Mother's Day For Moms
Audio: Mother’s Day For Moms
It has become increasingly widespread in American society to characterize some of the essential traits that define being human as merely “social constructs.” The idea that our opinion or our feelings about ourselves is what defines our self has been most famously applied to gender, but we hear it in the context of race as well. I will leave the general discussion of this topic for another day, but the idea that motherhood is also a social construct is deeply offensive and should be deeply offensive to every woman. Motherhood isn’t a social construct, it’s a God construct.
In the many places where it has become en vogue, mothers are referred to as “birthing people,” or “people with wombs.” The logic here is, of course, absurd: motherhood is defined solely by female biology, yet that same female biology isn’t enough to define “woman,” thus compelling us to refer to biological trans males as women, who themselves will never become “birthing people.” What?
God created an elegant system for creating and sustaining life, and that system neither reduces gender to mere biology, nor assigns it to ephemeral individual feelings. God created us as whole people where biology is intertwined with the mind and the spirit. Nowhere is this more evident than in motherhood. Mothers aren’t simply baby factories; they are present as nurturers and guides for the infant and the child in ways that men are not. This is why we can still enthusiastically call women who adopt children without actually bearing them mothers. Since we see this sense of nurturing in other mammalian species as well, it is impossible to attribute this to a social construct. Even if you do not believe in God, it remains nearly impossible to squeeze this evolutionary imperative into a social construct.
Of course, for the rest of us who apparently aren’t really en vogue, we don’t celebrate Mother’s Day in order to honor our mother’s biology. None of us has a memory of our time in residence in the womb, and we simply accept the miracle of our own creation in much the same way we accept God’s creation of the universe, even though we have no direct consciousness of that event either. We also have no memory of the suffering our mothers endured to bring us into the world. Men may witness this suffering second hand when their own wives give birth, but it remains emotionally difficult if not impossible to apply that to our own mother. Yet, that suffering is another essential part of the definition of motherhood that men do not share.
While in the Garden, Eve did not bear children, but a part of her punishment upon being expelled was to experience pain in childbirth. In Genesis 3 God says, “‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children . . .” And yet, motherhood is deeply honored throughout the Bible, with mothers like Hannah and Rebecca playing important roles far beyond simply manufacturing their offspring. And God, creator of all that is, chooses to incarnate through Mary rather than simply appearing out of nothing. Like the others, Mary plays an important role in the life of Jesus and pays a nearly unbearable price when she kneels at the foot of the cross. But bear it she does, in faith. It is a strength in suffering that is in part linked to the biological reality of bearing another person within your body, yet in this suffering the mind and spirit too are bolstered through faith in God While men may grieve and suffer deeply at the loss of a child, the loss to a mother of is akin to God’s loss of Jesus on the cross; a badge of suffering and faith that only a mother can earn.
So, on this upcoming Mother’s Day, let us not celebrate the trivial. Let us not reduce motherhood to mere biology, nor accept that being a mother is no more than a socially created construct. Irrevocably linked to female biology, yet far more than simply physical, motherhood is a grace and a blessing granted by God in order that we might live and feel the tangible presence of God within ourselves and within the world. Motherhood is God’s way of shouting unambiguously that we are not merely blobs of flesh, and that we certainly weren’t created by society or any other human construct. Motherhood is about life; biologically speaking to be sure, but also and equally important motherhood is about the fullness of life. Mothers are so much more than “people with wombs,” so let’s recognize that by emphasizing every day the honor and respect that accompanies the title “Mother,” given by God to the first woman, Eve, carried forward to the mother of Jesus, Mary, and earned throughout history in the suffering and lifegiving joy of women everywhere.