What is a Mom? At six years old, whatever ideas I’d developed in my young mind about motherhood were quickly thrown to the fire when my Mom, Shawn Todd, passed away of cancer on Mother’s Day in 1992. On a day set aside to honor Moms, I was mourning the loss of mine and contemplating how I could possibly replace her. Looking back, I now see that this cruel taste of irony was indeed my first step to the realization that motherhood is so much more than donated chromosomes. A Mom is a supporter. A comforter. A nurturer. When I lost those things, I began to understand just how valuable Moms really are.
Still, in a house with three males, I had a lot more to learn about Moms. God wasn’t finished impressing the magnitude of motherhood upon my young soul. Just a couple years later, whatever I thought I knew about Moms was quickly tested when a woman named Trisha married my father and moved into our house. Legally, she was my “stepmom.” But she definitely wasn’t my “real” Mom. Although my brother and I paid her a kind of motherly respect, she was by no means our “Mom,” whatever that word entailed. With a strange woman in the house now asking us to do chores and limiting our TV time and insisting that we do our homework, there were many nights when 5 simple words of retaliation could bring her to tears: “You’re not my real Mom!” It was our pain-filled silver bullet certain to find a wound in her heart. And we knew it. This new woman might have been a comforter in some sense, but she didn’t look like us. She didn’t act like us. She was a foreign invader. “Mom” wasn’t just a word; it was a privilege. And we weren’t handing it out lightly.
But love took down our walls and eased our pain. In reality, it wasn’t her years of coming home from a 9-5 job and cooking for our family that won our love. She didn’t command our respect by cleaning our house or helping us with our homework or tucking us into bed. Looking back, our new mother earned the title of “Mom” by kissing us goodnight underneath the 20×24 picture of our biological mother that hung over our beds….every single night. Without complaint and without conditions to her love. She earned the title of Mom not with dishes washed but with time spent and love given. A Mom is a self-sacrificing nurturer. A picture of a little Christ. Handing out love not with an expectation in return, but instead to see our joy in being loved.
Today when I watch my wife kiss our adopted twins goodnight after reading the Bible to them, their dark cheeks against her pale skin doesn’t make me question her motherhood. In fact, it does the opposite: I see someone who gladly gives her life to love and support two little image-bearers of God. That’s a Mom: not a DNA-donor, but a disciple-maker. Like everything else in my life, Jesus has completed my understanding of what a Mom should be. To the adopting Moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, and any woman willing to give her life to nurture a young soul, the Gospel of Jesus is our reminder that maternal love is grounded not in blood shared but in blood shed. Real moms love like Jesus and for Jesus and from Jesus. Happy Mother’s Day.