Have you ever spoken a word over and over so many times that it begins to sound funny and almost foreign? Well, single attention-grabbing words have been doing that to me lately – only instead of the word itself beginning to sound foreign, it’s the definition that is beginning to sound foreign.
Standing in line at the local Ace hardware, one can hardly miss the parallel row of greeting cards let alone leave them untouched. There are so many choices and naturally I always gravitate towards the comical ones. You know…the booger pickin’, funny dog face, goofy old lady kinds. On this particular day, however, it seemed every card vying for my attention had some variation of “mother” written on it. Not too many weeks before this, a different word began vying for my attention. That word was “love”.
I was questioning words; questioning titles. Asking, “What’s in a name,” so to speak. Sometimes words are thrown around so flippantly. Sometimes we settle for the superficial, twisted definition of a word when a deeper meaning could be just around the corner. Words are just words…technically. The word “mother” is just a title…technically. “Love” is just a four –letter word. “Teacher” is also just a word but look at the implicit meaning that James 3:1 presents and then let’s apply it to mothers:
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
If you will, try reading the scripture above replacing teachers and teach with mothers and mother. That right there is a load of implied responsibility, my friends. And mothers really are teachers. We should not consider parenting (fathers feel free to apply this to you also J) unless we are ready to fulfill the definition and not just the title. The title of “mother” is honorable and so incredibly sweet when it pours off the lips of your beloved child. That highly coveted word is a gift to the parent. The definition though…that is the parent’s gift to the child. When I become the embodiment of a mother I am gifting my child with what God intended for them. I am giving them the best of my best. I owe that to them and I owe it to God.
Because some words come with such huge implications and responsibilities we shouldn't be quick to strap ourselves with any word or title that by definition we are not willing to live up to. A big problem arises when we use them but don’t show them. What does it look like to show love? What does it look like to not show love? That was what I found myself pondering when I realized I had tossed the word around a lot one day.
Then I stood there in that line at Ace (it really is the place – in fact, I go there so often my google phone app thinks I work there) asking myself the same kinds of questions about the word “mother”. What does it look like to be a good one? What does it look like to fail the very definition? What is implied in the word? And most importantly, how can I keep from failing those who use that title synonymously with my name? I suddenly felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Mothering is a huge responsibility.
Never should it be enough to have the title of “mother”. As a momma, I have to strive to give life to that title. I have to relentlessly seek the honor in the title and the honor comes from being honorable in the parenting arena. It’s like being up to bat with the bases loaded for 18 years straight (and then some). The pressure is on and the batter has a duty to keep their head in the game. That glorious title means nothing if I haven’t exhibited the character, honesty, and integrity of a mother (teacher) while walking the path alongside my children. The title means nothing if I let my kids walk alone while I took a path I thought would be more fun or less work. The title is empty if I abandon my children when they need me most. As a parent, I would be completely dishonorable to take credit for being there for my child if I really hadn’t been. Amputating the definition from the title can still bring applause from outsiders but our children will always know the truth. What kind of mother would I be if I shamed my children into holding my unethical parenting secrets inside of them yet also asked them to bless me with the accolades that come with the title of being their “mother”? That would make me a mother who is content with appearances but lacking in application and elbow grease; a mother lacking in love. If I have brought more burden than blessings to my children, it wouldn’t matter if a million people congratulated me for being a “mother”…the truth would eventually shout itself from the rooftop of my relationship with my children.
We are wise to remember that actions speak louder than words and God expects us to be faithful to the children He chose for us. We are also wise to remember that when (not if) we fail at superbly defining our own motherhood, there are two words that can reset the relationship – both with our children and with God –
Both “mother” and “love” should be synonymous in raising our children. God didn’t give us children as personal bell hops whose assignment in our lives is to carry our past baggage plus whatever we may choose to add to their load along the way. We should instead really, actually, for real, be helping them carry their own load and not just taking credit for it.
Lord, let me be real. Let me be honest. Let me lighten the load on my children versus adding to it. Let me run my parenting race with fervor, knowing that my responsibility is to invest in and not withdraw from my children’s lives. Let me be a mother that is more concerned with the hard working, practical implications of my name than I am with just claiming the title and its accolades.