This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, so before I get into it, I’d like to wish a happy belated Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, in heaven and on earth. For me, the most significant women in my life represent both categories. It was the second Mother’s Day I celebrated without my mother, and this one might have been harder than the first.
That first Mother’s Day, I was prepared. Everything was so fresh and I was so desperately clinging to my relationship with God that I think He carried me through. Having spoken with Donna, I knew not to let the day surprise me. I made a plan to honor my mother without taking too much time away from my wife’s first Mother’s Day. My emotions mostly remained in check, and my wife and I were able to celebrate the day.
This year, there was no semblance of a plan. I think I was sub-consciously avoiding the day. In the past year, things have obviously changed. I’m more conditioned to life without Mom, although I doubt I could ever call it normal. Fewer days and less of my time focuses on my mother or the many people whose lives she impacted. I recognize many of those people are still suffering, as I am, but it seems like enough time has passed that I should focus more on the future than the past. As it turns out, my vision of the future is a bit shortsighted.
My wife, toddler, and I decided to go to a different church and time than we normally do. In fact, it was the same church that held my mother’s funeral service. I never think much of that until I walk through the doors. There is something unique about the place that I don’t think will ever change. The history of my mind bookmarked it with such extreme emotion, it’s as if that emotion is emblazoned on my heart and recalled whenever I visit.
Thankfully, wrangling Tripp proved to be a sufficient enough distraction that my emotions didn’t creep in too much. But then, it came time to pray silently. Already, I had received text messages and seen many other well wishes for mothers on social media. I wanted to join. Like everyone else, I wanted to wish my mother a Happy Mother’s Day and tell her how much I love and appreciate her. It occurred to me that on my knees in church is about as close as I can get to my mother at the moment. So, I wanted to talk to her, but I hesitated.
In contemplating this first step down a path, I couldn’t help but wonder where it would lead. I believed my mother’s soul is still very much alive. In theory, she could hear me. I could talk to her, and she could hear. So, I should be able to wish her Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Birthday, good afternoon, good evening, and good night. But, at what point would I be elevating my relationship with her above my relationship with God?
C.S. Lewis wrote, “He who has God and everything else has no more than He who has God only.”
A true relationship with God is perfectly satisfying and perfectly infinite. To reason in my head that I needed this relationship, even with someone as integral to my being as my mother, and could not rely on God to pull me through, would be to deny the very essence of God Himself.
What I needed in that moment was to fall into the embrace of my loving God. I needed to cry on His shoulder and trust that He could comfort me through the separation from my mother. So, I prayed to God all I could think. I prayed, “please let my mother know how much I love and miss her.”
Instantly, and I don’t mean like after a few seconds or in the next part of the service, but that very moment, the choir leader spoke into the microphone that they would be singing, “I Am the Bread of Life.” Tears bubbled to the surface of my eyes.
You’re probably wondering why that song would be so poignant that it would bring tears to my eyes and prompt me to write this. Firstly, it was one of a handful of songs played during my mother’s funeral in that very church seemingly so recently. In fact, it was played during the Recessional, when the service ended and we headed to the cemetery to bury my mother, which carried its own symbolic meaning. Secondly, and more importantly, are the words to the song. The first three sentences are John 6:35, the second is John 14:6, and the final three sentences, the chorus that brought tears to my eyes, is John 6:54.
“I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me shall not hunger. And who believes in me shall not thirst. No one shall come to me unless the father beckons. And I will raise you up. And I will raise you up. And I will raise you up on the last day.”
It was an immediate response. I prayed to God, not knowing if my mother was with Him or not, because as well as you know someone, how can you know the depths of their hearts as God does? I hope my mother is in heaven with Him, and I believe she is, and this seemed to be a comfort that God heard my prayer and that He was reassuring me that He “raised her up.”
Moreover, it seemed to be a message. Go to God. Trust. Have faith. More than “having,” live the faith. Take all your problems to Him and humbly and gratefully accept His answer. Don’t worry about this life too much, but always keep an the eternal perspective, because if we go to the Father and He beckons, He will raise us up, and that should be the goal of all our lives.
We must daily remind ourselves of this purpose and dedicate our deeds, thoughts, and actions to serving God and others. So often, I try to overcomplicate things and make life and decisions more complex than that. But, Jesus gave us the simplest possible direction (albeit humanly impossible without grace).
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
That is the answer to any prayer. God will take care of the rest.