Maybe you’ve been asked this question by an inquiring young mind, “where do babies come from?” I remember first asking this question to my grandmother. I had chosen a good time to ask, after lunch but before the soaps, so she serenely sat me down on a Victorian couch and began to read to me from the book of Genesis out of the family bible.
Now I had never seen this bible before, it was massive and seemed like half my size. It had some pictures, but boring black and white ones. It was very old.
As a child, I had no idea what she was saying, and this Genesis reading from the King James version seemed more like a magic spell than anything else. She finished reading and looked up at me, and said, “well, there you have it!”
I didn’t feel that I had anything, but what she did next I can still remember. She opened the bible to a few pages towards the middle. She pointed to where there was handwriting and she said, “that’s my name…Frieda…This is my mother’s name…Minnie…that’s her mother…Mariah.” And then she turned the page and pointed to my name…and here’s Douglas, born a long long long time after my grandmother. Look at these pages…these are for the people who come after you.”
It is only in retrospect that I realize that although she was woefully unhelpful with regard to “sex ed,” she was incredibly helpful in the long run. How profound it is that we all connected biologically, organically, generationally. We come from one another. We all, in one way or another, come from our mothers and our fathers.
Mothers, as we all know, come in many different stripes and in many different sizes. There are, to be sure, good mothers, great mothers, loving mothers, stern mothers, pretty terrible mothers, mothers who have no children, mothers whose children have died, mothers who abandon, mothers who work, mothers who are overprotective, mothers who are men, mothers who are stressed and burned out, mothers who sacrifice everything for their children, mothers who die in childbirth, mothers who adopt, mothers, well, you get the point. The same can go for fathers, naturally.
Julian of Norwich, an English saint from the 14th century had a series of profound visions of God as she was seriously ill and expected to die in her convent room. She experienced God’s love to be like that of a mother, who for her was a model of mercy rather than wrath. I offer you this hymn text, based on her words and visions, that we sing, and that can be a meditation and prayer for us this weekend as we remember our mothers. They connect the mystery of life with the more encompassing mystery of creation and of a loving God.
Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, source of ev'ry breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.
Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace.
Mothering Spirit, nurt'ring one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flow'r, until I know.
However you celebrate or remember, grieve, or deal in your own way on Mother’s Day, we can all stand in awe at the incredible mystery of life and the radical reality that we all come from one another and are utterly dependent on one another and the God who gave us birth. And if anyone asks, this is where babies come from!
-- Douglas Barclay