Sunday was my first Mother’s Day as a mother, and I was really looking forward to it! Ike had planned all sorts of fun things throughout the day, and I couldn’t wait to celebrate the coming arrival of our little boy. I woke up, got ready for church, picked out a pretty spring dress that accentuates my growing baby bump (!), and stepped outside into the gorgeous, sunny day.
We drove to church and I strolled into the sanctuary expecting your typical Mother’s Day message. You know, something about how awesome mothers are. 😉 Instead, I sat down to an interview with journalist Nicholas Kristof, and it was the worst Mother’s Day message I’ve ever heard.
It was also one of the most important.
I say the message was terrible because it was. In case you’re unfamiliar with Kristof, he is the author of Half the Sky, which documents the plight of women all across the world. Kristof has witnessed first-hand some of the worst human rights abuses against women, and he has now staked much of his career on advocating for women.
Although his stories would have been hard for any person to hear, there was something about my new status as a mother that made me feel particularly raw. The worship service opened with a video featuring two young girls whose lives transpired in two different ways: one received education while the other did not. The one who received education was able to overcome her difficult circumstances to become a nurse. The one without education filled her childhood days by picking up trash in a dump, and her entire life was spent surviving poverty.
Watching this video, knowing full well that countless children throughout the world are plagued with the second child’s fate, made me feel sick.
Kristof went on to tell stories about sex trafficking and the millions of women who are simply “missing” in the world due to “lethal” gender discrimination in many parts of the world. Throughout the interview it was all I could do to keep it together.
The entire service I wondered whether my church leaders had taken a risk in choosing such a heavy and horrible topic for Mother’s Day. Like me, I’m sure many women came in expecting a certain kind of message, only to be blind-sided with gruesome tales of human depravity. Would some church members be mad or disappointed?
I don’t know how anyone else responded, but as much as it started off my Mother’s Day on an unexpected foot, I’m grateful that my church leaders invited Kristof. As a mother, his message matters to me, especially as a mother of a son.
One of the things that Kristof mentioned during the interview was the privilege we Americans enjoy. By being born in the U.S., it’s as if we have won the lottery due to no merit of our own. But even within our country certain Americans enjoy greater privilege than others. Historically, white Americans and male Americans have benefited all the more.
I believe the gender gap in our country is narrowing, but the historic advantage that has traditionally been attached to white men in our country has given me a lot to think about as the mother-to-be of a white male. For reasons God only knows, my son is being born into a position of privilege and power, which places a real burden on me and Ike. How do we raise our son to steward the privilege God has given him? In a world where baby girls are literally killed because they are female, how will my baby boy be a blessing to others, especially those in need?
I suspect those are questions that all Christian parents probably ask of themselves. Though we are not all born into privilege, those of us who are must question how to bless others with the blessing we’ve been given. And even Christians who are not born into financial privilege probably consider the witness of their family. The gift of Christ is a blessing we must share, and we pray that our children will be a part of that legacy.
All of that to say, Mother’s Day confronted me with the heavy but good burden of motherhood. As nervous as I have been about “cutting it” as a mom, Sunday helped me to step back and think about the big picture–why it is that God gives us children, and what exactly my role is as a mother.
While I hope that my son is happy and successful and healthy and smart, God has a bigger vision beyond any one person or family. He has come to redeem the world, and we are a part of that redemption. So are our children. As I continue to pray for my son and his growing life, I will surely keep that in mind, praying that my son loves Jesus, seizes his role in the Kingdom of God, and runs the race well.
On the one hand, that vision is a heavier burden than the typical expectations American moms place on themselves. On the other hand, the Christian vision for parenting can only be realized by the grace of God.
In a world as dark as ours, where some mothers are forced to sell their children into slavery in order to survive, or choose which children they will feed, I submit myself and my family to the mercy of God, praying that we will help to make a better world. I pray that I, and my son, will be lights in a world that so desperately needs to know God. I hope to be that kind of mom.