As mother day approaches, this year will be different for me. I am adopted, I have been as long as I can remember, but this past year a trip to Korea changed a lot of things. Being adopted, Mother’s day always had a strange feeling to it. I was grateful (and still am) for the mother who raised me, the only woman I have ever called mom. She made unbelievable sacrifices on my behalf and loved me very much. But I also knew there was a real possibility that there was another woman walking around that deliberately chose to forgo that right. She, whoever “she” is, preferred not to raise me, for whatever reasons or circumstances a single person can conjure and imagine.
During my recent trip to Korea, I had discovered some strange things. You would think, at almost 40, a person might know simple things like their name or their birth date or even where they were born. As it turns out none of the things I thought I knew were true. Without going into the boring details, my parents (the real ones, the ones who adopted me and raised me) were told I was left at an orphanage on the stairs with a paper that gave me a name and a date of birth. In my mind this was a sentimental act on my birth mother’s part. She left me by the door, where my first cries were sure to be heard. She cared enough to name me and give me limited knowledge of who I was. She wanted to leave a small fingerprint of herself on me. At very least it was a courtesy. Did I read too much into these simple acts, perhaps? The truth is I was not left with a birth date. I was not left with a name. I didn’t really have a name till I was adopted. I was given a designation, “gate in the road”, the place I was abandoned. For the first eight months of my life, I was the baby left at the gate in the road.
In the past, every year at mother’s day I would begin thinking of my biological mother. Where was she? Surely, if she cared enough to name me, she thinks of me on my birthday (whenever that is) and even on Mother’s day. This year I have come to the very harsh reality that she may never think of me. It is a very real possibility that I am a family’s “skeleton in the closet” or point of shame (and those are the respectful terms). I have come to terms with being adopted a long time ago. I have trouble with the seeming coolness, with which I was left. It is difficult to know that someone tried to rid themselves of you, and perhaps never looked back. I am left with contrived images of a baby left in the streets in the dead of winter in the middle of the night, because this is what in all likelihood happened. It is not lovely, but it is realistic. This Mother’s Day bring with it a heaviness I have never known before.
We often associate parental abandonment and neglect with fathers, the father who never took responsibility or who never engaged, a sadly common story. Forgive me, but this never bothered me. I have a heavenly father. His images are large and prominent in scripture. I am aware that most references to the Godhead part of the trinity are masculine, but God is neither feminine nor masculine. God is neither male nor female. God transcends gender and has the best of feminine and masculine traits. As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit in Greek is feminine. (Jesus is clearly male, duh) Mark 23 and Luke 13 refer to God as a hen gathering her chicks: a female protecting and loving her young, offering her body as protection for her precious children. For some reason, this Mother’s day I need that image of God.
I cannot imagine that I am the only person whose relationship with her matriarch is less than ideal, quite the contrary. So I offer to the church this thought. Consider people like me this Sunday. Remember those whose mothers have passed away and people who wanted to be Mother’s but never could be. Think of mother’s whose children have grown and gone and go home to an empty house with great anticipation of a special phone call later that day. Think of women who have relinquished children for adoption, remember those children too. Pray for single moms and mom’s who work outside of the home. Acknowledge people who never knew their mother and women who are step-mothers. Remember the child whose mother is a drug addict, a common street prostitute and think upon their mother too. Pray for women who are raising children who are not their own and remember women who have lost their children to tragedy and suffered the terrible burden of burying their own children… and so many more that I did not mention. May God bless us all in some small way this Sunday.