Monday, August 2, 2010

Mothering and Mystery

I heard a Mother's Day sermon this year that has stayed with me primarily because of the anguish it caused me. The preacher related, at length, a touching personal story of mother-child engagement and bonding over a challenging difference between the two of them. It was a story of great and loving generosity on the part of the mother, one of those stories that is entirely inappropriate for a day on which many in the congregation are acutely aware that . . .

Their own loving and generous mothers have died ~

Their own mothers were never either loving or generous ~

They themselves would have been wonderful mothers, but that opportunity was denied them ~

They have been exemplary mothers, but are nevertheless estranged from a child ~

Their own love could not save a child from illness, from injury, from self-destructive behavior, from death ~

This morning I read a beautiful sermon on comprehending the love of God as we understand the love of a mother. (Magdalene, its author, is one of my favorite preachers; I have threatened to copy and plagiarize all her sermons, seeing little reason to bother with my own when hers are so eloquent.) At one point, she inserts the caveat that would have made the above-described Mother's Day sermon so much more palatable:

"Every metaphor has its limits, and this one is no exception. There are wonderful mothers who cannot save their children from unendurable pain, and there are dreadful mothers whose children overcome and thrive."

That is, I told her, the great mystery of my life. (Well, one of them, anyway.)

It's been almost 50 years since my mother died, and the first stepmother I acquired was of the Cinderella variety. And yet I am a strong and loving and (when I am not consumed by myself) reasonably generous person. As I told the grief counselor whom I saw for awhile after Josh died, I have enough resiliency for ten people ~ and yet . . .

My child, to whom I tried to convey at least enough for one, and who was showered with endless gifts and resources, including the most important one ~ a family who loved and encouraged and supported him every step of the way ~ was unable to survive.

One of my friends once left a comment on one of my posts to the effect that it was so heartbreaking that Josh had died when he was loved so very much.

Of course, there is a different kind of heartbreak in the fact that many children live without love; live, in fact, embraced primarily by indifference and neglect, or even cruelty and abuse.

It is such a strange world that we inhabit.


maggie said...

The older I get, the more I see, the more I experience, the less I understand.

Karen said...

strange, strange, strange. mysterious indeed.
unpredictable, unfathomable, dangerous.
and underneath are the everlasting arms and that's the only thing that helps.a bit.
looking forward to the day when all mysteries are left behind.
may you find supernatural comfort in the midst.
love and hugs.

Magdalene6127 said...

You are too kind about my sermons. Take them, they're yours.

And know that your presence at my life is a powerful influence on my sermons, as well. I hope I'd have put that disclaimer in a couple of years ago. I suspect I might not have. But now I know that I must say it. You taught me that.

Much love, friend. Mystery, mystery, mystery. Thanks for being in the mystery with me.

Anonymous said...

How strange. I found myself blogging about my own mother and my own mothering this morning and then come across here to read your own perspective. Different perspective but similar wondering at the mystery that is motherhood.

Mrs. M said...

Thank you so much for this. I've kept is "marked as unread" in Google Reader this week, so that I could keep going back to re-read it.

I deliberately avoided the Mother's Day service this year, just couldn't do it in this year when I seem to be finally coming to grips with my mother's mental illness.