Motherly care in family court and everywhere

On Friday I went with a friend to court. She was nervous about having to be in the same room with her ex-husband, who had been abusive during the marriage. The whole reason for her needing to go to court seemed absurd and unjust to me, and I was praying that Truth, God, would reveal what the judge needed to see so that my friend could move forward with her life without the apparent attempts of her ex-husband to hold her back.


Thank goodness this judge was wise, fair, and compassionate. She dismissed the case, which is exactly what seemed most appropriate to me given the circumstances. I was grateful to see another example of divine justice prevailing, another proof of God’s sovereign power and tender care. I was also inspired by my friend’s courage and strength as she stood in the courtroom and faced the judge with grace and confidence despite the discomfort of the situation.


But going to family court is never fun. Having been there a few times before, I’ve realized how challenging it can be to hear what others are facing in the cases that come before the judge in that setting. Prior to my friend’s hearing, there were a couple other cases that made us both concerned for those involved. One woman was asking to remove a restraining order against the father of her children. At first I thought that sounded positive. But when the judge asked the woman whether this was a wise choice, given the father’s history of angry outbursts as recorded on court records, my friend looked over at me and winced at the thought of this woman potentially compromising her and her children’s safety. The next case was a woman who was asking to renew a restraining order against the father of her daughter for as long as possible because she feared being in his presence. Not easy to hear.


Another case was a couple seeking to finalize their divorce, having written up an agreement they both had signed. Again, on the surface that seemed promising compared to other divorce cases where proceedings can be so complex and inharmonious. But the soon to be ex-wife was visibly upset, wiping tears from her face. I was so grateful when the judge, after asking some legally required questions, acknowledged the woman’s feelings. “This is difficult, isn’t it?” she noted, and the woman nodded her head.


The judge was expressing motherly caring in her demeanor. Not something we might often expect to see in a courtroom, but here it was so needed, and it was poignant to witness. On this day when we celebrate mothers, I found my thoughts turning to those women in the courtroom and many others, including my friend, who have experienced or are experiencing extreme challenges stemming from abuse, poverty, and pain. I also thought of the fathers in these situations, many of whom have perpetrated violence as a result of the things they themselves witnessed as children. What do they most need? Mothering love. And sometimes that can only come from God.


As with so many of the ills that appear prevalent in society, there aren’t easy answers for these issues. But as I consider the hymns we sang in church this morning that refer to motherhood, I find myself trusting and holding to the promise that there are simple answers. Not easy, but simple. Sometimes the most complex seeming problems require the simplest answers. One hymn, number 232 in the Christian Science Hymnal, starts with this verse:


O Love, our Mother, ever near,

To Thee we turn from doubt and fear!

In perfect peace our thoughts abide;

Our hearts now in this truth confide:

Man is the child of God.


For those who appear to have been victimized, it is comforting to know that there is a Mother who brings perfect peace to any situation. For those who have engaged in abusive behavior, there is a Mother who still claims them as Her own and can redeem them through Her unfailing love.


We also sang the beautiful poem by Mary Baker Eddy entitled Mother’s Evening Prayer (hymn 207). The whole thing is so stirring, such a powerful message of God’s ever-present care and protection, beginning with these words:


O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;

O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,

Thou Love that guards the nestling’s faltering flight!

Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.


As we go to bed on this Mothers Day, and perhaps every night, if we think of it, we might pray this prayer for parents and children everywhere, affirming that nothing can resist or disturb that gentle presence or rob anyone of that peace and power that is their divine right as a child of God. That gentle presence can be manifested tangibly even in the most unexpected places, as it was in that courtroom on Friday. Thank God for the courageous mothers everywhere who reflect God’s love as they care for their children, even in the most harrowing circumstances. God will never leave them comfortless, as promised in John 14:18. May we find opportunities to embody that motherly comfort ourselves, regardless of whether we have our own children or even whether we are female. And in our difficult moments, may we not forget "Love, our Mother, ever near".