By Miriam Won
The word ‘mother’ evokes in each person some kind of deep emotions. While some are filled with love and gratitude for our mothers, many others are filled with feelings like hurt, shame, loss, resentment, anger regret, or the constant reminder that you are never good enough.
Genesis chapters 12 – 16 introduce us to Sarai, who later becomes Sarah, wife of Abram. We meet a woman who desperately wants children but can't bear them, the pain of decisions made out of her control, and the great lengths she goes to in order to become a mother. But most of all, her story reveals the gentleness of God who saw her pain.
In Genesis 11:29-30, we learn that Sarai is married, barren, and late in her years. In a culture where a woman’s worth and identity were defined by whether or not she had children, it is easy to imagine how painful those circumstances were for Sarai. Having lived all her life seeing her peers get married and become mothers while carrying the weight of not being able to be one herself, how difficult her reality must have been. Every day without progress, every month when she learned that she was still not pregnant, every year that went by must have been a powerful and discouraging reminder of her deep pain.
Gen 11:31 goes on to speak of a decision her father-in-law, Terah, made to move Abram and Sarai away from their home, friends, and family. We are not privy to Sarai’s emotions, but it is easy to wonder if she might have been silently thankful for the opportunity to go somewhere where no one knew about her circumstances. Maybe she was relieved to have fewer people talking about her. As Sarai and Abram continue to move homes, encounter obstacles, and remain childless, we begin to get a picture of a woman who had deep inner longings, yet outwardly was expected to respond positively to decisions she had no control over. Decisions that profoundly impact her life.
In Genesis 16, to fulfill her deep longing for a child, Sarai directs her husband to sleep with Hagar, one of her maids. Abram agrees and Hagar falls pregnant, but as soon as the deed was done, Sarai’s deep insecurities cause her to lash out against Hagar. She so mistreats her that a pregnant Hagar would rather flee than live with Sarai. Even in Sarai’s attempt to take motherhood into her own hands, Sarai still ends up hurt and insecure, to the point of hurting others.
You might be thinking, “what a depressing blog to read in anticipation of Mother’s Day. Where is the joy in this story? Where is the warm and fuzzy?” But that is the point. Mother’s Day isn’t always warm and fuzzy for everyone. Sometimes it can be filled with immense pain. Maybe Mother’s Day reminds you of your inner battles or decisions made by a spouse and children that left you feeling out of control. Perhaps your relationship with your own mother is on shaky ground.
If Mother’s Day brings up emotions that are not the warm and fuzzy kind, may you be reminded that God sees you, just as he saw Sarai. He was present in all her circumstances and pain. He had plans and promises tucked away for Sarai from before the foundation of the world. She was not defined by her struggles, and neither are you. God took Sarai’s greatest pain and insecurity and turned them into her greatest strengths. He built his whole kingdom on her. God has plans for each of us. For all our past or present pain, for everything that was out of your control, on this day designed to highlight mothers, may you remember this simple truth: The Lord your God is with you, and HE rejoices over you with singing (Zeph. 3:1). And that is the joy in this story.