Friday, May 11, 2018

“World’s Okayest Mom”


            This weekend our society celebrates “Mother’s Day,” a time to recognize the love, sacrifice, and dedication that mothers make on behalf of their children and families.  Many people look forward to Mother’s Day—or, Father’s Day in June—as a joyful time to celebrate and thank their mother, or father. 

Yet often, in our drive to recognize our parents, we praise them to the point of putting them up on some impossibly high pedestal.  On Mother’s Day, we develop some sort of amnesia that allows us to totally ignore our parents’ human frailties and flaws.  At least for the day, our mothers become perfect in every way.  To illustrate this point, consider the following verses from a poem, which I found on the internet: 

“Since the moment I entered this world,
You have cared for me like no other.
There is only one word to describe you,
That is in every way a perfect Mother. …

Your warm touch is one of a kind,
So gentle to send me to sleep.
Your voice is of an angels [sic]
A beauty only you deserve to keep.”[1]

When most mothers and fathers are completely candid with themselves, however, we must acknowledge that we are far from the perfect parent described in these verses or other, similar verses in a thousand different Mother’s—and Father’s—Day cards.  The truth is that most of us parents feel inadequate and mistake-prone most of the time.

There is a great deal of uncertainty and silent anxiety in parenting in the twenty-first century.  As parents, we are constantly trying to balance giving our children both the freedom and the structure that they need in order to become happy and mature adults.  As Christian parents, we are constantly trying to balance the sharing of our Christian values while also respecting our children’s need to experiment with values promoted by a secular society, which is sometimes hostile to religious faith.  As parents we are constantly trying to balance protecting our children and keeping them safe, while simultaneously allowing them to experience some failure, which is required in order to become responsible adults. 

There are no magical formulas for this balance.  Instead, it is an ongoing series of decisions made in a fog of uncertainty and worry.  Frequently, we parents get it wrong.  We tilt too far to the side of freedom and then over-compensate by tilting too far to the other side of structure. 

Our failures at maintaining proper balance are compounded by our multiple human flaws and failures.  Sometimes we get angry and say things to our children that we should have never uttered.  Sometimes we get preoccupied with work or finances or life and we aren’t really listening when our children are sharing something vitally important to them.  Sometimes we just forget or do something else that is … well, human.  We parents are not perfect, just human persons.  Most of us are trying to do our best as parents.  Actually, the parents which scare me the most are those parents who actually believe everything that gets written on Mother’s—and Father’s—Day cards.  The ones who actually believe that they deserve to be on the pedestal.

In the Church, we believe that God creates every single person for some form of ministry.  Each of us is a unique person, with our own special portfolio of talents and gifts for different types of ministry.  These different ministries are quite diverse, including music, teaching, justice-making, hospitality, administration, and building—to name just a few.  Some types of ministry are specialized, while other types are generalized ministries that all of us are called to practice. (See Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). The ministry of prayer is one of those types of generalized ministry that we are all called to practice.

I have come to see that parenting is also a form of ministry.

I also believe that parenting is one of those forms of generalized ministry.  It is not a specialized ministry reserved only for biological parents.  Instead, we are all called to be engaged in the ministry of parenting because it is that important and that demanding.  No two biological parents can ever responsibly raise their children without a lot of help from family, friends, teachers, choir directors, coaches, Scout or 4-H Leaders, counsellors, the occasional stranger—and many, many others.  One of the most important dimensions of the local church is that it provides a community of persons who are engaged in the ministry of parenting.

Of course, everyone engaged in the ministry of parenting is flawed and makes mistakes.  That’s why I love Paul’s analogy of a clay jar in his second letter to the Corinthians.  He writes, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

Of course, when Paul penned these words to the Corinthians, he was thinking about his own special ministry as a traveling evangelist.  Even though Paul has been given this special ministry as an evangelist and Apostle, he recognizes that ultimately the ministry belongs to God.  God has given this special ministry to Paul for a short time.

As he writes these words, Paul is remembering all of the persecution and dangers that he has experienced as a missionary.  Yet, the Bible is timeless, intended to speak to all peoples in all times and places—from the first Christians in Paul’s day to twenty-first century Christians as well.  So, Paul’s words also apply to each of us in our various ministries as parents.  Even though we are flawed and make mistakes as parents, we are not alone in our ministry.  God is with us, guiding and strengthening us, and working through us in our ministry of parenting.

Just as the Apostle Paul before us, God has given to each of us this ministry of parenting for a short time.  But, ultimately, the ministry belongs to God and not to us.  Of course we are flawed and make mistakes, but despite our frailties and imperfections we know that ultimately God will make all things right.

Come and join us on Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 13th, as we recognize our Mothers and as we celebrate this special ministry of parenting, which God gives to each of us.  Christ United Methodist Church is located at 4530 “A” Street in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Our two traditional Worship Services are at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday morning. 

Everyone is welcome and accepted because God loves us all.



[1] Nicola Steel, “A Perfect Mother,” accessed online at http://www.ellenbailey.com/poems/ellen_435.htm, 9 May 2018.

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