The Other Mothers, Happy Mother’s Day
I’ve read blog after blog this week anticipating Mother’s Day. Blogs about guilt and pride, and some about the origin of Mother’s Day. Blogs for women who can’t have children, and others for children who had inadequate mothers. Blogs about the demands of motherhood, and also about how our inadequate parenting shows our need for a Savior. But in our ramp up to Mother’s Day, those of us who celebrate it in the Western world have forgotten someone: our third-world sisters.
I woke up this morning grateful to Jesus to be “Mom” to the three children he gave me. Tomorrow, I will call my own mother and mother-in-law to tell them how much I appreciate them and love them. But I am unable to communicate with two women who have profoundly impacted my journey as a mother, because they live in third-world countries with limited means.
I long to tell the woman who gave birth to our son in a small village in Ethiopia that I am grateful for her courageous choice. Her future will be forever marked by it. Her circumstances prevented her from raising our sweet boy so she gave up what may be her one and only son. I would thank her for not abandoning our son in the jungle, for nursing him at her breast. I would thank her for taking him to the orphanage, for enduring those two long trips to Addis Ababa knowing that her little boy would live a life in America far better than her own. This Mother’s Day, she won’t get a card, dinner at a nice restaurant, or a gift certificate for pampering. She won’t get a day to lie on the couch and kick her shoes off, free from work. And what I stress over and struggle with every day floats away in the weight of her existence. A walk to the river every day to wash the clothes, a long walk to the well for the daily drinking water, sweeping the dirt floor with a broom of twigs and leaves, and cooking the one meal of the day for her family. To the world, her sacrifice goes unnoticed, but our God sees.
Another woman left her rural village in the Philippines and moved to an Arab country to work for our American family. We brought her into our home knowing that she loved Jesus. Her working visa listed the uncomfortable title of “servant”, an occupation meant by the government authorities to remind her of her place, but an endearing compliment for a woman with a servant’s heart. Although she never gave details, I sensed that she had been abused in a previous assignment in another Muslim country. Oh, how she missed her family of rice farmers, but the money she sent home kept them alive. She hoped one day to save enough money to build a proper building in her village for their church. I had the privilege of comforting her as she learned of the unexpected death of an unbelieving relative. We prayed and trusted that in those last moments Jesus had saved him. She did what I could never have imagined doing: she left those she loved for six months at a time, to give them a better life. As she worked with a joyful heart, she taught our family about the way of Jesus—that he came to serve and not be served (Mark 10:45).
Western moms, we have it good. We have it really good. We have places to call home. We have pantries filled with food. We don’t have to walk to get drinking water or bathe our kids in a river. We don’t go to sleep at night worrying if our children will die in the crossfire of war or be taken from us to fight or be stolen from us to be enslaved. Most likely, our children will make it past their fifth birthday. They won’t die of HIV, or malaria, or tuberculosis, or hepatitis.
We worry about so many things that don’t really matter. Our kids will turn out okay. They are safe, they are fed, and they are healthy.
So on this Mother’s Day, let’s honor those forgotten mothers, our sisters around the world. From them, let’s learn how to have a servant’s heart and how to offer true sacrifice. Let’s mother as they would want us to, not all burdened down and anxiety-ridden in the very blessed circumstances we find ourselves. Let’s mother with joy and lightness in response to God’s grace.