Many mothers around the world will be festively celebrated this coming special Sunday held in their honour. Celebrations will range from flowers and hand-made cards to burnt toast and juice served in bed! Some will have more solemn celebrations taking place in care facilities or at gravesites.
You may feel, as I used to, that this day is particularly difficult. I’m talking about those of us who may have recently lost a mother, or through various life experiences feel childless, neglected, or abused. Mother’s Day can be sad and even painful.
Yet, I had an experience that showed me that the qualities of mother-love transcend what we see and feel physically. It is the closest thing I have felt to the enduring love of the divine. Love, God, is unseen yet can have an uplifting and healing effect on a sad and lonely heart.
In my late 30’s, my mother and my mother-in-law, both cherished people in my life, passed away within days of each other. I reeled from grief. I felt orphaned – bereft of the unconditional love that both these women expressed toward me.
Although their funeral services were very different – one Christian, one Jewish – a common Bible verse shared, shone a light in my sad heart: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I [God] comfort you.” (Isa.66:13) Was God going to mother me?
The answer to this question became more and more necessary, for over the next few months, I started to feel incapacitating chest pains, to the point I often had to decline participation in any activity. I accredited this to missing the loving comfort of my mother and mother-in-law; one might say I was experiencing heartbreak. My brother, also feeling the loss of our mother, told me he was experiencing similar symptoms and he was taking a prescription medication to ease his suffering.
One day, it occurred to me that I should prayerfully explore that Biblical passage from Isaiah to see if it might bring an answer to where comfort would come from now that these women were no longer with me. As I prayed, I realized that if I was to understand God better as “one who could comfort me”, then I had to better understand the infinite and eternal nature of God as mother-love – constant and consistent.
I reasoned that the qualities expressed by these two women – love, comfort, gentleness, joy and selflessness – were not personal possessions they had, but rather attributes they expressed naturally as children of God. And, if the source was divine, the comfort and love could never be lost because spiritual qualities are eternal, constant and reliable.
In his many healing works, Jesus proved that understanding God as love had immediate and practical effects. He likened it to the “kingdom of heaven at hand” or “within us”. My growing understanding of God’s love had the power to bring my human experience more in line with the kingdom of God. I saw more clearly how those around me – a husband, friends and neighbours – were often expressing those same loving qualities.
My sense of God’s love for me, the “kingdom within”, grew and the chest pains disappeared completely. And better still, over the years, this understanding of God’s infinite mother-love has enabled me to offer compassion and comfort to others.
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) was a well-known theologian and healer, whose years of trial and tribulation motivated her to seek out a spiritual source of health and well-being. In her study of the Bible and Jesus words and works, she glimpsed what she came to refer to as the “Science of the Christ”. Eddy described the unbreakable correlation of a loving God to His beloved creation in her seminal work, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, this way: “Love [God], the divine Principle, is the Father and the Mother of the universe, including man.” (p.256)
So, whether it is a time when we feel grief or separation, or joy and celebration, an infinite source of mother-love, our divine Parent, is here to comfort and strengthen us on Mother’s Day and every other day.
This article appears in Metroland Media online editions throughout Ontario, such as Mississauga News.