Once upon a Mother’s Day, there was a young woman standing in her usual spot in the church choir. Like many churches, this one had elected to include a “Baby Dedication” as part of their Mother’s Day service. Happy moms, dads, and grandparents chuckled nervously as their babies squirmed and some of them cried. It was a beautiful moment in their lives.
This part of the service concluded with a song:
“Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak, but He is strong…”
Now, back to the young woman in the choir. If you had looked at her at any point in the service prior to this song, you would have seen a smile, maybe not her usual smile, but a smile nonetheless. But when the first few notes of “Jesus Loves Me,” were played by the pianist, the young woman’s smile began to falter. She started singing along with everyone else, but her voice seemed to disappear, slowly. And by the time the congregation reached
“Yes, Jesus loves me…” the young woman stopped.
She bowed her head.
The all-too-familiar burning, stinging, and tightening started in her throat, eyes, and chest.
And the tears fell.
She couldn’t bear to look out into the congregation. She couldn’t lift her head. Later she didn’t remember anything about the remainder of the service. Her only thought was of getting out of there, getting away. She loved those people around her. She loved those babies and their families. But she wanted nothing more than to escape from them.
You see, less than five months before, this particular young woman, and her young husband had seen the birth of their first child, a daughter. And on that same day, had held their only daughter in their arms as she passed from this life.
Almost five months had passed. But the pain had not. This young woman still felt as though her heart was not merely broken, but was not even a part of her any longer. She often wondered if she would ever feel it beating inside her again. But she soldiered on, she pasted a smile on her face, and she kept that hurt tucked away, for so many reasons, one of the most prominent being that that was what several well-meaning people told her to do.
They told her, “God has a plan.”
“She’s better off in Heaven than she could ever be on earth.”
They quoted scripture AT her. And though she wouldn’t admit it, even to herself, she began to hate one of those verses in particular, Romans 8:28. (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”)
You see, she knew all of these things. She knew them. But just then, none of them were comforting.
Cruelest of all, those well-meaning people said things like, “You’re so young. You’ll have more children.”
This young woman wasn’t concerned with any future, imaginary, children. She wanted her baby. The hole where her heart should have been ached for her daughter.
This particular young woman was a mother without a child.
Her husband was a Daddy without his baby.
She knew all the right things. None of them changed the fact of the pain in their hearts.
Well-meaning friends, as you celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, don’t forget those mamas with empty arms.
Don’t throw scripture at them.
Don’t talk to them of the future children they might have.
Churches, please dont overlook them. And please don’t expect them to hide their hurt.
They are mothers too. They are broken. And while they love you, they don’t need you to tell them what they already know. They need you to allow them to hurt, and to heal, in their own time. There is no time frame for grief. They need to be allowed to be angry. Right now, they need you to give them space and show them grace.
Oh, there was eventually comfort and healing for our particular subject. Some time later, there was a scripture that became a great comfort to this young mother. And it was shared with her by another mom, one who had experienced her own losses, 4 of them, and who was then raising 8 (yes, 8!) wonderful children.
“He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
This was the one scripture that became a comfort to the young woman. Whether it was because it hadn’t been repeatedly thrown at her, or because of the timing, or because of the mother who shared it with her, she didn’t know for sure. It was probably a combination of all of those elements. Even 14 years later the young woman, now raising a beautiful, healthy, happy, funny, clever, 8 year old, still held a special appreciation and love for the kindred mom-soul who gave her that hope. As another Mother’s Day approached, she thought about that mom, and she thought about all of those well-meaning words which had once rubbed her raw, and she appreciated the love behind them, understanding that they truly were well-meaning, and realizing that it taught her a great deal about what she could (and could not) do for others who were grieving.
Fourteen Mother’s Days later, this not-quite-so-young mom celebrated the beautiful daughter she was raising, as well as the three precious babies that she knew were playing at the feet of Jesus. She celebrated them. She thanked God for choosing her to be their mama. She thanked God for the comfort He had sent in the form of another mom.
She said a prayer for those moms and dads who were facing their special days with empty arms.
And she sang.
“Yes, Jesus loves me…”
*In memory of Faith. In honor of Katie.*