The Mother’s Day choice

I’m guessing that moms and wives are the care givers in most situations, although I’m meeting more and more dads and husbands who life sets in that role. But I digress. Today is for honoring moms.

In one of those easy to pass over parts of the Bible, I bumped into

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. (Romans 16:13)

See, there’s two dimensions of motherhood going on in that little message. There’s giving birth. Rufus had a mom from whose body he was born. It’s majestic, but let’s face it, it’s not mysterious like it used to be. Dads are in the delivery room and cut the umbilical cord instead of pacing and smoking outside like in the old movies. Science and technology give us all kinds of in utero pictures. Rufus had a mom who gave him birth. We all have moms who gave birth to us.

We even have that corny new label, “baby mom.” It is used in a cutesy way but it’s also pretty dehumanizing. It’s all about the biological fact of having a baby, but goes out of its way to ignore any of what follows in terms of relationship to the kid (let alone the often absent “baby dad.”)

But then Paul, the guy who wrote that Bible verse, reveals that the woman who raised Rufus is “a mother to me as well.” He doesn’t spell that out, but we know that Paul was a grown man when he met Rufus & mom. He’s not talking about being adopted and raised from childhood – he’s honoring ways in which Rufus’ mom made his (Paul’s) life better.

That’s the dimension of mothering that goes beyond the drama of the delivery room. It’s the nurturing, encouraging, teaching, guiding and host of other noble qualities that a woman invests in those around her, whether or not they came from her body, and at all stages of life. It is a profound choice – I think that most birth moms go at the fullness of mothering with all of their might, but some (more and more today, I fear) retreat into the self and abandon it.

As a choice and a lifetime investment, motherhood is humanity’s icon of care giving. Yesterday our son had one of his seizures. By the time I got to him, Melissa had is head cradled on her lap. He was safe because his mother was there, caring for his adult body’s fragility just as she had carried him as a baby. A mother in every good sense of the word.

So a happy Mother’s Day, and, I pray, some respite and honor to all the woman out there who are invested in the care of others, whether they came to you by birth, choice or chance.

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