A mom . . . a dad . . . approximately 2.5 children. Married, for life. Isn't that what we think a family is? Isn't that what the church has taught for decades, maybe centuries, at this point?
Maybe it's time to reconsider this definition. I'm not talking about changing our stance on same-sex marriage. I am talking about the fact that frequently the redeemed families God puts together look NOTHING like the definition of family we just mentioned.
It may be a single, elderly mother with a handful of African orphans living in her home. It could be a mom, a dad, a stepmom, and a stepdad - all who love Jesus and love their children and are earnestly working together today to raise their family to love Jesus and further His Kingdom. It could be grandparents raising their grandchildren because the parents are gone. It could be a husband and wife with three children of their own who graft in a single father and his young son desperately in need of the support of a larger family.
It could be a young teenager who found herself pregnant and placed her baby for adoption, a woman that chose to bring this baby - and the automatic, extended relationship with the birthmother - into her family, a father, and two more biological children that were God's surprises after the adoption.
We have so many families - of all shapes and sizes - around us. Yet, time and time again, our judgment is clouded by the preconceptions and biases we have towards a definition of family that may not even be reflected in our own home.
As we approach Mother's Day, we find the same thing applies to our definition of mothers. My young boys would probably define a mom as someone who gets married, has babies, and loves their family for the rest of her life. But there are others that would define mothers much, much differently. There are some who would define their "mother" as the woman who chose multiple men over her child. There are some whose definition of mother is the woman who stepped in when no one else was there - there may be no ties by blood or by marriage, but the ties of the heart and the interweaving of the lives leave no doubt of the relationship that exists. There are some mothers whose arms are empty this year because their children are no longer with them. Some of these mothers want children desperately and can not have them. Some of these mothers gave birth to a beautiful baby that was taken way too young. Some of these mothers chose to terminate their pregnancy and only now are they realizing how empty that has left them.
Some of these mothers made the best decision they could have made for their child, and they placed those babies in the arms of another mother who had prayed for, hoped for, and longed for that baby. Those brave mamas arms are empty too. There is a special place in their hearts that is empty, too. Unfortunately, the church has neglected these "moms" for a long time. We praise the idea of choosing life. We condemn the choice to end a pregnancy for convenience or out of fear. But we don't talk much about the women who find themselves pregnant and truly not in a position to raise a child well. We shy away from hard discussions about mothers who choose adoption. Our silence and avoidance imply condemnation, intentional or not. We shame the decision, and discourage others who might consider it because of this.
Why have we stuck our heads in the sand here? What is it that makes this topic, of all the topics we could avoid, one that seems so easy to ignore? Is it because these women don't fit into our definition of family? Is it easier to focus on the adoptive mother and father with their child and call that a "complete family"? Does it bother our box . . . our definition of family when we suddenly find ourselves with a second mother in the equation?
Today, I would ask you what is it that causes us, as the church, to push women to choose life but ignore an entire group of women who have chosen life for their child . . . and then made maybe the most difficult and most courageous choice a mother could ever make - to sacrifice her desire to keep that child by her side and instead do what is best for him by allowing him to be raised in a household where he has been wanted and prayed for, where he will be treasured and raised safely and securely, where he can learn of a God who had a plan for him long before his birth?
Maybe it is time for us to step up as the church and praise these women and their decision. I know these women. These women are brave. These women are tough. These women are anything but selfish. They are the definition of what a mother should be. Think about the environment in which these women have made this decision. It comes with a heavy cost of personal sacrifice. There is no one cheering them on; in fact, many will forget these women ever became mothers. When their belly no longer protrudes and their arms are empty, it will be easy for others to not see the stamp of "MOTHER" imprinted on their heart, but these moms, they don't ever forget. Those babies made them moms, and they remain moms for the rest of their lives. It doesn't matter whether they see the child regularly after the adoption, or never again - they will forever be that child's mother.
Isn't it time that we begin to make room for families with TWO mothers or TWO fathers or children who actually have another family but still have a need from this family that God has uniquely placed them in for a season? Can we break out of our rudimentary definitions of things in order to embrace what we see God doing in the people around us?
It seems that at times the church is too quick to condemn, vilify and question people who are simply doing what Christ has called the church to do. On Mother's Day, of all days, let us not be THAT kind of church, but let us embrace the moms, of all kinds, in our lives today.