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The Carnation Conundrum: Mom’s Day Fodder for Mothers and Others

RAFAH - GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 22: Sheep feed on carnations flowers at a farm November 22, 2007 in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian farmers had to dispose of their flower crop due to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, preventing them to export their goods. According to reports Israel yesterday said that it would ease its trade embargo - imposed in June - allowing the export of fruit and flowers into Israel and Europe. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Should we give a carnation to each mother? 

That was all she asked. Simple question. But it got so complicated. 

Not that all involved weren’t entirely gracious in reply. Everyone was. But our email thread got tangled.

Maybe the kids could hand-out them out? 

No, that won’t do. Some moms might get overlooked. That’s uncomfortable.

Plus, some who aren’t moms might be mistaken and get a flower, too. That’s awkward.

Besides,”Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Why heap gifts on the gifted?

The gift could hurt all the ladies who have longed to hear but never heard a child call them Mom.

And cause pain for mothers whose children are prodigal or gone.  

And what about all the guys? (Dad’s Root Beer all around come June?)

I don’t bend over backwards to be PC. That’s why my carnation reluctance surprised me.

But it’s these words-Let all you do be done in love– not the avoidance of unease-that should guide. Because the God who is love didn’t promise pain-free. And the God of all comfort didn’t canonize comfortable. We are each called to honor our mother (and father).

Honor Your Mother

Every last one of us has a mother. So Mother’s Day is a holiday for all of us. We’re all called to honor our mothers. It might mean a grown child pauses to remember the good in a mom who is gone. And if Mom is with us, we let her know she’s valued. Honor is due.

Honor might mean carnations. Or a card or a call or a brunch. Or “one pass to the barbar and a bakrub,” unexpectedly came my way yesterday.

But some women deserve more than the honor that comes from being a mother. Sometimes special praise is due.

Praise Due

Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:30-31

The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. If you’ve been blessed with a spiritual mother, with a holy mom who hopes in God, let your praises roll.

Why should we? Why should we praise a faithful lady? Pastor John Piper gives some great reasons.

1) It honors God. We must not think here that in praising the woman we are giving to her what belongs to God. There is a sense in which all praise, just like all boasting (1 Corinthians 1:31), should be in the Lord. But since the Lord has made the world and is at work in us fallen creatures, it is possible to praise him indirectly by praising something he made or praising something that exalts him. If you praise the table manners of my sons, Noël and I feel honored. So God is honored through praises which come to his people for graces which he has imparted and which by their very nature exalt him. Therefore, when we praise a woman who fears the Lord, we praise God. 

2) It strengthens her hand in the Lord. There are always temptations to allure us away from the fear of God: temptations to fear financial insecurity more than we fear God (cf. Proverbs 23:17), to fear rejection by our peers more than we fear God, to fear the loss of time spent in good deeds more than we fear God…Again and again we must have our hand strengthened in God. We need to hear a saintly person say, “Well done. I love the way you fear the Lord.”

So hand out those carnations. But maybe they go to the mothers and some others. 

To Mothers and Others

Because, Who really is my mother?

Jesus answered that in a surprising way in Matthew 12:48-49. And when his own mother and brothers asked to see him, Jesus said, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mothers and my brothers!’ 

The Lord Jesus Christ-Son of God, Son of Man-turned earthly relationships upside down. Luke records this short exchange. In a way, it confuses my carnation conundrum more. 

“Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” a woman cried out to Jesus. And he turned and said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27).

What is this that Mary’s son-God’s son-says? Is he really saying what it sounds like he’s saying? That the obedient Christian –mother or not, even married or not– is of mother status? It does sound that way.

But back to the carnation conundrum. I wonder what Jesus would say.

If Christ would weigh in our Mother’s Day thread, would it sound something like this? 

“Mothers, be thankful. Honor your mother. Be glad in the kids I gave you and treasure good things in your heart. Savor your role as Keeper of the Springs. And always be leaning into me. Abide in me. Feed on my Word. Their eyes are wide-open, watching everyday, so live like you need me. Show your kids that you know you are not their Savior. But live so they want to know yours. Help them want to know me.

Others, be thankful. Honor your mother. Know that there is a better name than sons and daughters. My Father’s-our Father’s-family grows through faith in me, not by children born of the flesh. The bonds you have to me and my Body, the Church, are stronger and tighter, more permanent and precious even than family ties. Marriage is temporary. The married couples are pointing to Christ and his Bride all along. Whatever state you’re are, remain in me. 

Mothers, a last word to you. It is your day, after all. Be sure you know my better name, the sweeter name than Mom. Keep your heart-eyes clear to see motherhood as the sweet gift, and terrible God that it is. Don’t idolize your kids. A sensitive son or devoted daughter can never deliver the forever satisfying joy found only in me. So come to me.  Keep coming to me. 

And when disrespect and complaining cut you deep and when sweet “bakrubs and barbar” treatment comes, your prayer can stay the same: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).

Far as the Curse is Found

We’re all- mothers and daughters and fathers and sons, single and married and adopted and orphaned- all of us wounded. Sin stains, disease maims, and words do hurt. The curse is still found far.

Far into lonely hearts of singles and aching arms of the post-abortive, the empty wombs of the infertile and broken hearts of moms of prodigals. It reaches into broken hearts of grieving moms who never saw their kids grow up and into wounded hearts of grown up kids whose moms never got to see them all growed-up. The Fall reaches far.

Its long reach means even a carnation can hurt.

There is no pain-free, awkward-less solution this side of heaven. A sword will pierce your own heart, Simeon said. Mary watched her Son die. And when he rose, he went away.

On Mother’s Day, I wonder if the Son of Mary might say, Pain is okay. Uncomfortable and awkward, too. But one day they’ll all be swallowed up. Until that day, praise the woman who fears me and honor your mother on Mother’s Day. 

A carnation just might be a splendid way.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4