Coming from a broken family, I know all too well of the hurt and anger that celebrations such as Father's Day can bring.
Going to church on Father's Day often means sitting through a service jam-packed with celebrations for Dads who love their kids and pursue godliness. For those of us whose fathers brought more harm than care, sitting through a service such as this brings to mind painful memories and grief about that which never was.
In contrast, having a loving, sacrificial mother prompts me to shower her with praises when the opportunity arises—namely Mother's Day. Godly parenting and persistence in difficulty should be honoured, upheld and celebrated in our churches.
Seeing both sides of the coin helps in reflecting on the different experiences of those in our churches. Mother's Day and Father's Day can be joyous for some, and painful for others.
Balancing both experiences
The church has a responsibility to love one another. Philippians chapter 2, verse 4 says, 'Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others'.
At the same time, the church has also been commanded to honour our parents. Deuteronomy chapter 5, verse 16 says, 'Honour your father and mother as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you'.
How, then, do we balance caring for one another in our hurting, while also celebrating and honouring good parenting?
It is possible to both celebrate with those who celebrate and mourn with those who mourn. However, it takes a bout of empathy and understanding from both sides.
Firstly, it takes a whole lot of courage for those who find days such as Mother's Day and Father's Day difficult to actually attend church on these days. Some feel as though celebrations have been shoved in their faces, whilst they are left to grieve, remaining unwelcome and feeling excluded.
For others, being amongst church family on special occasions such as this provides a great opportunity to be celebrated.
Some of us have come from families where our parents did not protect us or have our best interest in mind. Some of us have had countless unsuccessful attempts at becoming pregnant, with an unquenchable desire to become a mother or a father. Others may have been heartbroken by miscarriages. Some of us are no longer able to have a tangible relationship with our parents due to death and illness. For others, this may be due to proximity or imprisonment.
On the other hand, those who have had admirable parents may be bursting with thanksgiving. Those of us who have children may be overjoyed to have become parents. For some, this has been a celebration after many attempts at falling pregnant.
It is important and helpful that we acknowledge the diverse community in front of us as we gather together on days such as Mother's Day and Father's Day. Doing this is a vital part of showing people that they are loved and welcome in God's family, despite their varied experiences of the broken world around them.
Secondly, we want to consider how to celebrate godly parents in equivalence with caring for those who are mourning. The danger lies in praising the parents, and not the real saviour—Jesus.
If we can highlight that Jesus is King in both situations, whether having helpful or harmful parents, then we will take major strides forward in welcoming and loving those on both sides of the occasion.
Having Jesus as our King means that no matter how broken our world is, or our parents are, and no matter how good our parents are, Jesus is the one who makes us whole.
No parent is any more loved by Jesus because of their parenting and no parent who has failed is loved any less by Jesus because of their shortcomings. This is the beauty of the gospel.
Jesus is in the business of restoring and healing those who have failed their children and those who were failed as children. He shows grace to those who don't deserve it. We are all in the same boat. We all need Jesus' grace.
Do our celebrations need to be public?
Imagine attending a church on Mother's Day or Father's Day that didn't mention the special occasion at hand. Not only would it be awkward to hear no mention of an already publicised event, but we would be ignorant of those in our midst who have reason to celebrate events such as these.
Public celebration of godly parents is a helpful part of honouring those parents who seek to live life as followers of Jesus, inclusive of their heart attitudes in parenting.
We should continue to celebrate these events in our churches, while also standing alongside those who are broken and hurting for not having experiences to be celebrated.
God is present in both of these experiences, and in both his name is to be praised.
Sarah Young is completing her Masters in Clinical Psychology and loves spending time engaging with young people. She spends her spare time writing songs, running and going on adventures with her husband, James.
Sarah Young's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-young.html