No one mentioned the barren in church this year on Mother’s Day. Interesting how the barren can be so easily forgotten—so effortlessly passed over. But we don’t forget, do we? We don’t forget the weeks and months and years of trying to conceive. We don’t forget the outside-looking-in feelings every time we see a growing abdomen or attend a baby shower or pass by the darling infant clothes and toys and strollers and . . . .
It’s hard to conceive a life with no conception. We smile as we attend the baby showers for others and we sign the cards and offer the gifts with hearts full for someone else and broken for ourselves. We listen as other women chat on and on about their babies and their growing children and their labor and their deliveries and their breast-feeding. Don’t they know? Don’t they know how it hurts to be on the outside—to not know what they’re talking about—to not experience what they’ve experienced?
But do we have to experience conception and growing bodies and birthing babies in order to be fully Woman? Can we be fully Mother when we mother other mothers’ children?
I sat in church and listened to our pastor talk about knowing our mother’s background—knowing our mother’s generational history in order to really know and understand our mothers. And I thought—I wonder if my kids sitting here are thinking about me right now—the woman who has mothered them for 15 years—or if they’re thinking about the woman who conceived them and birthed them—the mothers they’ve never known. Am I the only one that feels this split? Or does it just come with the territory of adoption—knowing you’re not the only mother—the one and only? But what is mothering anyway?
I knew my mother and I knew her history. I understood why she was thorny and why she was sweet. I loved her for mothering me well in some ways and I did a lot of work to love her and forgive her for not mothering me well in other ways. My main work was in coming to know Christ and letting Him give me His eyes and heart for my mom. And a large part of coming to love my mother as Christ loves her was letting go of needing her to be something she wasn’t—the perfect mother. A large part of coming to love my mother as Christ loves my mother was letting Jesus fill my mother-holes with other mothers. He arranged my adoption, a number of times. God gave me mothers to mother me where the mother who birthed me couldn’t mother me. Now that’s a mouthful–and a mind-full!
In this life of barrenness and adoption I’ve come to embrace, I’ve learned a hard but important lesson. Mothering isn’t just about body conceiving and growing and giving life. Mothering is more about mind and heart and soul conceiving and growing and giving life.
The best mothering can come from adopted mothers—those who love as God loves—those who will go the distance even when the cross bears down and we feel like we can’t take one more step—those who will bleed out all they have and gasp for another breath just to hang on—all for the sake of those she loves—even those who did not come out of her body.
To the one who really loves, it doesn’t matter so much how we come into the world. It matters more that we’re here and that we all need loving, don’t we? We all need a mother’s love and a father’s love, don’t we? And when we will finally let go of having to have life work out just the way we want it—when we finally let go of having to have life be just the way we think it should be—that’s when we can turn to God with empty and open hands, ready to receive all He wants to give.
It is God’s will for us to be loved to the full. It is His will that we look to Him and love Him with all we are and all we have. It is His will that we open fully to Him and receive everything He is—to become like Him.
If we want to be fulfilled as a mother, we need to seek the Father who can mother us better than any mother on earth. And He often does so through adoption—giving us mothers and fathers who haven’t conceived us but who have given us just what we need to grow up and be filled with good things like love and joy. He gives us others who can love us well so that we can turn around and love others well. In all this loving, as He loves, we expand the kingdom of God right here on earth.
So, here’s to all of us who adopt others—however adoption occurs—and seek to love others as God loves us. And here’s to all of us who will allow some special person into our hearts to offer what our biological parents can’t or won’t. And here’s to all of us who will learn about the kingdom of God and its abundance of good just waiting for any heart, soul, and mind who even tries to conceive of God’s great goodness.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him–but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10