This day, as most holidays on Facebook are, was one filled with persons generously celebrating and generously posting paeans to mothers: mothers who gave us birth, mothers who loved us unconditionally, mothers who continue to nurture us, mothers who have passed. There were songs of praises to mothers who were not biological, but who cared for us anyway. Posting abound of proud mothers sharing their children’s gifts—handmade gifts and gestures that swelled hearts—and there were even husbands boasting of their wives tender loving care for their brood. At church, even, the pastor sweetly said a prayers for all these kinds of mothers, and then included mothers who lost children and mothers who still want to be mothers, but who are still waiting. Between Facebook and church, I had occasion to think about every conceivable mother relationship in my world. There are other ones, I am sure, but the ones celebrated gave me occasion to reflect on mine own mother, who has passed, on my mother in law, who happily still lives, and my wife. Thank you for that opportunity to be reflective, to give praise, and to share gratitude. I love holidays, holy days, because they demand that we slow ourselves down and give thanks for our manifold blessings. Thank you, Mom, for the myriad sacrifices made on my behalf; thank you, Betsy, for loving me like a son; thank you, wife, for loving our children so much that they are poised to send love into the world, no matter what they do. They will succeed not only because of their will and their talents, but also, and maybe most important, because they know that they are loved. Mother’s Day, then, is a day to express and celebrate genuine love.
The sermon in church, as it often does, concerned love and guidance. The text of the sermon was based on John 10:1-10, Christ’s parable about his both being the shepherd and the gate, the leader and the actual path to salvation. The pastor did a beautiful job focusing on certain passages from the text, but what most resonated with me was his emphasis on the listening that occurs throughout the passage:
10 1 I assure you that whoever doesn’t enter into the sheep pen through the gate but climbs over the wall is a thief and an outlaw. 2 The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The guard at the gate opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger but will run away because they don’t know the stranger’s voice.” 6 Those who heard Jesus use this analogy didn’t understand what he was saying.
7 So Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.
The sheep know the right voice, know the true leader, and they will only follow that voice. As the pastor encourages us to listen not only with our ears, but also with our minds and our hearts, my mind wandered away east to Africa. I began listening for the voices of those 300 girls abducted from their school and wondering where was the shepherd to protect them? I began thinking about the Malaysian Flight and all the resources that we have spent seeking to find that plane, and I began wondering why we haven’t allocated more resources to this search. According to ABC News, “A team of U.S. experts has arrived in Nigeria to assist the government there in trying to rescue the girls. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said today the team consisted of law enforcement, intelligence and military experts who will use counter-terrorism efforts in Nigeria.” http://abcnews.go.com/International/now-nigerian-kidnapped-girls/story?id=23655838. Is that it? Is that all? Why are we not listening to the lost cries of these sheep who have been abducted?
I have seen several friends change their Facebook images to “Bring Back Our Girls” memes, and I have seen hundreds of tweets about the subject. I have even seen several famous and powerful women, such as Mrs. Michelle Obama, Mrs. Hilary Clinton, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, somberly look into the camera with a sign that says, “Bring Back Our Girls.” All the memes, tweets, and photographs move, but do they unite these girls with their mothers? I know that change is slow, but I cannot imagine why more people and governments are not rushing to Nigeria to offer aid. This abduction has been as jarring as a seismic earthquake, as devastating as a tsunami, and yet, it seems as if we are sitting on the sidelines holding up signs instead of stepping on to the field and saving these girls from a dark, evil, torturous man.
We have spent a full day praising and celebrating mothers, and I think that all of us would agree that we could and should spend the entire year praising mothers and women. We don’t. And it saddens me that the mothers of these girls have to live their days horrifically imagining what is happening to their daughters. I’ve heard that there is no pain that exceeds a parent losing a child. I can imagine that what these mothers are suffering through at present equals that pain, and all I ask is that we stop politicizing this issue and instead do something about it. We have millions of dollars to search for a plane in an ocean that is approximately 8 times the size of the United States, but what are we doing to assist a search for 300 Black girls in a country less than a 10th the size of the United States? We need more deeds and fewer words. I think that it is time that make the words of praise that we share for women real by doing what we can to rescue these girls. I think that we need to stop stealing into the enclosure and enter through the gate and be the shepherd and the way. Those girls need us now, and we need to be there for them. Reuniting those girls with their mothers would be a true expression of love.