Eve: Mother of All Living: a Mother’s Day examination
One of Eve’s titles was Mother of all living. So, on this day as we pay tribute to biological mothers, I wish to examine the first mortal mother: Eve.
What do we gain from understanding motherhood in terms of what God has called it? First, as mother of all living, Eve was given stewardship over the natural world with its vegetation and animals. She must have loved and cared for the living things because we do not hear she broke that commandment to care for the garden and the animals therein. This must been her initial exposure to motherhood in this mortal world for she did not conceive until after the fall. I wonder what she learned from her stewardship? Did she learn how animal mothers nurtured their young? Did she develop empathy that prepared her for caring for her own offspring? Eve, from accounts, was a new creature and did not seem to bring any knowledge, wisdom or experience with her to mortality. How could she have known how to fulfill her calling? Not by instinct as the animals are born with. So, Eve must have learned through practice and experience.
If we really consider Mother of All Living then it would follow that motherhood encompasses much more than reproduction. It seems to be, rather, a title; one that is earned or confirmed rather than ascribed. There seems to be throughout history those women defined as good or bad mothers. Bad mothers are those who precisely do not acquire the maternal priority of offspring over self. Wicked mothers do not feed, cloth, or nurture her children rather starve, beat and withhold affection from them. Good mothers on the other hand, act the opposite with taking measures of supreme personal sacrifice for the good of the child. The child’s interest surpasses her own. We love this slightly romanticized image of motherhood and even elevate it to the divine. Mother Mary (Virgin Mary) epitomizes this idealization of motherhood such that she is the role model instead of say, Eve. Yet Eve, in a way had more to love besides her flesh and blood. She had the world and all living organisms in it. Christ said that to love one’s own is not meritorious as even the sinners do such (Matt 5: 46).
Typical Mother’s Day church service will include many laudatory talks about mothers: one’s own or the mother of their personal nuclear family. Do not get me wrong; setting aside a day to acknowledge the sacrifice of good mothers is commendable. Yet, what about those women in the congregation who do not have or will never have children? What about the wicked mothers of childhood? For non-mothers, Mother’s Day can be very isolating and painful particularly when narrowly defined motherhood is glorified. Isaiah reminds us “more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife.” (Isaiah 5:1) From this we see that merely bearing children is not a marker of righteousness for such can quickly become self-righteousness.
Just these past few weeks on Facebook, encounters with co-religionist mothers dismissed others’ spiritual needs at church in favor of their own children’s ‘rights’. Those who do not meet their self-exalted status of motherhood are to stay away from sacrament meeting. What a selfish position and narrow understanding of motherhood. For, love is not a piece of finite pie. Love has no bounds or limitations. So, loving your neighbor and your neighbor’s children is a commandment intended to stretch our hearts.
Moreover, love should extend to non-humans as it does in the heart of God. Sometimes if seems as though mothers chant as spoiled children seeking their father’s attention: “my children are best!” Totally disregarding that God can and does love all his creations. This is the model we should follow. Yes, perhaps humans seem to be given greater divine tragectories IF they can imitate God’s nature–God’s capacity to love. Not only that, but he created a maternal role model who, despite her imperfections, showed us motherhood includes loving all living things. This, I believe, is the destiny of those who develop the divine capacity to love. Then God will confer the true title of Mother.