I specifically asked to write for Mother’s Day mostly because I have strong opinions but also because I have a story. (Often when I guest blog, I share from a personal perspective to the possible chagrin of Pastor Terry 😊.) So, here’s to Mother’s Day…
Quick background for context: I didn’t marry until 34; at which time I married an alcoholic. We divorced at 40. By the time I met my forever husband, I had pretty much missed the window of opportunity to be a mother. That, along with long-term infertility issues, motherhood wasn’t in the cards for me.
I initially headed towards adoption. My first husband and I attended the classes, got approved for a child, went through the inspections. All without disclosing to the social worker that he was an alcoholic. We even got the call that we would soon have a child placed. Then I was gripped with the reality that how could I bring a child into a home with an alcoholic parent? Honestly, could I be more selfish? So I called the social worker and told her the truth. With amazing wisdom and profound truth, she said “Why are you in this alcoholic marriage?” The beginning of the end.
Let me preface by saying these thoughts are by no means just for women. Men who are not dads experience many of the same feelings on Father’s Day and all of us experience this in different ways. So, when society (friends, family, strangers, TV, Hallmark, even the church) expects us to be a certain way, to have a certain life and we “fall short” – what then? How do we live the life unlived?
Mother’s Day can be a painful and complex day for us childless women. It can even make us feel a bit bitter. Have you been there? Have you felt the pang when seeing others that have what you may want in relationships, marriages, parenting, etc., yet for you, it hasn’t worked out? First of all, it’s ok to be a bit bitter, it is a valid human emotion. Bitterness is one of the faces of anger, and anger is part of grieving. Unexpressed, it just goes underground and wreaks havoc on your mind and body. The bible tells us be angry, God can handle it – but do not sin. But, no question, it is hard.
Perhaps one of the hardest aspects of grieving the life unlived, the mother we’ll never be, and the children we’ll never have is that our grief is hidden and unrecognized. The unspoken reaction to our pain is ‘How can you grieve something you’ve never had?’ Others, even those close to us, often fail to realize the depth and reach of our loss. We will never watch our kids grow up, never throw children’s birthday parties, never take that ‘first day at school photo, never teach them to ride a bike. And, just as you come to terms with the fact you never had children – your friends become grandparents! In today’s society, we are often led to feel as if we are not ‘real’ women, as if somehow we are less than others. But that is not God’s perspective.
In the shadows, throughout our life, we have grief-heavy hearts. So, how do we handle Mother’s Day? Get real. It’s ok to tell those around us that Mother’s Day is hard. These days, having come out the other side of my grief, I am acutely aware of what it’s like when society says you fall short – in what life is “supposed” to be.
We have all heard the passage that God uses all things for good! In my case, I have lived it. I have seen God take my story and use it for His good, His glory, His purpose. There are certainly more, but here are two that speak volumes to me.
- Years ago, when I worked at North Coast Church, God placed firmly on my heart to start the Military Ministry. There are an abundance of stories I could tell, but in short, He used me to share His love, be His hands and feet, and be a fill-in Mother to men and women serving our country, as well as, to the spouses left behind, right down to being in delivery rooms as babies were born. I witnessed the births while on the phone with husbands sitting in Iraq or Afghanistan. I was honored and privileged to have these relationships and still maintain many of them today.
- Roughly 8 years ago, my husband and I began leading Life Groups first for college-age, and then for 24-34-year-olds. It has truly been one of the greatest blessings in my life. We have served as surrogate parents to so many young adults. A few still today elect to call me mom with the obligatory call on Mother’s Day. 🙂 My husband has officiated 6 weddings and served as a Best Man and Groomsman. I’ve been an, albeit older, bridesmaid, hosted rehearsal dinners, helped select engagement rings and welcomed 9 babies into the world. These are our “kids by choice” and we are their “parents by choice.” Bottom line: Never doubt for a minute that God can’t use your story for an amazing and valuable purpose.
My advice on the other side is quite simple and admittedly difficult. Lay it at the cross. Give it to God, When society says we fall short, God says “come to me.” Give me your grief, or pain or self-doubt and I will tell you, “You are my beloved child and I make no mistakes.” You are perfect in His eyes. He loves you literally to death. Ever wonder where that phrase comes from? (Roman 5:8)
When we talk about navigating the life unlived, I believe it begins with knowing where your worth comes from. We all have times of low self-esteem or we struggle with value and worth.
Unfortunately, when we don’t know our worth, we can miss opportunities that God places before us. God wants what’s best for our lives, but also will use us for a greater purpose. Low self-esteem and unrecognized worth are traps created by the enemy that can be avoided when we recognize our value and our true worth. When we know who we are and see ourselves as God sees us, then we naturally begin to operate differently. But to do this we must first change our mindset and recognize how valuable we truly are.
Samonna Watts, a Christian Empowerment Coach, says it the best way, “The easiest way to determine your worth is by determining how much someone would pay for you. I know it sounds crazy but stick with me. In our society price tags tend to determine value. So, what is your price tag?
Now before you begin to pull out your mental calculator let me set your mind at ease. You’re priceless. There is no number you can come up with that amounts to the value that you are worth. And this is because no price can be put on the One who gave His life to purchase you.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which is God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:20
God, the God of the universe, saw so much value and worth in you that He was willing to risk everything and give up His life to purchase you. Woo child! You are priceless! Yet, despite this truth, many people still don’t know their worth.”
The main reason we don’t know our true worth is that the enemy doesn’t want us to know it. Because individuals who know their true value and worth in Christ automatically become a threat to him. They become less susceptible to the lies and traps he tries to ensnare them in. This is why he works overtime to try to get us to devalue ourselves and not recognize our worth, and he does it in two different ways.
Feeding You Lies
One method he uses is negative messaging. Our self-esteem is directly impacted by our thoughts and our thoughts are impacted by the messages our brain receives. So if we are constantly receiving negative messages about ourselves, our thoughts tend to fall in line, and we begin to believe those lies.
This is why the devil does his best to pour negative messages into our brains. Messages that say, we aren’t smart enough, we aren’t pretty enough, we aren’t worthy enough, we aren’t successful enough, we have failed. And he does this through the words he whispers into our subconscious and through the words he causes others to speak to us.
Keeping You from The Truth
The second method the enemy uses is to keep us from hearing the truth. You see, the easiest way to know our worth is to find out what the One who created you has to say about you. The word of God is the most valuable resource to help you recognize your worth and build your self-esteem because it tells you the truth about yourself. (John 8:32). Without question, God’s word is the key to knowing your true worth.
God’s truth is what gives us power against the devil’s lies: The devil whispered a storm is coming, the warrior replied I am the storm.
When you know your worth, you will embrace the uniqueness of who you are. Every unique and quirky characteristic you possess, you will celebrate. It is how God wired you. It’s the purpose for which He made you. You won’t compare yourself to others or try to modify your unique self in an effort to conform to society. Instead, you will find joy in simply being you. And, God will use you for His purpose given the chance.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who give daily to their children. Who enjoy the love of a child, the heartbreak and the struggles. To sleepless nights, hospital stays and ER runs. To ball games, music recitals and dance classes. To snuggles, art projects and homework.
And, to all the mothers who know the anguish of lost motherhood. To have carried a child for a week, a month or into life, only to… lose that child. I firmly believe there is no greater heartbreak in this life than the loss of a child; whether the loss came before your child took their first breath, or as you stood helplessly by as your child took their last breath.
And, to all the mothers who never carried, raised or brought a child into this world. Who know what it is to try, and try again, yet experience the “not meant to be” heartbreak. Who hear the words Happy Mother’s Day and feel the stab of pain, that lessens over the years, but never completely goes away. But at the same time have been there to love and support other mothers as they raise their children. To stand in the gap in prayer and in place when called upon. To be the designated mother to many, if and when, God sees fit.
To all women who have the eternal flame of nurturing, this is a day about who you are. To your very core, as God uniquely designed you. Designed you to care for, encourage and guide others to adultness, to wholeness and to Godliness. To all mothers, in actuality or in deed, shine bright and celebrate who you are.
For God and you,