The sacred dance: To the Rejoicing and Weeping on Mother’s Day

I remember, not even very long ago, when I didn’t understand why Mother’s Day had to be flavored with sad.

When church services and Facebook feeds paused for grief and remembered loss and honored the hurting, I resisted. I didn’t understand. Why did this sadness have to invade my happy day?

But then suffering would invade my life, and death would invade my womb, and isn’t this one of the strange gifts in trials? An understanding heart?

I come to Mother’s Days now wracked by loss, but oh, I have gained understanding.

And I look back and remember last Mother’s Day, when my husband was by his mother’s ICU bed, and I sat in church with a broken womb and half of my children sitting next to me and the other half in another dimension. And I cried through the whole service, and I’ll never forget the song of lament for the broken and how deeply and profoundly thankful I was for that recognition of the hurt that filled too many on Mother’s Day.

Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (ESV). But what if we are both? I find myself looking at Mother’s Day feeling completely torn. I have joy and thankfulness for my mother, my mother-in-law, and my two boys and foster daughter. Yet I weep that my mother-in-law’s body is suffering from ALS; I weep for the two children whom I’ve never held; I weep that my fertility is gone; I weep for the ways my foster daughter has been mistreated by the woman who can call her her mother.

How in all of this broken and beautiful world do we do both? We have the rejoicers and we have the mourners, but how are we simultaneously joyful and mournful?

“Mother’s Day is going to be hard,” I say it to the older lady on my porch over tea while my boys play in the yard. My 6 year old stops quick, he seemed too far away to be able to hear me, but I’m wrong, and he looks perplexed. “No it’s not!” He’s so confused, and reminds me of the presents and plans they’ve made for me with daddy, and I assure him, oh yes, Mother’s Day will be great with you! Mommy was talking about something else.

And I try my hardest to continue to shield him from my sadness invading his happy day for me.

“Something else”- isn’t that how I often cope? By compartmentalizing and dividing and separating. This over here, that there. Hurt in one place, happy there; and body, soul, mind, and spirit all compartmentalized until I can make an equation of it all, formulate it all away.

But tomorrow won’t let me do that. Tomorrow the true unison of full self will be fully felt, and I will see beauty and feel joy and my eyes will blur over with tears and my heart will wrench from loss.

And in some ways I’ll feel all out of place, as there will be many who- like I used to be- will be caught up in a carefree and fully happy day; and others who will be in complete and utter mourning. And I’ll find myself unable to identify with the rejoicers or the mourners as I simultaneously can claim both and so cannot claim either.

And when I find myself there, standing in the gap between those two worlds, I’ll remind myself- I’m not alone, in this sacred dance of grief and joy. I’ll think of so many of you who understand this strange paradox, as you celebrate yet also weep your pain points on Mother’s Day.

You, who have pain for your mothers- who have passed away, who battle disease, whose minds can no longer remember you; or who abandoned you, mistreated you, misrepresented motherhood to you.

You, who have pain for your children- died too young; wracked with illness; prodigal children who have yet to turn back home; foster children who you had to give back and miss, or still hold through the storms of the system.

You, who have pain for your barrenness- infertility mocking you, withholding motherhood from you, robbing Mother’s Day for you.

And yet you also rejoice- a pain point of someone else’s is a joy to you. Mothers to love and be grateful for, children to hold and celebrate.

In one hand the joy, in the other the searing.

How do we do both? On Mother’s Day, can we rejoice and weep with the weeping rejoicer?

Yes, though it’s a sacred, divine dance. But it’s the only way, the only way to a healthy, honest Mother’s Day. It’s exactly what we see in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…” and it’s by looking to Him- because isn’t He Himself always rejoicing and always weeping?

He sees it all, bears it all, looks across the whole universe’s spectrum and He’s always in the gap, right there with us. He’s never just rejoicing, because He always sees each scar, and yet He cannot only mourn because He also sees it all. And each piece of splendor and beauty fits into the puzzle with the jagged edges invading each other as they fit together into His perfect masterpiece.

So as you stand in the gap, look to Him, and know that in this way you are revealing that you are made in the image of God, as you rejoice and weep and defy all logic by simultaneously doing both.

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