A friend asked me a series of perplexing question in the midst of a conversation about a single, young woman and an unexpected pregnancy. She asked, “What do we say and how do we support a mother through and after pregnancy? What is our role? Should our mothering solely be for our own children or is there a greater responsibility to extend our grace beyond the boundaries of our homes?” She continued, “I guess it goes back to God being in and around everything and God’s love not being limited to just the human form of Jesus, but to all his children.”
On the surface her statements seemed obvious and the answers simplistic. However, very few things in life are what they seem to be on the surface. In our polarized, egocentric culture the responses to her ponderings could range on a continuum from casting the young pregnant woman out of her place in life because of her…ahem…’situation’ to eliminating the ‘problem’ with a host of equally deficient alternatives in between.
What remains is a young woman who has entered a place in life that she never expected to experience and isn’t prepared for. She is in the proverbial wilderness and needs someone to walk through it with her; to listen to her angst, worries, hopes and dreams for her baby; to coach her; to guide her; and ultimately to help her forge a path through unknown and uncomfortable territory. She needs someone to nurture her and help her to quickly mature into a woman who, in turn, can nurture, love, guide and do what is best for her child. She needs to be mothered so that she can become a mother.
Yes, yes!!! We can agree with the grandiose notion in those words…but, whose job is it?
A contemporary version of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar portrays Christ on the cross agonizingly begging, “Where is my mother?” That particular line doesn’t show up in the traditional Seven Last Words of Christ. I suppose it’s Hollywood’s spin on the traditional, “Woman, here is your son” entwined with an interpretation of Matthew 12 when the disciples tell Jesus his mother and brothers are looking for him. He responds with, “Who are my mother and brothers?” and “looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”’
You see, Jesus’ entire ministry can be defined as living as if God matters. Oh, we believe in God…but where are we when hard times come to others? They might be financial; health issues; relationships problems; a lost job; or a baby that wasn’t planned or expected coming to a young lady who is closer to being a child herself than to being a woman. The age old question is, “What would Jesus do?” Unfortunately, some religious agendas have hi-jacked the answer to force followers into behaviors that don’t necessarily represent the living example Christ modeled to us and for us leading us to the last week of his life…something we uncomfortably try to get through as we wait to celebrate the joy of Easter.
I have wondered for years why this time in the Liturgical year, Holy Week, is referred to as “Christ’s Passion”. Dying a humiliating, excruciating and brutal death never seemed like much of a passion to me. The passion is more clearly seen in the life of Jesus. This man…God incarnate…came to walk among us simply because “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) Every event, every story, every parable that we cherish about Jesus and his interactions with those around him tell the story over and over again. “God so loved…”, “God so loved”, “God so loved…” God and all that God created and loved mattered to Jesus enough that Jesus lived as if God mattered – even when it wasn’t convenient…to the point of death. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Do you see the connection? Jesus never budged from his conviction that God’s love mattered and because of that belief he never deviated from a life of loving all of God’s people…not even when his own life was on the line.
That kind of love is hard to understand. I truly believe that’s why it is so important to remember Christ’s love – or passion – for humanity each year during Holy Week. As we walk through the events of that final week of his life, we are reminded over and over again that not even the threat and reality of death could make Christ deviate from that love. “There is no greater love…”
I think about the words moaned from the cross in Jesus Christ Superstar. Who hasn’t hit the depths of despair and longed for someone to hold them, to nurture them, to console and love them – and tell them that everything will be alright? We all have times when we long for a mother – whether it is our biological mama or someone who can walk with, or carry, us through our ‘stuff’. The unfathomable response of humanity to Jesus’ love is beyond most of our understanding, yet his basic cry was heard. “Where is my mother?” Where is someone who loves me enough to do the will of God? Where is someone who can lighten my load, hold me, care for me, nurture me, soothe me? Where is my mother? Who is my mother?
That brings us back to our young woman and my friend’s questions. Who is her mother? And, when her child is born, who is that beautiful and innocent child’s mother? Is it simply a gene pool that is expected to care for him or her? Or, if we truly embrace the teaching exemplified through the life and passion of Jesus, do we need to also look in the mirror to see the answer? Is it enough that we see our neighbor’s child in need and hope someone is there for him? Or is the answer in how we response to that need? Can we simply listen, love, nurture, care for, hold, soothe, and lighten the load of someone who needs a mother? Or do we judge behaviors and choices that led to the problem? Or do we simply look the other way because, quite frankly, it isn’t our responsibility?
What would Jesus do? Exactly what he did throughout his life, including when he faced sentencing and death. His actions were motivated by love and compassion for those in need. They weren’t about what was socially acceptable, convenient or even what religious agendas would dictate. Ordinary love and compassion…nothing more and nothing less.
My friend is there to mother those whom she encounters who are in need. The young, expectant mother is lucky to know her!