My mom makes quilts for all of her children, godchildren, nieces and nephews, and anyone else who needs a reminder that they are beloved and worthy of gentle-loving care. Each quilt requires months of dedication as she consults the recipient to perfect the colors and design. For my high school graduation, she cut up all of my old t-shirts from school and church events and then backed the whole quilt with denim to give it the weight of a hug. I was heartbroken when that quilt was stolen seven years later.
Now, I am eagerly waiting for my mom to finish a modified Linking Hearts quilt for me and my new husband. She’s now working on the border, where she is combining tiny red and orange squares into an undulating bargello pattern. Inside the border, two hearts link together, with a faint cross at the center of each heart and a darker cross in the middle of where the hearts link together. It reminds me that the core of my marriage is Christ and my and my husband’s commitment to each other, and the life we will have together will be surrounded by ups and downs that we won’t be able to predict or control.
If this issue of Mutuality were a quilt, I think it would have beautiful, undulating bargello crimson squares of anguish, with occasional bright blips of yellow ecstasy. Far too often, the church glosses over the emotional, physical, and spiritual crimson stains of motherhood in favor of focusing on the ecstatic yellows. But there is so much we can learn from the anguish. My hope is that this issue will help us all better understand how to define motherhood, embrace the motherly characteristics of God, dedicate time and resources to caring for all mothers, and invite mothers to speak.
What Makes a Mother?
The path to biological motherhood can be soul-wrenching. As many as 15 percent of couples struggle with infertility globally.1 Each year, an estimated 23 million miscarriages occur globally.2 What does the church say to the women whose bodies won’t let them give birth? The women who yearn to cry out in the pangs of childbirth and breastfeed an infant? In “I Am More Than a Mother,” Brenda-Lee Sasaki helps us understand the damage that is done when the church presents biological motherhood as the ultimate womanly identity.
Is God My Mother?
One of the beautiful truths that emerges when we explore the fullness of motherhood is the motherly language used to describe God throughout Scripture—and by theologians throughout history, as Mimi Haddad helps us see in “God’s Attributes in Mothers.” When we begin to recognize that motherhood isn’t relegated to only women who give birth, we can begin to truly explore the richness of motherhood. In four succinct stanzas, Kelly Pelton encourages all the daughters of God to mother the church.
Caring Better for Mothers
The way we treat pregnant women and mothers needs a lot of work. The church has historically failed to set an example of how best to help women—God’s image-bearers—flourish before, during, and after pregnancy. Mayzie Mayfield explores how Genesis teaches the church to care for mothers in “An Ethic of Sacredness and Justice.”
On a personal note, Sarah Ago shares her own story of debilitating nausea and lack of care from the church she served in “Pregnancy and the Pastorate,” plus seven ways churches can better support mothers. Then, speaking to the toxicity of patriarchal white church culture, Kristina Brown Button shares how her early experiences of motherhood were distorted by the very women from whom she expected kindness and mentorship in “Liberation in God’s Name.”
Let the Mothers Speak
The spiritual insights that mothers can give us are wildly absent from our daily conversations and our church pulpits. Preaching and teaching aren’t seen as inherently motherly traits. Remnants of patriarchal gender stereotypes relegate mothers to the nursery during worship and Sunday school during Bible study hour. We all need to hear “A Mother’s Sermon” with Lauren Blanco. We need to consider how our understanding of communion could be deepened if we view it through the lens of a breastfeeding mother with Juliann Bullock in “My Body, Broken for You.”
Now I invite you to wrap yourself in the quilt of motherhood. Let the undulating bargello squares of crimson anguish and yellow ecstasy teach you more about yourself, the mothers of the world, and God. Learn with me how to honor the varying embodied experiences of motherhood in all forms.
This article is from “Motherhood,” the Spring 2022 issue of Mutuality magazine. Read the full issue here.
- Weiyuan Cui, “Mother or Nothing: The Agony of Infertility,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 88 (2010): 881–82, doi:10.2471/BLT.10.01121.
- “Miscarriage: Worldwide Reform of Care Is Needed,” The Lancet 397, no. 10285 (2021): 1597, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00954-5.