I am a vicar’s wife who has avoided church on the same day every year.
I love Jesus and I know he loves me, but for seven years I have not attended church on Mothering Sunday because I believed it was the one day I didn’t belong there.
Six miscarriages, six very big unanswered prayers and a deep grief swallowing my soul led me to believe I had no right to be in church on the day of the daffodil.
So instead of turning up and plastering a fake smile on my face like every other Sunday, I deliberately chose to do something else. Not attending church isn’t exactly the most radical act I’ve ever committed but my decision to stay at home on Mothering Sunday was far more significant to me and my faith than it may have appeared from the outside.
Until I became an outsider, a misfit, the carrier of a story that didn’t fit within the Christian or societal norm I’d never given much thought to those who might struggle to attend church or those who deliberately choose to stay away, but grief changed me.
At first I thought I was the only person to skip church when it hurt too much. But when I started to share my story I realised I wasn’t alone. Every year there are people all over the country who decide not to go to church on Mothering Sunday (and other Sundays) because they believe their story doesn’t belong there. I know the history of Mothering Sunday, I know it has nothing to do with fertility or daffodils but it doesn’t make the day any less painful and it often doesn’t seem to have much impact on the message preached by churches either.
Instead, every year, those grieving the loss of a mother, those living through the struggle of infertility, those who’ve lost children, those who are single and long to be married with a family, and those who were hurt by or never met their mothers won’t be at church on Mothering Sunday. Somehow, over the years the church has created and sustained a tradition that isolates those who are grieving.
Mothering Sunday is historically seen as an opportunity to celebrate and of course the Church should celebrate but I don’t believe joy should trump grief, nor the celebration of the majority ignore the pain of the minority. The church is called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn throughout the year and not just on special occasions.
Our culture is one of the worst in history at expressing grief and articulating struggle but I believe the Church has a gift to offer our communities in providing them the space to grieve as well as rejoice. In fact I am more convinced of the good news of the gospel than ever because of what the eternal story of God and his people has taught me about grief and lament as well as joy and gratitude.
We need space in our Christian communities to embrace the bittersweet stories we all carry with us throughout this life, space to breathe, space to acknowledge grief before rushing into joy, space to kneel before the king and pour out our hearts, space to share our stories.
I will go to church this Sunday, not because I’ve had a change of heart; Mothering Sunday still sucks and I’m still scared of the message preached on greetings cards and from pulpits and what it might say about my worth. But I will go because Christ has opened up the Kingdom of Heaven to the outsider, the misfit, the grieving, the childless, the orphan and also to me.