This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. Generally speaking, Mother’s Day is a worldwide tradition that honours motherhood. In some countries it is a single day celebration that takes place in the month of May. In other countries the celebration can last a couple of days and even in a different month.
For example, Ethiopian families celebrate motherhood in the Autumn and have multiple meals during the week, while in Thailand, Mother’s Day is always celebrated on the birthday of the current reigning queen.1 In Canada, as far as I can remember, Mother’s Day has traditionally been celebrated on the second Sunday of May. I acknowledge that it is a nice tradition, and it is good for us to celebrate our Moms and all Mothers. At times I do wonder how this tradition has come to be somewhat of an annual liturgical event for the church.
Regardless, if we want to be biblical about honoring our Moms and Dads, then it should be something that the people of God do every day.
I remember going to Crusaders at church as a kid. If you are not familiar with Crusaders or Missionnettes, they were a mid-week program that Pentecostal churches could offer for boys and girls. My home church ran it for years, and my parents were often the ones leading the thing.
Anyways, during my Crusader years, I learned the famous 10 Commandments from the Old Testament. One of them on the list is to honour your mother and father. Depending on your Bible translation, it may read something like this:
Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
There you have it. It’s in the Bible. According to God, honoring your parents will yield a long and prosperous life. Who wouldn’t want that! So maybe there is something to this whole honoring thing after all.
In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul picks up on this and describes what this ‘honoring’ concept ought to look like for the people of God. In his letter to them, Paul attempts to explain that all relationships need to be self-giving.
Paul’s key thought is this one: followers of Jesus are to basically give of themselves the way that Christ did. This means that regardless of position within the family or society, the message was clear for all Christians: we are to live in relational self-giving and demonstrate relational self-giving within the family unit.
When it comes to these family dynamics, Paul expresses his desire for the Ephesians to do this very thing. By demonstrating this quality daily, they would become a people characterized by a mutual love for one another.
Luciano Lombardi, in his commentary on Ephesians, says that ‘children are to view their parents in the loving equality and acceptance’ that is to be symbolic of the ‘new humanity’ made available and given to them in Christ.2 In other words, the people of God would do well to remember and replicate what was modelled to them by God Himself.
Lombardi captures and expresses this really well:
“Think of the incredible love and patience God showed toward Israel over the centuries and, for that matter, continues to show humanity in general and to each of us who call Him Father. Instructing, and advising, warning and correcting, waiting patiently, forgiving and restoring, being there for us – these are they ways that God has displayed His loving character as He has historically engaged in relationship with humanity.”3
When reading Lombardi’s comments on God self-giving and loving ways, I could not help but be reminded of my Mother.
In terms of self-giving qualities, and the characteristics mentioned above, my Mom has exhibited all of those in spades. Not only did she lovingly raise three kids into adulthood, but while doing so she also held down a full-time teaching job, coached numerous track and field athletes and teams, organized and conducted annual school musicals for decades, taught and led in children’s church programs, while hosting family meals, birthday parties, anniversaries and Christmas dinners.
Also, never once did she miss taking her own crew to ongoing rehearsals, practices for sports, shifts for work and visits to both sets of grandparents. Not to mention the fact that we were always on time and properly dressed too! I am exhausted trying to remember and list half of the things that she did do, and I know that I have probably forgotten more than what I can remember.
The point is that my Mother has helped me and countless others understand the loving-nature of God in deep cherishing ways. She taught and cared for all her students with equality, love and compassion every day. She gave countless hours pouring into thousands of lives through music and athletics her entire career. From cheering people across the finish line, to applauding students achieving success, Mom was a place of strength and support for all her ‘children’.
For friends and relatives, Mom served and put together thousands of meals in our home for multiple generations. Neighbours, cousins, aunts and uncles gathered in our home on many occasions and were treated to an endless supply of desserts, food and laughs. Church goers, pastors and travelling guests were often invited to come over for a meal and enjoy a time of fellowship with our family. All who came to the family table were treated like royalty.
I think that the number of people and lives impacted by Mom’s self-giving love may never be fully realized on this side of eternity. And the thing is, she’s still at it today. Even in retirement she continues to find ways to help feed those in need, volunteer hours in local stores and provide care for her neighbours, family and friends. She is and continues to be an example of self-giving love.
Now, don’t kid yourself. She could scare the hair right off of a wooly mammoth if she needed to. Trust me, I’ve tried to mess with her a time or to, or know of others who have attempted to do the same. Momma bears have a reputation for a reason, and my Mom is no different. But all who know Shawna Holtz, know her to be a person of genuine loving-kindness.
I am glad that I know her as my Mom.
Love ya Mom … and thanks for teaching me all about God.
2. Luciano Lombardi, A New Humanity, 120
3. ibid, 122