Last Sunday our nation celebrated Mother’s day. For lots of folks, including me, it can be a complicated holiday. Every year, there’s this idea in my head of the ideal mom that the day celebrates. But I don’t measure up to this idealized person, and my mom doesn’t measure up to that image all the time either. I want to, but in being a human person, I fall short.
In this work of community development, we are always looking for the beautiful things that can arise in the midst of imperfection. In my day-to-day as the Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator, I think of God’s ancient promises of trading beauty for ashes, of making all things new. I remember the promise that God works through us. I remember the promise that we are able to help create flourishing, even on the days it doesn’t feel that way.
A day like Mother’s day can remind us that we’re living in the midst of that promise unfolding. We see glimpses of it, but it’s not all there yet! When I was thinking about this tension, it struck me that for those of us who don’t always feel like we measure up to the mother we want to be, the community developer we want to be, the friend we want to be, Mother’s day serves as an exercise to remember. Instead of getting down on myself for not meeting that bar, I see the gap as an echo of the comprehensive promise that God is unfolding around us and in us. We labor together to forge a flourishing community, a flourishing humanity and a flourishing identity.
I see our neighbors doing this work every other week during the Food Co-op we host in partnership with Urban Recipe. I think of one of our Co-op members, a senior who shows up week to week. She works hard to prepare equitable food boxes with the other participants. Her contagious laughter, convicting wisdom, and self-starting work faithfully demonstrates care for her neighbors. I think of another co-op neighbor whose house burned down, but she and her family are in a new South Atlanta property and ecstatic about it. Already, they’re planting flowers, nourishing life in their new home and blanketing it with warmth. These real women, with real challenges, faithfully participate in bringing that ancient promise of flourishing to reality in South Atlanta.
I can admit that I’m not always the person I want to be, the person I think should be celebrated on Mother’s Day. But I don’t need to be. If I can lift my eyes long enough, I see that the ancient promise still stands. God still has His image in me, just like I see His image in other people here in Historic South Atlanta. The woman l long to be and the restored community I long to see are both works in progress. It is my hope that the work which He started, He will bring to a glorious completion.
These images point us towards a greater hope. That hope isn’t found in me trying to fix anyone or putting on a great program. It’s found in mutual relationship; in me faithfully laboring in love to bring forth His comprehensive promise of the redemption of all things. When our efforts and intentions miss the mark, may it cause us to look up, remember and witness the great beauty we’re working towards, which is already being wrought in us.