The month of May is a busy one for sure with so many end-of-the-year and seasonal activities. If the multitude of things we have going on is enough to stress us out, let alone the magnitude of so many of them. Because big events happen this month. And with big events come big emotions. Big moments. Big pressure.
These events can seem even bigger if we have young children, when every recital or game or ceremony is a first. They can seem bigger still if we have older children, most especially ones who may be graduating or enlisting or getting married, when every event is not only a big one but very often a last one.
Whether our events are firsts, lasts or everything in between, May fairly teems with milestones, and we want these milestones to be amazing—in the moment and in our memory.
What better way to memorialize these milestones than by capitalizing on the plenteous photo opportunities that accompany them?
And so we find ourselves reaching for cameras and phones to capture the importance and beauty and emotion of each big event, feeling the pressure to preserve every precious moment on film—or disk or cloud or whatever medium we have at hand.
Sometimes the pressure to preserve every moment is simply the obligation we feel to document the major occurrences in our lives and the lives of our family members. Sometimes it is the impulse to keep up with the Jones—and everyone else—on social media.
And sometimes—especially during big emotional milestone events—the pressure to preserve every moment is an attempt to make up for lost time and past mistakes, as though the more moments we can capture in the present, the more we can erase the negative aspects of the past and set the course for a brighter future.
It sounds like a silly notion, and it’s certainly an impossible task, but there is more truth to this inclination than we would like to admit.
We tend to equate maximizing the photo opportunities of milestone moments with making a strong finish to whatever life season we are in. We view our smiling photographs as proof that a smooth ending can somehow make up for the hard times, the bad days, the struggles, the stress, the angry words, the negative attitudes, and all of the baggage we’ve had to carry along the way.
In spite of the adverse effects we can sometimes experience from the pressure to preserve every moment, the pressure itself stems from a positive motivation: a desire to treasure for posterity the moments and milestones of our lives, an emotional response rooted close to the very heart of motherhood itself.
In Ecclesiastes 3: 11 Solomon asserts that God “has set eternity in the hearts of men.” We as mothers tend to feel the reality of this statement in different ways.
Very often the sense of eternity set in our hearts encourages us to think heaven-ward, of the everlasting home we will have in the presence of Christ. Other times that heart-felt sense of eternity can cause to look back and recall with fondness the places and faces we used to know.
But milestone moments tend to catch us somewhere in the middle. Big events so obviously encapsulate the intersection between past and future that we can’t help but be keenly aware of all of the things that led up to this point and of all the things that will be different hereafter. In our hearts it can feel like we are experiencing an entire lifetime in one moment, with the conflicting emotions and behaviors that go along with it.
So it seems kind of fitting that the statement about God setting eternity in the hearts of men shortly follows the well-known a-time-for-everything passage in which we see that there is, among many other things, “a time to keep and a time to throw away”; “a time to be silent and a time to speak”; “a time to mourn and a time to dance”; and “a time to weep and a time to laugh.”
Indeed, there is a time for everything, and at milestone moments of motherhood, that time is now—when we are very frequently doing all of these things at once: Laughing and crying; mourning and dancing; throwing out, keeping up, speaking, embracing, refraining.
A graduation is a good example of an event that is sure to bring on this onslaught of mixed emotions.
We laugh at graduations because we’re happy but also because we can’t do what we really want to do, which is to stand up in the middle of the all the pomp and circumstance of whatever event it is and scream, “Stop! You don’t understand. There’s been a mistake. Can’t you see that the poised young lady walking across the stage is very same baby girl who would not stop crying for months on end? Or that this strapping young man is really just a little boy who wants nothing more than to throw a ball back and forth in the yard day in and day out?
We cry at graduations because we’re happy and because we’re sad. And we are happy—happy for our children, happy for us, happy for getting this far, happy for everything. But we are sad too, for us and for them. Because, good or bad, the event marks an end of era. We can’t get it back and we can’t do it over.
Be it pre-school through graduate school, we cannot watch a graduation without knowing we are in a race against time. And since we can’t turn back the clock, we try to stop it, if only for an instant, one frame at a time. We want to make these big moments last a little longer, to store them up for later so we recall them in our minds as well as play them back in front our very eyes.
This desire to treasure up big moments of motherhood seems to be a natural one, perhaps even one that was shared by Mary, the mother of Christ. We are told twice, first in Luke 2:19 and then again in Luke 2:51, that Mary “treasured up all these things in her heart.”
While we are not specifically instructed on what exactly “all these things” were that Mary was treasuring up, we do know that both mentions of this emotional response on Mary’s part occurred in conjunction with milestone events: First, after Jesus’s birth, with the angels’ heraldic singing and the shepherds’ worshipful visit; then again about 12 years later after Jesus returned home with Mary and Joseph following His three-day layover at the temple in Jerusalem.
We do not have many details about these events or about Mary’s emotions concerning them. What we do know is that these events were big ones, significant enough to include in Scripture and to move Mary so deeply that she knew she would keep returning to them in her heart and mind.
The Scriptures in Luke 2 indicate a healthy internalization of all of the emotions, thoughts, and life changes that come with the major milestones in our lives as mothers. We can take comfort in the fact that Scripture provides this precedent of certain occasions feeling too big to process in the moment because it means that it is okay for us to feel that way sometimes too.
When those times do come, we can follow Mary’s example, taking note of series of events and the ways God is at work in them, pondering them and treasuring them up in our hearts.
And thanks to the technology of today, we can treasure them in our cloud drives and photo albums too.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil?
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.
• Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11 •
Click to read the previous posts in this Mom Under Pressure series: