In the Cayman Islands, where I grew up, Mother’s Day is the biggest church day of the year. Not Easter, not Christmas. Mother’s Day! Growing up, our church was standing room only on Mother’s Day. Pews were squashed full, chairs placed at the ends in the aisle, people crowded to stand at the back. If you didn’t get there early enough, you didn’t get somewhere to sit. Everyone turned out to honor Mom. The church board also chose a female member of our congregation to honor as Mother of the Year, so her family from all over the island (and sometimes from overseas) would pack in to pay tribute to her publicly. My own mother was honored one year and I was so proud of her, though I half felt sorry for her, as I know how Marmee hates a public fuss. Still, Mother’s Day was an opportunity for people to honor their mothers in the ways they felt possible and meaningful, namely being in church.
The Cayman Islands has been, historically and culturally, a strongly matriarchal society, meaning that women have often been the head of the household. In the older days, men would go to work on sailing vessels to support their families back on the islands. My own maternal grandfather worked as a galley chef on a merchant ship, gone from home for months at a time. The absence of these male family figures left mothers, grandmothers, and aunts in charge of the family. Mothers took care of the home, the children, discipline, their academic education, and their spiritual cultivation. Everyone knew everyone and every other person was family, so you didn’t get away with anything without it reaching your mother’s ears before you even knew someone had seen you misbehave.
Mothers have been the cornerstone of Cayman Islands’ society and culture for generations and remain so even now. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers have been the keepers of the old arts and skills such as brush broom making and thatch rope plaiting. Great-grandmothers still sweep their sand gardens and woe be unto you if you step in that sand after it’s been swept clean and neat. Grandmothers’ recipes are passed down to mothers and daughters and granddaughters, filling comfort food for Sundays, homecomings, celebrations, or days when it is sorely needed and, somehow, that fact is just known. These are the treasures still passed on from mother to daughter and they are precious indeed.
When I was a teenager, my high school teacher did a month’s devotions on the book of Proverbs. We went through a chapter a day and, in that month, I discovered a lasting love for this Old Testament book. I also found a profound respect for and desire to be a Proverbs 31 woman. In my mind, the women I grew up with in the Cayman Islands – my mother and grandmother primarily – have always personified the Proverbs 31 woman: the woman who did it all. The woman who did everything, who was everything (wife, mother, breadwinner, counselor, coach, spiritual rock, etc.), and who balanced everything. I am NOT an “everything” woman. I know and acknowledge that I cannot do everything. The truth is, neither could they nor did they. I came to realize that they did everything they could but they still needed help. So, I thought, what hope did I have of becoming a Proverbs 31 woman, the ultimate Godly design? Even now, at 32 years old and having become a mother myself, I still periodically have that thought. I am not a Pinterest mother who makes meals fit for recipe books or cute snacks or crafts worthy of going viral on Instagram or Twitter. Nope, that’s not me.
Then, the other day, Proverbs 31 Ministries (I know, ironic, right?), their Facebook page posted this quote from speaker Tony Evans: “The Proverbs 31 woman is not the model of a perfect woman. She is the model of a committed woman under God.” The Proverbs 31 mother is not the perfect mother; she is a mother committed under God to the welfare and care of her children, committed to loving them unconditionally. The Proverbs 31 wife is not the perfect woman in pearls and high heels with an immaculate house. She is the wife who faithfully prays over her husband, is his partner, listens to his frustrations, and shares in his triumphs and sorrows, and shares her own with him in turn. The Proverbs 31 teacher is not the perfect teacher; she is the teacher committed under God to the education and healthy social and emotional development of her students. The Proverbs 31 woman is not the perfect woman. Let me say that again: she is NOT the perfect woman. You do not have to be the perfect woman or girl. I do not have to be the perfect woman. What makes us the women and girls that God created us to be is our commitment to Him and His word, our lives lived according to His commandments. God has called us to love Him with all we have and to love others. These are our two most important commandments, above everything else. He has also given us each specific gifts with which to show that love, to our family and to others. Whether that gift is cooking, driving, writing letters, playing music, helping with homework, keeping everything organized and tidy, or whatever else, we are all women who can be used of God if we will commit ourselves and our lives to Him.
Mothers, we are here to guide our children, love and support our significant others, and buoy up those in our lives. Is it easy? No, not easy. Hardly ever easy. But little that is good and worthwhile in this life ever is. We honor you this weekend, Mothers, and we thank God for you. You are enough. Just as you are. For God, and definitely for us. Happy Mother’s Day!