I was holding him, uncomfortably, hoping that he wouldn't have one of his "spells" when he would stop breathing, his lips turn blue, and all we could do was hope. He was less than 6 months old and had a port for feeding when he couldn't get enough nutrition otherwise.
We were all young then and my friends' infant son was clinging on to life. The stress was immense and let to other issues for the family later. That infant is now in his mid-20s, still clinging to life - because life never gives in easily.
I was reminded recently that even though we live in a place where birth is viewed as routine, it never is. We have knowledge and technology that make it feel that way. We have medicines for reducing the pain and stress. But nearly any birth is only one event from turning into an emergency - and the outcomes are not always good.
It is worth keeping in mind that from the beginning of life on this planet there has been risk. Our creator put us here with no guarantees that we would live according to the restrictions placed on us that would guarantee living life in harmony with the rest of creation and the creator. And we didn't. It all should have ended right there, but it didn't. Our creator showed grace and mercy to us and allowed us to live, but now with a great deal of effort, pain, and risk.
We have been working from that day to this to make the effort, pain, and risk go away. It hasn't. Life is much easier than it was just a century ago - but life is still fragile. There is still risk involved in bringing new life into this world, and risk involved in moving from infancy to adulthood. There is challenge in engaging life with others. The hands we have all been dealt are not equal. Sometimes we forget that.
Sunday is Mothers' Day. It is worth remembering that all of us came into this world and there was risk involved. We all arrived helpless and none would have lived long without at least some nourishment and care. Today might be a day for flowers and a special meal for many of us, but honoring one's mother goes far beyond this one day.
The Proverbs in the Bible instructs us, "Hear, my son, your father's instruction and reject not your mother's teaching." (Prov. 1:8, RSV). And, "My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching." (Prov. 6:20). Listen to your mother and your father when they give good instruction.
Honoring one's mother goes beyond listening to her. What of those of us who no longer have or perhaps never had a mother to listen to? First, find people who will guide you in a good direction. Even at my age, I still seek out others to teach me. Second, honoring one's mother according to the Bible has less to do with the quality of our parents and more to do with the way we live our lives. Listen to Proverbs again, "A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother." (Prov. 10:1). This is followed by instructions on how to live life in such a way to cause others to say, "She must have had a wonderful mother." Following the wisdom of God creates blessing in generations before us as well as after us.
I began this by pointing out the risk involved in bringing new life into the world. There are places where there is still great risk. Imagine showing up to the hospital about to give birth and being rejected because you didn't bring the necessary medical and sanitary supplies. Imagine being in a place where the family was responsible for the food, changing the sheets, checking the I.V.s (if they are available), and pre-purchasing the medicines. I have a friend who is working with women in Uganda to provide "Mama kits."
Here is what she says, "A Mama Kit is an all-in-one kits that contains everything needed to help provide a clean and safe delivery. In order to give birth in most hospitals or clinics in Uganda, you must purchase all of the necessary supplies and bring them with you. Many of the women cannot buy the supplies, so they do not seek medical care, which often leads to complications and even death for the mothers and babies. A kit allows the women to give birth in a hospital or clinic. A mama kit greatly reduces the number of women dying during childbirth."
Let us find ways to help mothers who are in need this year. If you want more information about this project, please contact me and I will send you the information. I would also be happy to learn of others.
Let us honor those who took the risk to bring us into this world and may we use the blessing of life to help others.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.