When Does a Mother Quit Being a Mother?
Thinking about Jesus on the Cross with Elizabeth Rice Handford
One evening recently my daughter called me, and I knew at once from her voice that she was very sick. She’d had some complications from cataract surgery, and for two days she’d lain alone in her upstairs apartment, too sick to feed herself or phone for help.
I was afraid she had covid. She’d quarantined herself twice recently because two families she worked with had it, and one man had died. I had studied carefully (because I’m a mother) the protocols for taking care of a covid patient in my home, and I had on hand all the equipment I thought I might need. I knew the hazards, but I thought I could cope. So I called her son and asked him to bring her home to me.
She followed me blindly into the house, and I started to guide her to the guest room. I’d turned up the lights and the heat, put extra blankets to keep her warm, and thought she would be isolated enough.
But with her eyes closed, she whispered, “Mother, could I please just sleep with you in your bed tonight?”
She’d been in great pain, frightened, hungry, and alone. She didn’t need a guest bed or a Tylenol or chicken soup. She needed her mother’s arms, her mother’s voice, her mother’s care. Years before, when we’d adopted that dear child, I had contracted with the Lord that I would love her and take care of her as long as I lived. My little girl (well, she isn’t a girl anymore; she’s a grandmother!) needed me. So I answered her, “Of course you can, darling.” I took her into my bedroom and tucked her into my bed.
I had no guarantees that this would turn out well, but God was gracious. She did not have covid, nor was I infected.
When does a mother quit being a mother? Never. So when I think of that terrible day when Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” my heart protests. How it could be that Jesus’ Father, who is both holy and loving, turned His back on His only Son in His hour of greatest need? Why, oh why?
The answer is simple, and astonishing. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God gave us His beloved Son because He loved us, too, and He suffered truly as much as did His Son that horrific day on the cross. Jesus took on Himself all the putrid, vile and wicked sins of every human being on earth, so God, who is too holy to condone sin, had to turn His back on His Son, but it was with a broken heart. Isaiah 53:4,5 says,
Surely He [Jesus] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
What a blessed truth to remember this Easter season.