I’ve had several discussions this week with various friends and loved ones about motherhood. The fact that this week is Mother’s Day wasn’t really a factor—several issues just happened to pop up. The topics ranged from “the seasons of a woman’s life” to “a mother will always be a mother no matter how old her children are” to “meeting the individual needs of each very unique, individual child in the family” to “motivation and discipline of said children.” Older mothers, new moms, mothers from other races and cultures, stepmoms, adopted mothers, grandmothers—we all have the same concerns: doing the very best we can for those precious lives entrusted to our care.
I am the mother of three—two beautiful daughters and one beloved special needs son. I have two dear, godly sons-in-law and am the grandmother to thirteen wonderful, amazing grandchildren, ranging in age from one to twenty-two. My life’s journey has taken me through difficult pregnancies and childbirth; adoption; raising really easy girls and a challenging little guy; seeing those cherished daughters leave for college and then on to marry and start families of their own; sitting by the bedside of our precious son for years, often wondering if he would live to see another year; to being a long-distance mom and grandma, separated by thousands of miles from the children and grandkids—who are always nestled close in my heart.
My girls both have large families with their own unique challenges. Laurie has seven children, with the youngest two years old and the oldest already twenty-two years old. We were just speaking the other day of how overwhelming it can be at times, and how it pulls at a mother’s heart, when all seven have concerns, problems, or just need attention from a loving mama at the same time. Most of Julie’s children are grown, or almost grown, too, but they’ve started over with a baby, and are prayerfully considering adopting one or two more. Blending their mixed family has been a rewarding challenge in itself, and each child has brought his or her own issues to weigh upon her mother’s heart.
My mother is eighty-five years old and I am sixty-four. You would think my mom would have realized I am a senior citizen now!! But no, to her I am still her child. She wants to feed me when I go over to her place, or jump up to get me a drink. When I spend the night there once and a while, she thinks I should go to bed at 9:00 PM like she does. She tells me to button my coat, not to try to carry too much at once, and to remember to take my medicine. She just can’t help herself—she has the heart of a mom.
The wonderful women in my life—mom, daughters, sisters, friends, aunts, cousins—we all share the same heart, regardless of the season of our life or our station in life when we have children—and that is the heart of a mother. How our hearts rejoice at each milestone and achievement in the lives of our children! How we treasure the happy memories, the sweet moments, the sentimental declarations of love from our children in our hearts! How our hearts ache at the childhood hurts, the teenage struggles, the disappointments our children of any age suffer. How our hearts break when we are separated from them, or when tribulation comes to our children!
I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, when I think of a mother’s heart. When the angel proclaimed to her that she had been chosen to bear the Son of God, her heart praised God, but don’t you think it must have been in turmoil, as well? She believed, oh yes, she believed, but she was just a young girl with very human emotions. Can you imagine the wonder, the fear, the joy, the uncertainty that swirled within her heart? Then on the night of Jesus’ birth, after the angels had brought the glorious message of a Savior born in Bethlehem, and peace and goodwill to men on earth, and shepherds rushed to the stable to worship the babe, the Bible tells us that “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Eight days later when they took baby Jesus to the temple, they met there an old man named Simeon who testified by the Spirit that Jesus was the salvation for all men. Mary marveled in her heart at what was said about her child. (Luke 2:21-35) When the wise men came and worshipped her baby boy, I am sure her heart overflowed with joy; yet when Herod sent soldiers to search for her baby and slay him, and in the process slew many other little babies instead, how her heart must have been overwhelmed with grief. (Matthew 2)
The years passed and the Bible tells us that Jesus “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40) Can you imagine being the mother to this perfect child? The responsibility must have lain heavily upon her; perhaps there were even times her heart felt unworthy of the task. Her young son was sinless and perfect, but there did come a day when her heart was filled with fear and she was even upset with Him. Luke 2:41-52 tells the story: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Mary kept all these things in her heart and watched as Jesus grew into an amazing man.
No one understood just how very amazing her son was, however, as Mary did. She knew what He could do, and at the wedding in Cana her mother’s heart wanted others to recognize it, as well. (John 2:1-11) Although He performed that first miracle of His public ministry, turning water into wine, He told her His time had not yet come. How then her heart must have grieved when the people of their own hometown of Nazareth mocked Him in their unbelief. (Mark 6:1-6) And that horrific day when her beloved son was nailed to the cross and crucified before her eyes! “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:25-27) Jesus knew her mother’s heart was breaking and one of His last thoughts before He gave up his life on the cross was for her care.
Although our children are far from perfect, as Mary’s son was, I think we can understand her mother’s heart. The feelings of awe and trepidation when we hold that first precious baby in our arms. The pride and joy when others gather to welcome him or her. The doubts, perhaps, of our worthiness when we realize the magnitude of the job before us and the responsibility we hold in our hands for that child’s life. The burdens and fear at times as we traverse the childhood illnesses, injuries and concerns for our children’s safety; the heartache when our children suffer emotional wounds; the grief and sorrows that sometimes break our hearts. The delight in their accomplishments, the relief when they turn out well after all (!) and the pleasure and satisfaction in seeing them go on to begin life as adults and start families of their own (bringing us the reward of those precious grandchildren!)
Our hearts are not so very different than Mary’s heart, or the hearts of mothers around the world. I am thankful for the mother God gave me, who invested her whole heart and being into loving and raising and supporting me and my sisters and brother, teaching us what a godly, loving mother ought to be. I am thankful for my daughters who have turned into amazing mothers themselves with hearts that follow after God and are bringing up their children, my awesome grandchildren, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Let our hearts be like Mary’s—whole-heartedly His, pure, trusting, courageous, steadfast, wise. May our mother’s hearts be hearts after God’s own heart, examples that our children will follow as they learn to love and walk with Him.