It’s Mother’s Day again. My church is holding a Mother’s Day service.
Other childless Christians might appreciate the dilemma this presents.
On the one hand, I love my church and want to be part of it. On the other hand, Mother’s Day can be one of the toughest days in the calendar year. There are lots of potential triggers for a childless woman.
After some internal wrestling with the will-I-go-to-church-or-not decision, I choose to watch the church service online. It’s a good decision. I can still participate, but I have an easy escape route should I need it.
I can still participate, but I have an easy escape route should I need it.
The service begins well. There is singing. I like singing. They welcome people to the service, without too much mother glorification. This is OK, I tell myself. I can do this.
They play a cutesy video. You know, the type where they film kids answering questions about their mums and put it together in a big ‘We love you mums’ montage. The kids say cute things and the congregation giggles. So do I. Good fun. So far, so good.
Until I am ambushed.
The video takes a serious turn. They ask the kids, ‘What did your mum teach you about God?’
And I am sucker-punched.
The room goes spinny. My guts drop. There’s a physical ache in my chest and tears well up in my eyes. And I weep.
Because that’s what I wanted to do with my kids.
That’s what I wanted to do with my kids.
I wanted to teach my kids about God. I wanted to raise them in a house where faith discussions were welcomed. I wanted to pass on kids’ songs I learned as a kid. Most of all, I wanted to introduce them to Jesus, the one I have loved for as long as I can remember.
I wanted to watch them fall in love with Jesus and discover firsthand his undying love. I wanted to see that light in their eyes the first time they realised God was real and was absolutely dotty about them. I wanted to be part of that journey, to witness it, to help their faith become tangible for them. But I will never get that opportunity.
What do I do with that?
As I pause here, I find myself at a crossroads. Should I cheer myself up by reminding myself that spiritual parenting is a thing, that mentorship lasts forever, that spiritual kids are not a consolation prize? Or should I give way to the grief, that yawning chasm of sorrow, and acknowledge the pain of not raising a child from birth in the ways of God?
Should I cheer myself up by reminding myself that spiritual parenting is a thing? Or should I give way to the grief?
Part of me wants to acknowledge the reality of spiritual family, the importance of pouring my faith into other people’s lives just as I would have poured into my own child. God has placed me in an eternal family and we are blood relatives, joined together by Christ. I get to be a spiritual mum in that family.
At the same time, I want to feel the grief. Well, maybe *want* is too strong a word. Grief is pretty unpleasant at the best of times. But it is real, it is here in my heart, and it’s not going away just because I want it to. If I am to recover from the grief of childlessness, I must feel it and yield to it and walk through it.
Perhaps there is a place for both responses.
The good news is I am not alone in grieving. That’s the good news of faith. God is here with me, and he’s just as real as the grief that sits by my side. He’s not distant or detached. God feels the sorrow I feel. Sometimes he even weeps with me. I have not been abandoned to grieve alone. He walks me through every moment of my grief.
God feels the sorrow I feel. Sometimes he even weeps with me.
God is here for the long haul, for better or worse.
Can I pass on this legacy of faith? Maybe not to a biological child. Maybe not as a traditional ‘mother’. But I can share this message of faith, this hope in God, with countless others. Who knows? It might make a difference in someone’s life.
Just as I hoped to make a difference in the life of my child.
Do you have a story of childlessness? Would you consider sharing it this World Childless Week? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.