This is the first time I am celebrating Mother’s Day as a father. It brings a different dimension to my appreciation of motherhood because I see my wife quite literally, labouring for my daughter in ways I cannot comprehend.
It is a beautiful thing to watch – the interaction between mother and child. It is, in a profound way, a reflection of the depth of the heart of God.
He has, in various parts of Scripture, described or compared Himself to a “labouring mother” (Isaiah 42:14), a “mother hen” longing to gather her young (Matthew 23:37), even a “woman nursing her child” (Isaiah 49:15, 66:13). The long-suffering nature of motherhood is not foreign to Him.
Mothers are precious in the eyes of God. We can see even from the example of Jesus, how He cared for and thought of His mother. It seemed that even when He was on the cross, at the brink of death, Jesus’ concern was who would take care of His mother when He was gone:
“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:25-27)
We know that our mothers deserve honour, recognition, love and affirmation – but sometimes it feels like what we do for them may not be enough. Or rather, we find it hard to fully articulate or express what we mean to really tell them, beyond the usual “Happy Mother’s Day!” or “I love you Mum, thank you!”.
Communication is a big, loaded word when we think of parents and children. In fact, we often hear it in the context of things being miscommunicated.
When I was younger, there were tons of instances where things were lost in translation simply because I didn’t know how to express myself. There was so much on my heart that I wanted to share or say, but I stuttered, stumbled or became overly defensive simply because I was afraid to disappoint, to make a mistake, or “say something wrong”.
Sometimes miscommunication leaves us all with a good laugh, but mostly the experience can be painful; we misunderstand each other and this creates tension which we don’t always know how to deal with – maybe even for years.
From the point of childbirth, to feeding, carrying and caring for a child, there is a very special place for mothers in a child’s growth and their entry into this world – the way they learn to trust and to depend.
And if we should talk about communication between a mother and baby, this must surely be the toughest part, because an infant can hardly speak, and neither does a mother immediately know her “language”. There would be no meeting of minds at all.
But here’s the thing – there is such a deep connection between mother and child that goes beyond spoken word. When a child cries, her mother responds almost intuitively (something fathers seem to be a bit slower at).
A mother often knows what her little one wants or needs, just by the sound or tone of a cry. Is it milk? Sleep? Comfort?
Why then, does this pure and unadulterated “communication” seem to get harder as we grow older?
Have you watched a crying child be soothed to sleep simply by being at her mother’s side, comforted by lying on her chest? We might attribute it to the familiar “smell” or “touch”, but whatever it really is, I’ve witnessed it and it is absolutely amazing.
God designed women’s bodies to be able to feed children, to literally produce food for a newborn. And this production of milk comes in cycles too, matching a child’s need for food or specific nutrients – it runs almost like clockwork.
There is such a raw and un-understandable connection and communication between mothers and their children that goes beyond our explanation, even before they can effectively speak the same language.
Why then, does this pure and unadulterated “communication” seem to get harder as we grow older? If this is how we are made, then why has it gotten more challenging for us to express ourselves to our mothers, and for our mothers, to comfort, show concern and respond in a way that accurately addresses our needs?
It’s a rhetorical question – I have no answer. But what I do know is that the mother-child bond is real and it is strong. And whatever has happened over time to erode it, I think I know how we can start recovering this beautiful image of pure connection and communication between mother and child: Listen to one another.
I don’t mean just hear – I mean listen, really listen to what the other is saying. Give each other the benefit of doubt, and don’t always assume that the other person is out to correct, criticise or hurt you.
Sometimes our mothers nag, but what we need to learn to do instead of shut her out is listen. Listen to your mother’s heart: What is she really saying?
We may hear: “Go to bed, it’s late. Stop playing your games”, but if you lean in and listen closely, what she’s saying really is, “I don’t want to see you tired. It worries me when I see that you don’t have enough rest”.
Just think about a baby and her mother – is a mother giving a command when she says “Don’t cry”? Or is she really saying, “It’s alright, I am here with you; there’s no need to cry anymore”?
Similarly, mothers – and I say this with great respect – listen to your children. We aren’t the best at expressing ourselves; we are trying to find our words, like a babbling baby. Once before, we merely cried and you knew exactly what we were trying to say – could we ask that it not be any different now, simply because we have gotten a better grasp of spoken language?
We still struggle to tell you what we really feel, and if you listen closely, you will find somewhere in the broken words that there is a need that you can meet. There is a need that God designed you to meet.
And so, mothers, we honour you for the role that you play in our lives. God has put you in this role as a special expression of His heart for all mankind and through you, God is communicating something to all of us.
He is loving us through you, showing us the depth of His love and what He is willing to do for us through you. And like you’ve often shown us, how long-suffering He is for our sake in so many ways.
We may not always have the right words on hand, but we love you more than you could ever know.