Culture challenge of the week: A loss of mother love
It wasn't the typical Mother's Day story.
The hidden agony of three young women in Cleveland came to an end when a neighbor heard Amanda Berry yelling and clawing behind the door that had imprisoned her and two others for more than a decade. The dramatic rescue and near-immediate arrest of the suspect, Ariel Castro, riveted the country. As the details began to trickle out, the world was stunned at how the women's captivity could have gone undetected for so long — at how they could have even endured such an ordeal.
One of the most poignant facts that would emerge is that kidnap victim Amanda Berry gave birth to a daughter, Jocelyn, during those hidden years. More than a few people have speculated that having a daughter may have given Amanda Berry the strength and courage to attempt to escape. We may never really know. But Amanda's love for, and pride in, her daughter are moving. She tells her grandmother, in a conversation captured by TV crews, "That's my daughter. Born on Christmas." Her grandmother couldn't stop her own tears.
I think Amanda's own mom would have known how she feels. Amanda's mom died of heart failure — some would say a broken heart — after years spent searching for her missing daughter. She never gave up, and now would be so proud to witness the triumph of her own daughter's powerful mother love — a love that surely fueled her will to live, and to live free.
"Mother love" is a powerful subtext, perhaps overlooked, in the larger story of the tragic kidnappings and the joyous rescue in Cleveland.
Sometimes the powerful story of "mother love" gets lost in our own lives too.
For most, our mother's love for us has been a quiet theme running through our lives, celebrating our triumphs and mourning our losses. Over the years, motherly love encourages our journey to adulthood, and then accepts and embraces the grown-up people we turn out to be.
It's expected, and we take it for granted. But it drives us and shapes us more than we acknowledge.
Of course, it doesn't help when our culture tends to minimize the value of a mother's love in pursuit of politically correct arguments. Proponents of gay marriage say children don't need "mothers" (or "fathers"), just generic "parents." Similarly, feminists minimize the value of a mother's day-to-day presence in shaping her child's heart, mind and soul — as if anyone could do it. And they urge mothers to ignore the heart's desire to spend more time with their children, in favor of "leaning into" ambition, pressing for that top bonus or corporate corner office as a sign of our worth.
We know better. Mothers matter. And a mother's love is like no other.
How to save your family: Appreciate the power of a mother's love
As we leave Mother's Day 2013, I pray that all moms will remember that the power of our love can be immense — it gives us strength to endure in hardships, the capacity to be sacrificial and generous, and the courage to fight to make things better. That love can give us the power to listen with wisdom and teach with kindness, if we will but let it. (See the Book of Proverbs, 31: 26-27.)
It's the power that can give us hope in the face of unfathomable evil.
A mother's love helps a child's dreams take wing and soar to new heights, with no pre-conditions of perfection or success. Sometimes, in fact, a mother's love overflows most when she binds up the wounds of her child's failure, mends a broken heart or rebuilds shattered confidence. A mother's deep love can "cover a multitude of sins," both her own and her children's.
The power of mother love, as Amanda Berry has shown, can even save one's own life. And that is the mystery of mother love: The more intense it is — and the more we freely give it away — the more it ends up making us better, more whole people. And often, it saves our own lives in more ways than we know.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosave yourfamily.com.