My secret nemesis was the mother-daughter banquet. For years that was the time I felt most lonely, left out and stripped of identity. It wasn't that I had not acquired the status of "Mother." I had two perfectly healthy, lively boys at home and the pastor-husband to go with. But whenever the women's ministry leader decided to do mother-daughter banquets, I felt like hiding under the nearest pew. Never did I feel my motherless state so acutely. My mother had been killed in a house fire that destroyed our home when I was thirteen. Just the idea of a mother-daughter banquet invited that "I don't belong here" thought that just wouldn't leave and bitter tears wouldn't wash away.
Don't mistake me. I always cheerfully appeared, that smile carefully pasted on my face with no sign of distress. Probably anyone who knows me and reads this will gasp in surprise. As Christian leaders we cover our wounds so well. I never voiced objection to the idea and never proposed alternative plans. I don't think I could have maintained my composure and done so. I arrived with a smile, sometimes delivered the devotion, and left heavy-hearted still smiling, only to cry myself silently to sleep at night. Even my husband was unaware of my pain.
But God never fails us. In the years since, God has blessed me with two daughter-in-laws, both lovely in very different ways. The frosting on the cake was the arrival of my two granddaughters. I seldom feel crushed by the need of a mother these days. God has promoted me to the position of Grandmother, and I'm loving it.
However, I'm much more aware of those hidden burdens women carry, particularly those in ministry. Loneliness is more profound in festive company.