I am not sure the North American church in general does the right thing on Mother's Day or Father's Day. Then again, I don't always attend church on these feel-good holidays because frankly, they don't make me feel so good.
As a 38-year-old woman who married in her mid-30s, my biological clock ticks on and my womb and arms remain empty, at least for now. I focus on seminary, and ministry, and family, and friends, and work, but I haven't given up hope on the fertility front. I am in that awkward in-between place, where I get asked if I want kids while women everywhere suddenly seem to sprout baby bumps.
Ironically, I will preach my first church sermon this year on the day we celebrate moms. Not only will I enter the church doors, but I will be the Mother's Day sermon-giver, the one who helps celebrate the amazing women who give us life. In my personal journey, this is a turning point that can only be accomplished through the God of all comfort, who indeed comforts me in all my troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3). I will be leading from an area of open woundedness. At some point in your leadership story–no matter what it might look like–you will, too.
My heart-wrenching questions have driven me to God's Word for answers about a woman's identity–and my brokenness has led to some transforming discoveries. Our heavenly Father does not glorify marriage and motherhood as the primary goal of every woman. These are noble pursuits, yes, but they don't define us in God's eyes. Instead, each woman is his image-bearer representative in this world (Genesis 1-2); she is appointed as an ezer–the Hebrew word used for Eve that means strong helper, warrior, and rescuer (Genesis 2:18); and finally, she is set free to love God with all her heart and to obey him, no matter what her station in life. How amazing to think my empty arms give me an opportunity to encourage infertile women, singles, empty nesters, and every woman who feels sidelined somehow. Yes, even mothers! These truths make me smile despite the tears and recast my years of infertility in an entirely different light.
Second Corinthians 1:4 says we will comfort those in "any trouble" with the comfort we have already received in "all our troubles," This tells me two things about the wounded leader. First, God's comfort extends to her, no matter her struggle–grief, infertility, loneliness, health, battling addiction, you name it–nothing is beyond God's reach and restoration. And second, it doesn't matter what your trouble is, it's transferable–it exists so you can comfort others in all sorts of trouble. Understanding these truths, I've been asking God exactly how he wants to use my pain as a platform that allows his comfort to overflow.