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An upside-down take on the Mother’s Day memo

It’s Mother’s Day, and we rightly pay tribute to mothers today. After all, mothers are typically overworked, underappreciated, in a job which is low on perks and high in stress. So what does the world say to mothers? “You deserve better!” And in a sense, that is true. Middle-aged husbands, toddlers and teenagers are not the demographic best known for their gratitude.

But the Gospel of Luke calls us to adopt an upside-down perspective of things. And here’s an article1, written a mother, that does just that. It is my prayer that a mindset shaped by the gospel will encourage the hearts of our mothers. To those who are not mothers, this article is not for you to apply – you focus on appreciating your mothers! - Ps Luwin Wong

In the first week of May, the marketing messages levelled at mums grow louder and more insistent. Their central memo? “Because you deserve it.”

Mom blogs and Instagram posts, including those based in faith, read something like this: after an entire year of drinking lukewarm coffee and eating leftovers off your kids’ plates, today you’re entitled to put your feet up, pour yourself a glass of wine, and be pampered.

At 13 years of motherhood, I can unequivocally say I get it. Motherhood is lived in the daily, ordinary, often-unappreciated tasks that may go unnoticed by your children or your spouse. A day off from the routine and 24 hours of appreciation sound unbelievably perfect. By no means am I dismissing breakfast in bed or unwinding at a spa as a special treat on Mother’s Day.

And yet it’s not what we do or don’t do on Mother’s Day that counts as much as our heart posture toward this yearly event.

Greater reward

Many moms have succumbed to the social-media trap, convinced that their significance is somehow diminished because their families didn’t create Instagram-worthy Mother’s Day experiences. In a world driven by likes, shares and cherry-picked photographs, “I deserve that, too” can breed a sense of resentment and jealousy, or even one-upmanship.

It can lead to unrealistic expectations of our spouses or our children. With these unmet (and usually unexpressed) expectations comes a sense of disappointment, which the Enemy exploits to create friction in our relationships with our loved ones. Self-righteous indignation can slowly take over our thinking.

To be sure, Scripture does encourage us to work with a reward in mind, a much greater reward than what we could ever receive here and now (Col. 3:23). But a culture of entitlement in our families can promote a sense of working for earthly rewards and recognition — a far inferior joy.

Greater source of worth

It was the very first mother, Eve, who demonstrated the grave folly of believing she deserved more than what God had given her. In her attempt to be “like God” (Gen. 3:5), she lacked contentment and gratitude for what she had already been given — “every tree of the garden” (Gen. 2:16). Deceived by the serpent, she found herself wanting more, deserving more (Gen. 3:1–5).

On Mother’s Day, it’s all too easy to embrace the marketing mantras that we are entitled to feel significant and worthy through elaborate displays of appreciation. Instead of believing these messages (intentionally or otherwise), we need to hear God’s message through the prophet Jeremiah: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

When we bank on Mother’s Day gifts and gestures as a means of fuelling our sense of worth, we’re left void, depleted and parched. We forget the true source of our value and satisfaction, which never runs dry — the One who tells us: “I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. . . . Because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you” (Isa. 43:3–4).

In Christ, we have a greater source of worth than the greatest of Mother’s Day bounties.

Greater fullness

As Christian mothers, holding onto the ideal of earned worth through our work sits at odds with our faith. We don’t earn the blessings God freely pours into our lives. Every good and perfect gift comes from our generous heavenly Father (James 1:17). It’s from the fullness of his grace we receive one blessing after another (John 1:16) — not from the rewards we believe are owed us.

This doesn’t mean we should stop celebrating Mother’s Day. Appreciating the mothers and mother figures in our lives is a good and right thing (Ex. 20:12). But what if we flipped the “I deserve” narrative on its head and allowed God to deeply impress on our hearts that every gift in our lives is wholly and completely an outpouring of his grace?

That we have laundry to fold, dinner tables to set and beds to make is an undeserved blessing from God. That we have children to raise, minister to, and share the Word with is an undeserved blessing from God. That we are equipped with grit and grace for this calling of motherhood is an undeserved blessing from God.

‘Even though I don’t deserve’

When we understand just how undeserving we are and yet how much we’ve received, we’re filled with a deep awe and a holy reverence for God. From this fullness we can take our eyes off ourselves and turn them toward Jesus (Heb. 12:2).

From this fullness we’re freed from self-righteous pride and simmering discontent as we live out our calling — even when our work goes unnoticed. From this fullness we’re empowered to serve as the living water of God’s Spirit flows through us rather than trying to pour out from broken cisterns (John 7:38; Jer. 2:13).

This Mother’s Day, may we let God change the narrative in our minds from “I deserve” to “Even though I don’t deserve.” May we remember that while Mother’s Day rolls around once a year, we have the stunning privilege of celebrating the undeserved grace of being daughters of the King every single day. 1 Susan Narjala (May 8, 2021). This Mother’s Day, Let God Change the Narrative. The Gospel Coalition.

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