I was talking with a friend the other day and she asked to broach a sensitive topic with me, but feared my reaction. Taken aback, I feared what it could possibly be. As a somewhat private introvert I wasn’t sure what topic it could be, but breathed a sigh of relief when she said, “Mother’s Day is coming up…and I didn’t know how you felt about that…is that day hard?”
As someone (like many all over the globe) who has buried their precious mother, her question was fair.
I gave a brief answer, chronicling the last seven Mother’s Days I’ve walked through without my mom, and mostly just noting the day is mostly just a tough one. It’s blended with the deep bitterness of loss but also the delightful sweetness of a great mother’s love. But the question started me thinking and reflecting and I thought I’d put some of these thoughts together as both a catharsis to grief and an encouragement to Christian moms who may struggle; not from the point of view from a mother, but rather just an adoring daughter.
To anyone who didn’t know my mother, Karla Shelton, she was by any account an incredible woman of faith and devotion to the God who graciously saved her. But in saying that I also want you to know what her own words were as the day of her impending death drew closer, “don’t paint me out to be better than I was”. My mother knew that it is the custom of the bereaved to gloss over the rougher places of their life and instead only talk about the best parts – giving a lopsided view into who they truly were. One of those attributes she always wanted highlighted was her weakness.
The Power of Her Weakness
We live in a world where weakness says, “though you feel weak, you are enough”. That sounds empowering, but is it biblical?
When I think back through what made my momma extraordinary, it’s never been her strength that left it’s greatest impression. It was always her weakness. And in the 28 years I had with her, I saw plenty of it.
I saw her in her hurts and heartaches that come with raising a family as she imperfectly labored together with my imperfect father.
I heard her prayers at the dinner table where she would express the hardships of her day and ask God to give strength and wisdom before we ate the evening meal.
I watched her study, prepare and pray for her Sunday School class because she knew it couldn’t be poured from an empty cup.
I watched her fully face a devastating cancer diagnosis, knowing full well this would not end the way any of us wanted.
I watched her ask a wig specialist if she would help her shave her head for her because she knew it was something none of us had the strength to do.
I watched her become fluent in cancer-ese with words like: port, paracentesis and prognosis.
I watched her wither to a mere 90lbs soaking wet, get on her knees every night near her bed to pray because it had long been her practice well before cancer.
Because my weak mother knew what God said about weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” She knew every ounce of this was going to, in ways we didn’t always like or understand, put the power of Christ on display and rest upon us. And rest, we did.
Weakness Makes Us a Worshipper
Here we see Paul in deep, deep suffering. We can’t merely gloss over this and the world’s remedy of “enough” won’t work here. The stake that Paul describes has been sent right into his side by God and for Paul’s good and every ounce of this puts God’s grace on display. It forces Paul to lean fully on God and to rest deeply in God being exactly who He says He is. And when we rest, rely and watch God it moves our hearts to worship. It turns us into worshippers. Why else would Paul and Silas be moved to singing in that jail? Their dire circumstances placed them deeply in the grace of God and they worshipped. The deepest water produces the deepest worship and it’s all because of God’s marvelous, matchless, amazing grace.
My mother didn’t have “delighted in worship” etched into her headstone because she merely loved music. It was because great weakness brought about the greatest worship.
I can’t speak as a mother, but I can speak as a child. I needed to see my mother’s weakness and how she rested on the goodness of God so that when I would walk through death’s dark valleys I knew the surest place to go for weak people – the Word.