Mother’s Day is coming up. Despite the sentiment attached to it, this can be a complicated day, bringing up grief if your mother has died and mixed feelings of all sorts. No mother is perfect, and some are a lot less than perfect. Mother-child relationships can be complicated, wonderful, excruciating, and growth-producing, even in adulthood
This Mother’s Day I have a suggestion: Find a challenge you are facing in your ministry and ask your mother’s advice. Why would I suggest that? For most of us, our mothers gave us the first lessons on who we are. As spiritual leaders, we are continuing to develop that “self” day by day and year by year. Asking your mother for advice is a way of going back to the source in our own growth and development.
You may say, My mother is gone, or she has dementia, or we don’t have much of a relationship, or she’s not a church person.
Try it anyway. On one level, it doesn’t matter whether or not she gives you useful advice. You are connecting with her in a different way. Some mothers will like this better than a card or flowers.
You may be surprised by what she says, or she may say exactly what you predicted. It may be valuable or not for the real problem at hand. Yet whatever the result, I predict you will be less anxious and clearer after the conversation than you were before. Sometimes people say, “I don’t want her to worry.” One of the valuable purposes of the older generation is to carry the anxieties of the younger. They’ve seen more than we have, and have a longer perspective. It won’t kill her.
Take this on as a research project, and be curious about how she responds. If you don’t like her advice, don’t argue. Just say thank you. Then reflect—is there an element of truth in it? Could you adapt it to make it workable?
One pastor asked his mother what to do about a challenging woman in his congregation—not coincidentally, someone much like his mother. She told him not to take the woman so seriously, and to his surprise, the next time he saw the woman, he felt much lighter about it.
You can do this exercise even of your mother is gone or isn’t able to have a conversation. Try simply having a paper conversation. I recommend you write by hand, and alternate between your questions and thoughts, and what you imagine your mother might say to you. Trust me: you’ve got an internalized mother in there. Set a timer for 10 minutes, use pen and paper ideally, and go! My mother died in 2011, but I did this writing exercise myself this week about a challenging conversation I need to have with some colleagues, and it helped me get clearer and calmer.
What’s a question you could ask your mother? Comment below and let me know.