When a Mothers Heart Aches

“The greatest level of wisdom man can hope to attain is the realization of how little he knows.”

There will be no lack of reminders as Mother’s Day approaches. Television commercials will encourage us to buy Mom the latest “whatever.” Banners will hang in store windows from the east to west coast. Restaurants will offer elaborate champagne brunches in honor of Mother’s Day. Everywhere we look will be reminders of a special day set aside to honor the women who shaped our lives as daughters.

I used to enjoy this day when my mom was alive and I could do something special for her that would make her smile…and cry…and know how much she meant to me. I used to enjoy this day when my son was a little boy and he would greet me all wide-eyed and excited with his hand-made craft from school, declaring, “I love you, mommy!”

Today, my mother is in heaven and my adult son lives in a world estranged from me and all I hold dear. For me, and countless other boomer women around the world, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of what we don’t have. It’s a day where some of us don’t want to go to church and get that corsage or be singled out. It’s a day for others.

Yet in His infinite wisdom, God has a plan for those of us with aching hearts. I’d like to share a story of hope and healing with you from my book; “God Answers Mom’s Prayers.” May it minister to you as it has ministered to me.

by Judy Gann, Lakewood, WA

Mother’s Day dawned bright and beautiful—for everyone but me. I drove into the church parking lot, turned off the ignition and sat immobile, my hands gripping the steering wheel. Lord, I can’t do this. For seven years I’d avoided this moment.

I’d always wanted to be a mother. As a young girl happily playing house with my baby sister and my dolls, I dreamed of the day when I’d have my own children. After becoming a Christian, the recurring prayer of my heart became, Father, please bring me a godly husband and children. I long to be a mom.

Yet, I remained single. A children’s librarian, I focused my mothering capacities on the children who populated my world every day. I treasured time spent with my niece and nephew.

For many years I also experienced the blessing of mentoring several young women from my church. One-on-one and in small groups, these girls shared their hearts with me—their joys, sorrows, and spiritual struggles.
Surrounded by children in the library and the girls I mentored, I shoved the issue of having children on the back shelf of my mind. Until, in my early ‘40s, I had a necessary hysterectomy.

I was blindsided by the cavernous void in my life following surgery. The finality of the hysterectomy and the emptiness of my childless state seared my mind. God, what happened to my prayer? Why didn’t you answer it?
Aching with inner pain, the sight of babies in the grocery store, at church, and even in the library ignited my sense of loss. Waves of grief, anger, and despair assaulted me. I plummeted into a deep depression.

In time, and with the help of a compassionate counselor, I realized my sense of worth and value to God and others isn’t based on motherhood, but rather on my relationship with the Lord. The God who created me loves me—married or single, a mother or childless. In God’s eyes, I’m not less of a woman because I’m not a mother. I began to concentrate on the gifts God gave me instead of focusing on what might be “missing” in my life.

But one last remnant of pain remained. I refused to attend church on Mother’s Day. As each Mother’s Day approached, I argued with God. Lord, it hurts too much. I dread sitting alone when the mothers stand and are celebrated. What if I break down and cry? It was easier to stay away. Soon staying home on Mother’s Day became an entrenched habit.

Then at a women’s retreat, I listened intently as Jeanne, the speaker, spoke about attending the first Mother’s Day church service after her mother’s death. Single at the time, she told of the unexpected comfort she’d found at church that morning and, yes, even the tears she needed to shed. I thought to myself, If Jeanne can do it, maybe I can do it.

Now, after seven years, I’d finally made it as far as the church parking lot. Conflicting emotions battled within me as my reluctant legs carried me across the parking lot and into the church foyer. Once inside, I froze at the sight of children handing a flower to each mother. I stepped back, ready to bolt out the door.

Austin, a boy from my preschool story time group, shyly approached with a carnation. “No thank you, Austin,” I whispered. “I’m not a mother.”

My eyes flooded with tears. Yet with an inner strength and calm from God alone, I turned to walk up the stairs to the sanctuary. Suddenly I felt an arm across my shoulders. I turned and gazed with blurry eyes into the face of Barbara, the mother of one of the young women I’d mentored.

“Judy,” she said, in a soft, but firm voice. “You are a mother. You’re Carla’s spiritual mother.” Barbara waved to Austin who returned with his fistful of flowers. My hand shook as I took the flower Austin held out to me.
This time tears of joy welled up as I climbed the steps to the sanctuary, proudly clutching my yellow carnation. Spiritual Mother. As I slid into a pew, the names of the young women I mentored paraded through my mind: Masako, Carla, Jennifer, Sarah, and Lori. What a joy to come alongside these young women, nurturing them by example and sharing from my walk with the Lord.
God didn’t answer my prayer for children, at least not as I’d hoped or imagined. But in the quiet moments before the start of the church service, I realized He had answered this deepest prayer of my heart in a special and unique way. God showed me that the word mother could be defined in many ways. I will never give birth to a child. But, as a spiritual mother, I have the rich privilege of nurturing and influencing the children and young people God places in my life. A meal with my niece and nephew or an afternoon with one of the young women in my Bible study offers precious opportunities for spiritual mothering.
Joy replaced grief as I settled in for my first Mother’s Day church service in many years. Lord, thank you for the privilege of being a spiritual mom.

Reprinted with permission – God Answers Mom’s Prayers, Harvest House 2005, compiled and edited by Allison Bottke.

©2007, Allison Bottke

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