahead. In mothering, there are moments of glory when you see hints that your investment is paying off, but they are not permanent until the end.
Interestingly, it’s only now that my children are grown that I really appreciate my own mother. And even so, I really have no idea what sacrifices, worries, and suffering she endured for me and my brothers. Only God knows, and He is the One who will give the ultimate honor when He says one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
And that is the real Mother’s Day. May your focus be on the honor to come on that day, and may you raise your children to walk closely with Jesus all their days.
And remember, as I so often forgot in the daily-ness of life, that a mother’s job is laborious not because it is small, but because it is gigantic. Mothering is the most important calling on a woman’s life. Mothers can indeed change the world.
Copyright ©2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on MomLife Today®, FamilyLife's blog for moms.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.