Several years ago my daughter, who was then around the age of ten, frighteningly became the focus of an irrational woman's public agitation. As she physically moved in an aggressive manner towards my completely innocent daughter, I responded without thinking, putting my body between her and my daughter. I was firm, my voice was clear, and I stood my ground until the woman settled down.
Once removed from the situation, my young daughter took a deep breath and said, “Darn, Mom, am I glad you are my side!” Never get in the way of a mama bear who loves her cub!
I get my inspiration from another mother found in the Biblical book of Matthew. She is known as the “Canaanite woman,” a term specifically meant to convey that she is an outsider, a Gentile (read “heathen”), one not of the Jewish faith, someone with whom good Jews were forbidden to even speak.
The story goes something like this:
The mother has a very sick daughter and, in desperation, seeks out a Rabbi whom she has heard can work miracles, even heal the sick...raise the dead, even! He is called Jesus. This desperate, but determined Canaanite mother, at risk to her own safety, goes right up to Jesus and audaciously asks him to heal her child.
Jesus responds, “Woman, I have not come for your people. I am here only for the Jews.” But this mama bear says right back, “Jesus, even the dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall from the table.” And Jesus replies to her, “Woman, great is your love for your daughter…and your faith. Go on home, and you will find your daughter well and waiting for you.”
Such a beautiful story of inclusivity, perseverance, and love! God, through this outcast Gentile woman, reminded Jesus that God’s love and grace and help is available for everyone who asks and invites God in…no matter who you are! Risking her own life, because of her faith and selfless love for her daughter, this mother saved her daughter.
No one loves like the love of a mother/parent!
I have been reading lately about another mother named Harriet Beecher Stowe. Here in Galesburg we know her as the sister of the Rev. Edward Beecher, who taught at Knox College, and served at what is now Central Congregational Church through the Civil War and beyond.
At a young age, Harriet, while living in Cincinnati, saw for the first time the inhumane evils of slavery as children were ripped from their parents at the auction block. This, combined with her heartache over the death of her own eighteen-month-old son, found her deep faith calling her to action.
She felt a deep need to do something to change the injustice she saw around her, expressing that need in the following manner: "Having experienced losing someone so close to me, I can sympathize with all the poor, powerless slaves at the unjust auctions. You will always be in my heart Samuel Charles Stowe.”
In 1850, Stowe wrote to Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the weekly anti-slavery journal The National Era, that she planned to write a story about the problem of slavery: "I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak... I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”
No one loves like the love of a mother/parent!
Harriet did write what became Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the rest, as we say, is history. Or maybe we should say, the right side of history. It is so easy for us to look back with our 21st century eyes and say, “What is the big deal? Everyone knows that chattel slavery is absolutely wrong. The idea of one human being owning another is insidious!” But everyone did not know that back then. In fact, until 1865 chattel slavery virtually drove the economy for entirety of the United States! And slavery was the law in 2/3rds of it!
In her day, Harriet Beecher Stowe, along with many others abolitionists, were called fanatics, radicals, lunatics, and anti-American, and those are only the names I can use here. They were threatened, their homes ransacked, and as in the case of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy, were murdered for trying to print an abolitionist newspaper. These brave folks fought on despite how they were referred to in the press, and their lives were at risk, for they knew they were on the right side of history.
Friends, I am grateful for the mothers (parents) of the past who persisted in the name of what is morally right, and I am reminded here in this moment that we, too, are history in the making. As we see and listen to what is becoming “the norm” for us in our society, let us not play into the polarized and call our neighbor “the other.” Let us all ponder and reflect on where and how we want to participate, and what our true motivations for doing so are. And most of all, let us remember that in God’s eyes you and I -- even if we disagree -- are all beloved.
And no one loves us like the love of a mother/parent!
Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro is a United Methodist clergy from Galesburg.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.