Men appeal for leniency as we honor our mothers

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Dear Mothers,

As usual, this Mother’s Day we offer confession and ask for leniency.

The “we” of this confession are men. You may have heard of us.

We are usually referred to as he or him, Adam, son, husband, dad, brother, chap, mate, or, among friends, baron. We are those persons most likely to wear the same clothes two days in a row and then expect you to wash those clothes. We are the people of whom a T-shirt was once made: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Remember us now?

Mother’s Day seems like a good time to come clean. Here is our confession: we know relatively little about motherhood. In fact, “relatively little” is being kind. But we come by this honestly. When one consults the Bible, it is clear that God calls our kind to decipher the plans for arks, clear the land of Amalekites, and topple Philistine giants. In other words, we have been busy.

We are still busy. Busy, busy, busy.

Of course, this is no excuse. Still, let me illustrate our honest ignorance.

We do not understand Moses’ mother. When the order comes down that all Hebrew boys are to be executed, she places him among the reeds and slips him into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter. Pharaoh’s daughter? Not exactly our Plan A (which would include cover fire and parachutes). We don’t sense, as she does, that force will not win. She knew it was a day for faith, not arms. It was a great leap of love. And we would have missed the moment.

We do not understand Ruth. Hers is the world of widow and foreigner. We do not appreciate the humiliation the young woman endures to work the edges of the field with the poor. We do not appreciate the threat she feels when working fields without male family members to protect her. Nor can we understand what it means to bank an entire future on the promises of a husband. We are men, and we distrust vulnerabilities, so the story would not have ended as wonderfully as it did (with a child) were it up to our self-protecting selves.

We do not understand Hannah. She is the one great with grief because she is childless. Her husband, letting male ignorance forever out of the bag, says to her: “Don’t I mean more to you than 10 sons?” (Never, ever ask that question, gentlemen.) We do not understand what it means to be created for life-bearing and bear no life. We do not understand her dogged, but misguided, sense of God’s rejection in her childlessness. Nor do we understand the deals mothers make with God, all at their own expense.

And we certainly do not understand Mary, the mother of Jesus. Only a woman was able to bear God’s Son, so a woman received the first invitation to the party. In true insider language, Mary “treasures all these things in her heart.” We have no idea what that means. There would be much to ponder: the visit of an angel, the boy’s anonymous childhood, miracles, doubt, and the slow death of her son by torture. We do not appreciate that she knew the man on the cross less as a Messiah than as a grown son. Most mysteriously, we cannot appreciate that God has Jesus’ mother with him at his birth as well as his death, and in a mother’s eyes there is something totally wrong and totally right about this.

No, the barons are on the outside looking in, ladies, and you’ll have to pardon our blank eyes and our rush to judgment with your children. You know our children as we never will. There, it’s been said. But, if the truth be known, this may speak far more to the gift of motherhood than our mistakes. Then again. ...

The Rev. Chris White, D.Min., is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Ky.