Don’t take away my flower. You know, the one you stand up for in church on Mother’s Day when the pastor says, “Would all the mothers stand?” And a flower, usually a carnation or a tulip, is handed out by a frilly-dressed little girl or a cute little boy.
A Mother’s Day war is brewing over that flower. There are women in every church whose gut aches and bleeds because they can’t stand to take a flower. How can we keep hurting them, people are asking. Some are calling to end this barbaric, thoughtless practice.
But there are so many reasons I will fight to defend that one tiny spray-painted carnation that I’ve stood to receive and then gripped all through church in my hot mother’s hands for the last 24 Mother’s Days.
I was reminded of one reason this very last weekend, when I drove with my husband literally through wildfire for one of my sons. He just graduated from college.
We flew down from Kodiak to southern California--more than a little jaunt---for the weekend of celebrations. Two days before the ceremony a fire broke out next to Highway 101 in Camarillo Springs, and quickly spread. We set off for Santa Barbara early, knowing some of the highway had been closed.
Our four hour drive turned to seven. We drove past three other fires, two of them right down to the highway we were driving on. We missed the baccalaureate. ( But not graduation)
But this is why I want my flower. This is what mothers do. We drive through fire. Two mornings later, when I drove past windmills at 6:00 a.m. with theirs arms spinning already in the wind---we know that is us as well:
women who ceaselessly turn and spin and make energy and food and love out of storm and wind. We light up houses. We fuel bodies and cars. We go through fire, through flood, through famine and feast.
We go through years with so much emptying and spinning and fueling, that one little flower placed in our hands can crumble us to pieces.
But those firing shots at Mother’s Day in church are right: we are not the only ones who do this. Fathers sacrifice and uncles and friends and teachers and neighbors . .. .
And what of the mothers who have lost a child, who have had yet another miscarriage, who can’t get pregnant at all, whose son has just gone to jail, whose daughter has just run away? What about the mothers who did not have mothers themselves, who long for a mother’s love that never came, whose mothers left them, whose mothers never said ‘I love you”? What of them? Don’t they deserve a flower too?
Of course. Let’s give them all a flower, every woman. Is the world short of flowers? It is only short of hands to present them.
But most of these women need more than a flower. They need a mother.
Maybe that’s what we should be doing on Mother's Day. Instead of giving each other flowers, maybe we should be giving each other mothers.
Older women, look among the younger women. Who needs help? Younger women, look among yourselves and to those younger: who needs your ear or your arms?
I’m not trying to ruin Mother’s Day, to heap yet more service upon women already overlooked and overworked. I’m saying, take your flower and then look for someone who might need your mother’s heart: a pure heart, a wise heart, a heart ready to love the motherless.
No more debate and volleys about what pastors should and shouldn’t do this Sunday. Give a flower to all. Be a mother to someone without one.
As best you can.
As God gives strength and love.
And He will.