I was asked to come speak to you today about motherhood…something I hope I know a little bit about considering I’m about to give birth to my third child any day now!
I must admit though…I was notified of this event about two or three weeks ago and I’ve been more than a little stumped since about what to say. You see, I run a nonprofit here in town named The ELLA Foundation that deals mostly with issues related to violent crime. I speak all the time about the effect of murder and incarceration on families. I speak out against the death penalty. I advocate on behalf of murder victim family members and for those who commit violent crimes. In short, my area of expertise and the main topic of most of my conversations is crime, violence, mayhem, tragedy, so I had my doubts about being able to speak to you about motherhood.
Until I remembered that all my thoughts about motherhood were made clear, put to the test, and proven to be valid, because of crime, violence, mayhem, and tragedy. Six years ago my firstborn murdered my second born. My son murdered my daughter, his sister. He was 13; she was 4. I lost them both, one to death, one to prison, and have lived a life since that no mother should ever have to endure. But in the six years since losing my children, I have learned more about mothering than I did in the 13 years I held each of them close in my arms.
So what is a mother? According the Webster’s dictionary, a mother is
a : a female parent
b : a woman in authority; specifically : the superior of a religious community of women
3: something that is an extreme or ultimate example of its kind especially in terms of scale <the mother of all construction projects>
While these definitions begin to define what a mother is, they tell us nothing about who a mother is. So I am going to share with you today who I believe mother’s to be, or at least, who I believe mother’s should strive to be, because let’s be clear on one point. I don’t like to gloss over reality. Not all women who have children are mothers. And not all mothers are women who have biological children of their own.
Motherhood is an art, a feeling, an act of creation, and like all art, it requires work, effort, creativity, mistakes and imperfections, blood, sweat, and tears to create something beautiful and meaningful. So what makes a woman a mother? What defines us as mothers? What do we give to our children that make them wish for us when they are sick or in trouble? What is it about us that make our children turn to us for advice, lash out at us in anger, and weep for us when we are gone? What is it about us that binds us to our child, even after he has murdered our child?
It’s simple really. Well, it’s simple to identify, but hard to deliver some days. We give them love…fierce, deep, and unconditional love. In the six years since my son murdered his sister, I have learned that a mother’s love for her children, is the one feeling that even begins to get close to the love that God must feel for us. The love I feel for my children is the most holy feelings I have ever felt.
So what does a mother’s love look like, feel like? The Bible tells us this in I Corinthians, chapter 4-7:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Ironically enough the original verse in the King James version uses "charity" instead of the word love, so I was lucky that I had somewhere to look for answers when trying to figure out how to mother my son after he killed his sister. But this is a simple guide that we can all look to when trying to determine how to be the best mother we can be.
This does not mean that we are doormats for our children, allow them to walk all over us, never discipline them, or never make mistakes. We are not God. Our efforts to love are imperfect and we will stumble many days in our journey of motherhood. And this ok because how we handle our mistakes gives us yet another chance to show our children how deeply they are loved and how powerful love really is.
To each of you who struggle every day to perfect the art of mothering, I offer you these words of encouragement. Never give up. Never stop loving your child, no matter what. Never doubt for a moment that you are the embodiment of God’s love here on earth.
To those of you who have no children, I offer these words of advice. Love the world, your neighbor, your fellow man as you would love the children you may one day have. Mother those in need, in despair, in pain. The act of mothering is not exclusive to a mother and her child. It is something we can all do…even all you men out there.
My love to all those here today who can claim the art of mothering as their own. Your love is the rock, the foundation, the blueprint of creation for those you love. It is for that you are honored here today.