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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

showing honor on mother's day (even when it's hard)

Mother’s Day is once again upon us, sending children of all ages scurrying to the greeting card aisle to find just the right sentiment to send to mom. Mother’s Day touches all of us - though not all of us are mothers, all of us has a mother. It is true that the calendar date of Mother’s Day is not even one hundred years old, but for the people of God who delight in the commands of God, honoring our parents is an ancient and beautiful command given to us for His glory and our good.

The fifth of the Ten Commandments speaks of showing honor to our parents. It is a command often repeated by parents to young children, but I wonder how often we remind ourselves of its relevance to each of us as adult children. Some would say that this command is actually directed primarily at adult children because it is found in a list of other commands so clearly addressed to adults: “Adult children, honor your aging parents whose days have been long upon the land, that your days might be long as well.”

Honoring our parents would be a simple matter if all parents were worthy of honor - a command to do so might be almost unnecessary. But for some of us, that aisle of Mother’s Day cards awash with loving sentiment can feel like an annual gauntlet we must run. Yes, all of us has a mother, but not all of us has one who is easy to honor.

So how can we think beyond the card aisle to fulfill the fifth command so far as we are able?

Maybe your mother didn’t do everything right. If you’re a parent yourself, you have probably learned already to extend the gracious proposition that she did the best she could. Show honor to your mother by telling her two of your favorite memories of her from your childhood. If you have children of your own, repeat those stories to them as well. And think hard about which other stories they need to hear. Giving your children the gift of relationship with a grandmother un-weighted by the baggage of your own childhood can be a way to show honor. Sometimes we honor our mothers by demonstrating forgiveness in what we leave unsaid.

Maybe the mother who raised you was a mother in name only. Maybe she caused or allowed harm to you. Look to show honor where you can. Who mothered you? A teacher? An aunt? A grandmother? A stepmother? Express your gratitude to the woman or women in your life who looked beyond the boundaries of biology to demonstrate motherly love in tangible ways. Make a donation to a cause that helps women to mother and children to be parented.

Maybe your mother is no longer living. Show honor to her memory by making a recipe she made, by reviving a family tradition she started, or by making a donation to a charity in her name. Maybe you know someone whose mother has recently passed away. Ask them what they miss most about her. Send a note to acknowledge their sorrow. Maybe you know someone aching to be a mother. Maybe you know a mother whose child will never wish her Happy Mother’s Day. Reach out to them with empathy and comfort.

Maybe your mother was the kind for whom the entire greeting card aisle was written. By all means, take your time finding the perfect card and writing the perfect sentiment. But also feel the weight of your privilege. To be raised by a mother who consistently places the needs of others above her own is no common thing. Show honor by being that kind of parent to your own children. But don’t stop there. Turn your eyes to those you know who are physically, emotionally or spiritually motherless and be a mother (or father) to them according to their need.

We, all of us, are sons and daughters. This Mother’s Day may we think beyond the card aisle to outdo one another in showing honor, each of us according to the grace we have been given.


  1. Now that Fathers Day is coming up I'm reading this in that light. My mother and I are close and have a wonderful relationship. My relationship with my dad is quite the opposite.

    My parents divorced when I was in high school & I have a strained and very distant relationship with my father. Meaning...we have a relationship to the degree that I reach out. B/C often times our discussions become unhealthy and sometimes abusive, I stopped reaching out. Needless to say...I don't have a relationship with my Father. He has 6 grandchildren and doesn't know one of them.

    I can look back at my childhood and apply the 1st scenario and walk in grace & forgiveness. What I struggle with now is walking in that same forgiveness day to day as he is alive & well and pursues no relationship with me or my children. Do you have any wisdom to share regarding honoring the parent that is alive but non-existent?

    1. I think you do honor your father just by walking in continuing forgiveness toward him, even if he has no contact with you. That is no small thing. If there are ways to establish contact on healthy terms, you can continue to pursue them as you are able. I know that is a hard, hard thing. I have a sweet friend whose father sounds a lot like yours - cut off relationship with her and her children for almost a decade. As she was able, she re-established relationship with him and introduced him to her kids. He died suddenly, and she felt great peace knowing that, as far as she was able, she had reached out to him. I can tell that you care deeply about this - trust that the Lord sees your heart.

      When you reach the limits of your ability to reach out to your actual father, you can turn your eyes to the spiritual fathers the Lord has placed in your lifer. By honoring them, and by honoring the father of your own kiddo's, you bless your Heavenly Father and fulfill the fifth command. I believe the "functionally fatherless" learn and enjoy the fatherhood of God in a special way. I am praying that for you. :)