Confessions of a New Mother from a Seasoned Mother
Over the past few days, I have been thinking about this weekend as a day we celebrate mothers and I decided to share a prayer/sermon that I wrote shortly after becoming a mother nearly twenty-five years ago.
The whole celebration of Mothers’ Day can be loaded. There is a societal obligation to celebrate that day with the understanding that the more we do or give or spend on our mothers the more they will know how deep our love is for them. This is not true. There are mothers who really don’t want to be mothers. There are women who really want to be mothers, but aren’t. I know a little about that agony as it took us five years and the help of fertility drugs to become parents. There are woman who are not our “real” mothers, but offer such maternal blessings in our lives that we cannot imagine life without them.
I offer this prayer/sermon, from years ago, to remind us all of the ways that God seeks to reach out to us to love and bless us and offer us grace.
Confessions of a New Mother
Written originally in August 1991
II Samuel 18:24-33
This will be a summer that I will never forget. I am not sure that I knew exactly what I thought this time would be like, but I must confess that it has turned out to be rather surprising. As time for the baby to be born came closer and closer, I began to think about all the things that I did not want to neglect to teach my child. Somehow I thought that from the beginning I would be able to start making things about You clear to this child.
Even from the beginning this child would hear Bible stories and prayers and songs, so that as the child grew he or she would be sure to know you. Boy, was I wrong. Never before have I been so wrong. It is not me that can teach all there is to know about You to this baby. It is this baby that has much to teach me.
Ethan is a good name for this baby boy that has come into our lives. In the days of your wise King Solomon, Ethan was the right hand man of the King. He was wise, as well, and became known as the second wisest man in the land.
My Ethan has wisdom too. His wisdom has taught me so much that I am beginning to realize that there is so much more about you to learn and, joyfully, I look forward to that learning. Ethan has no idea that his wisdom has pushed me into a journey of wondering and of discovering how you must struggle with us and become frustrated with us and, all through it, love us. This journey has left me with some insights that I must share with you and so, O God, these are my confessions of a new mother.
I know that I will never forget that afternoon, my first full day home from the hospital. Ethan was sleeping in the cradle beside my bed. Suddenly, I started thinking about all the things that he will encounter or become aware of or confront in his life. I thought about the drugs that seem so rampant in our world and the crazy things that drugs make people do. So many of our violent crimes can be blamed on drugs. Ethan must never see that side of life, I thought.
I thought about all the dangers that have always seemed so far away from my life: automobile accidents, poisoning, swimming accidents. I remembered riding in the back of my grandfather’s pickup truck, when I was a child, with no protection whatsoever. Just the other day I heard of a child who fell out of the back of a pickup truck and was seriously injured. I can’t let Ethan ever do that; it’s too dangerous.
I thought about all the times that things have hurt me and I wondered what kinds of things will hurt him.
Then I started thinking about other children born, in this world, on June 20, 1991. Some of those children are starving now because they live in a part of the world where there is no food. Some of those children were born in Iraq, where their mothers endured their pregnancies in fear of bombings and in the fear of rulers and in fear of life. Some of those children do not have a safe place to live. The more I thought about these things, O God, the more I realized what a gift you have given and what a responsibility I have to help my Ethan know that he is your child, but so is the child that is starving and so is the child in Iraq and so is the child who doesn’t feel safe.
I remember tears falling down my face. They were tears of fear and tears of joy and tears of sadness, but they were not all my tears, O God. Some of them were your tears.
That day I began to see things a little from your perspective. I can’t protect Ethan from all the things in the world, but I want him to know that he can make a difference, no matter where he is, by caring for the people that come into his life.
You, O God, must sit by all of our cradles, each day, knowing that you can’t protect us from all the sorrow and sadness of this world. There are things that you don’t want us to see or do, but at the same time, you want us to know that the starving child, the child in Iraq, the child that doesn’t feel safe, and all the children of the world are all your children too. And just as I want Ethan too know that he can make a difference in someone’s life, you want us to know that we can make a difference in someone’s life.
I want Ethan to know that no matter how sad or frightening or frustrating life can be, he can always come to me. Isn’t that what you want too?
And then, O God, I must confess, that the very thing that was causing sadness and tears in my life, at that moment, brought with it a realization of who you are. I gathered all these feelings together, symbolically, in my arms and offered them to you. And then, I gathered my sleeping child in my arms and knew that the feelings I had as I sat by that cradle were feelings that you have each day as you live with us in this world. Through the tears I heard “Come to me all who are labored and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
Ethan did not stop with that day. O God. It seems that each day entices me further down that path of things he can teach me about you. The other day was a gleaming example.
During one of our nursing times, Ethan was not eating. He simply looked up at me with those big blue eyes and cried. Each time I tried to get him to eat he would start to cry. At first I thought that I was going to get so frustrated at him that I was going to get angry. So, I took several deep breaths and simply watched him.
I started thinking about why I was frustrated and, in a flash, I knew. For so long, throughout my pregnancy I thought about being able to nourish my baby and how I could furnish all the nourishment that he or she would need. When Ethan and I turned out to nurse fine together and he gained weight and I knew that he was healthy, I thought that we would do just fine. That day, my overwhelming feeling was that I had so much to give him, it was the best I could give him and he did not want it. I felt so sad and so disappointed. I didn’t want Ethan to go somewhere else for his nourishment.
What an insight, O God! You wait so long for us and you long to nourish us. I see this image of you waiting patiently for me, knowing that you have everything that I need to nourish my soul. And I look up at you with my big blue eyes and cry. I am hungry, but I don’t seem to want what you have to give me.
We are all like that, O God. You have so much to give us, everything we need—strength, guidance, love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, light, peace. But, there are always those times, sometimes more numerous than we would like to count, that you have just the right thing we need. Instead of taking it from you and becoming filled with the nourishment that we need, we cry. Oftentimes, we cry to you for the very thing we need, but we do not take it from you. Forgive us, O God.
Each day Ethan grows and changes and I wonder what I ever did without him. Do you ever wonder what you ever did without your children, O God?
When Ethan smiles at me, it is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. I smile at you sometimes, O God.
People tell me that Ethan looks like me. I look at Ethan and think, “yes, he does look a little like me.” Do I look anything like you, O God? Can people look at me and say, “She must be a child of God because she reflects the nature of God’s love.”
I look at Ethan and think that when the time comes, I will have a hard time giving him up to meet the hurts and disappointments and challenges of this world, but if there is any way that he can make a difference in this world, when the time comes, I will let him go, gladly.
O God, it must have been hard to send your son Jesus into this world to meet the hurts and disappointments that he felt. You knew what the world was like. You knew that he would meet challenges and fear and rejection. You knew that your son would face people who would want to kill him, but you must have gladly let him come to us because he has made such a difference in this world. He taught us to love each other and forgive one another. He taught us that the most important things in life are to love you and to love one another. He helped us to understand forgiveness and to accept the forgiveness that his death and resurrection brought to us. He made us all brothers and sisters.
My little boy had helped me to see you in ways that I have never seen you before. I have said, for a long time now, that you know our needs and wants and hurts, that the feelings we have in this life are feelings that you understand. I thought I believed it, but I confess that it was not until I started learning from Ethan that I really understood what I have been trying to tell people.
Forgive me, O God, and thank you for all the gifts that you give to us. Thank you for sending the world your son Jesus who through his life taught us and showed us about you and your love for us and your forgiveness for us, and, who through his death and resurrection brought to us eternal life.
Thank you for sending to me, my son, who has reminded me of who you are, and what your love feels like and what your forgiveness feels like and of eternal life with you.
I pray, O God, that what I have learned from my son will make a difference in my life so that I can make a difference for others. Amen.
To God alone be glory!
Ethan Aaron Rapking, then and now