Moms Teach Us What It Means To Have A Friend In The Valley

Moms Teach Us What It Means To Have A Friend In The Valley

The closest thing we have to God and God's sacrifice and forsakenness of his son in Jesus Christ are our mothers in those moments, and sometimes the femininity in Christianity is ignored and overlooked, but after all, it was women who first found the biggest miracle in the world: the resurrection.

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan
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This Mother's Day is weird, and it feels different from the rest. It's the first one I'm celebrating with faith as my stronghold, and it's the first one I'm celebrating with my mother in a couple of years where I'll actually be within her presence. This year was one in which almost every part of my values system and identity were tested in a manner I didn't think possible before, and to be with the core of the person who made that identity in the first place is a valuable experience.

Being with my mom this Mother's Day, for the first time in four years, teaches me that the suffering I travailed in my valley of the shadow of death, cited in Psalms 23, wasn't unnatural, wasn't wrong, but the plan for God. God guided me and led me the entire time. Phrases from Psalms 23:1 and Psalms 23:4 are perhaps the most famous in Biblical literature: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want" and "I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." But often, Psalms 23 is misinterpreted as a verse for how to numb pain and escape from the valley in a misguided interpretation of theology. No, Psalms 23 might not make life better, but it may change us in how we confront life.

I was fortunate in having a good mother, a great one, and in my opinion the best in the world. But it's important, at the same time, to recognize that Mother's Day is a day of pain and anguish for a lot of people. Some people, on Mother's Day, are reminded of traumas, deaths, or absences that make them walk through the valley. But I can only speak to my experiences in realizing I'm the luckiest person in the world, and I hope that everyone in this world has found a maternal figure that has fulfilled that obligation in a manner their mothers possibly couldn't.

I watched a sermon by Margaret Reynolds of Grace Midtown, in which she spread the message that the joy of Psalms is not in withdrawing and escaping from the valley, but confronting it full-force with strength. And what gives us that strength is the "with-ness" of God and God's gifts of unconditional love, particularly our mothers when they are with us through our storms and struggles. The true story of what defines and charts our lives is not when we try to escape the valley, but when we are deep in the valley, wondering whether God truly has given up on us.

When we are suffering, the important thing is that our mothers are also suffering in anguish for us, as much, if not even more than we are. The closest thing we have to God and God's sacrifice and forsakenness of his son in Jesus Christ are our mothers in those moments, and sometimes the femininity in Christianity is ignored and overlooked, but after all, it was women who first found the biggest miracle in the world: the resurrection.

In Allison Woodard's moving poem, "God Our Mother," she states that "to be a Mother is to suffer." I know of this firsthand, that the suffering of my mother was profound in acting upon me and my brother's measure -- the multiple jobs and sleepless nights she endured to make sure we had food on our plates were things we always neglected and underappreciated.

"To be a mother is to...[be] subjected to indignities for the sake of new life," and although this connection may be obvious, I wonder what my mother could have been or done in her life, independently, and could have been had it not been for how much she had to take care of myself and my brother. She is the one who told the world and told our family, in response to the world's primal hunger, "this is my body, take and eat," because the cruelty of the world ate at her body and all she did in response was suffer and endure it.

"To be a Mother is to...offer the...assurances of 'I'm here,'" and if I didn't know you were here and always here for me this whole time, I don't know where I'd be. I don't think I would be alive, and I don't think my brother would be either, so thank you so much for everything you did for us. "To be a mother...[is to] long for reconciliation and brotherly love," and I wish your frustrations from all those years of us getting into spats and fights were worth it because we have a bond that is unshakable now.

And to be a mother, mom, for you, is to "gather all parties...and to whisper in their ears/ that they are Beloved," because that's what you've always told me in my times of desperation and need. And to be a mother is to be "vulnerable --/ To be misunderstood,/ Rallied against,/ Blamed," and that's what you have always been to me and to us, when we didn't give you the benefit of the doubt on minor things like dishes or the right way to merge onto a highway. You were the just the target for "the angst [we] feel/ over [our] own existence/ in this perplexing universe."

And to be a mother "is to be an artist/ A keeper of memories past." In the past, mom, I had frustrations over how many photos you would keep and hoard of me and Raymond, of seemingly terrible and unuseful photos of us framed on the doors. You are "a Mender of broken creations/ And Comforter of the distraught children." You are the mender and the comforter of my struggles and my life, whether I realize it or not, and to that I pray for your continued good health and peace.

You are a "Bestower of names,/ Influencer of identities;/ Life giver/ Life shaper,/ Empath,/ Healer,/ and/ Original Love," and in what I'm struggling through right now, mom, you are what has taught me what it means to have a friend through the valley.

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An Open Letter To The Fatherless Girl On Father's Day

So this father's day, be proud of the person you are and still try your hardest to celebrate.

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Father's Day, it comes around every year. It is a nationally celebrated holiday and people plan parties surrounding this day, but some do not think about those who do not have a dad. Maybe you have an estranged relationship, maybe he walked out, maybe you guys are fighting, maybe you never met him, or maybe he passed away. It will be okay. Trust me, this will be my eleventh Father's Day without a dad, and yes they have gotten easier.

My dad passed away back in 2008, so I strive everyday to make him proud and even though he is not here I will still celebrate him on Father's Day. He was the dad that every little girl would want.

For those who lost their dad's, this is for you:

Live each day for him, celebrate him on Father's Day. For however long he was in your life, he shaped you into the person that you are today. Yes there is now a piece of you missing on this day and everyone wants to post a picture of their dad and makes you miss yours even more. But celebrate him, celebrate his life, celebrate his legacy. But it also a celebration for all the father figures that came into your life to help you grow up and give that advice that you needed to hear.

But I also understand that not everyone has a great relationship with their dad, so this is for you:

Celebrate those who have helped you get to where you are today. Life can't be perfect and just know whatever your situation may be, it made you stronger. It taught you to fight for what you want. It taught you to be independent and strong. Celebrate with your friend's dad who probably helped you in a time when you really needed it.

There might be some jealousy as you see people posting and talking about gifts they are getting for their dad. I get it, but just know it will be okay and this is only one day out of the whole year. But also do not forget to thank to all of the father figures that helped throughout the years. So this father's day, be proud of the person you are and still try your hardest to celebrate.

Cover Image Credit:

Jordyn

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We Need To Stop Treating Arranged Marriages Like Business Deals

We need to stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

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When I was thirteen years old, I spent my summer break at my cousin sister's place. She spilled steaming hot tea all over her thigh leaving a huge burn scar. The first thing my aunt said to her was "What would your future husband think about that scar? You should have been more careful." My cousin was just fourteen.

Growing up, we are made to believe that marriage is the most important thing in a woman's life and is going to be her biggest achievement. I thought it was hideous how we were made to believe this and pressurized to get married in fear of what society would think until I realized just how hideous the process of an arranged marriage itself is.

According to an IPSOS survey conducted in 2013, 74% of Indian marriages are arranged. Being the youngest sibling and cousin, I watched a lot of my older family members and relatives getting arranged marriages. Having spent most of my life in India, I have witnessed no other marriages than arranged marriages. It is funny to me how people have a checklist of superficial expectations like stereotypical beauty standards and unrealistic salary expectations. From publishing ads like "In search of a slim, tall, fair, very beautiful, homely girl who knows how to cook and sew" in the newspaper, the process of finding a groom or bride through an arranged marriage couldn't be more misogynistic and sexist.

Surrounded by all this, I penned down a poem in hope that we would stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

I

The glass bangles on her wrist jingled as she placed a plate of laddoos in front of the guests,

She wondered if this was the family that would finally pass her parents' tests.

"Oh! She is as fair as milk" the boy's mother exclaimed,

Her cheeks flushed to the color of scarlet under her dupatta as trained.

"He is too short" to her mother, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

II

When no suitable match was found, the search was still profound.

"Hush," the girl's mother whispered "Don't tell them about the burn on the leg of the bride"

"What man will marry her once he finds?"

Another man arrived, tall, fair, and handsome- he was perfect,

Except that huge mole on his cheek which left him imperfect.

"The mole doesn't complement his face" to her aunt, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

III

Still no luck in finding a groom,

Her father placed a matrimonial ad.

"Searching for a suitable groom, engineer or doctor, 25, fair, slim, vegetarian, no disabilities" the ad read,

The ad was published in multiple newspapers so that she could finally be wed.

Another boy arrived, but this time the tables turned,

"What? She can't cook?" the boy's mother was left concerned

"Oh, what a shame" to his parents' she didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

IV

When everything had been tried, a Jyotish was consulted,

Vastu remedies for delay in marriage he suggested.

"Fast for sixteen consecutive days, the kitchen shouldn't be in the southwest."

Yet another boy arrived, tall, fair, slim, no moles- he seemed the best,

With everything from their checklist of expectations checked, everyone seemed to be impressed.

"But his earnings are so less," her father was left depressed.

To nobody he appealed,

The deal still wasn't sealed.

V

The number of grooms decreased as her age increased,

The girl walked in with a plate of laddoos, but this time from the southeast.

"Oh my god, the bride can't cook," the boy's mother noticed,

Thankfully the burn on her leg went unnoticed.

Double the dowry was demanded,

Her father's savings made sure the groom's family didn't leave empty-handed,

The girl's mother approved the boy, so did her mother's mother,

And her uncle, his wife, and their daughter

Even to the distant relatives, he appealed,

The deal was finally sealed.

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