SBC Life Articles

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

It's May and time to reflect once again on that blessed genre of humanity called Motherhood. Mother is a word that many would like to forget. Single women often feel the word is too exclusive. Some career women often feel the word has a sense of limited success to it. And radical feminists feel it has a stone-age ring. I rather like the word myself, but then I'm a man, and if there's any word that ranks lower than the word mother with the above categories, it could be the word man. But pardon my gender a moment as I reflect on the idea of motherhood.

My mother has been gone for twenty years now, but I miss her much. She was a practical woman, who lived much of her life as a widow with nine children (I won't argue how practical it is for a woman to have nine kids, but in the 1930's it did not seem as impractical as it has since become). At any rate when you have nine little ones you learn to survive by trying to make up with creativity what you lack financially. Necessity is the Mother (there's that word again) of invention.

One of the creative games we often played was called Button, Button, Who's Got the Button. It was sort of like playing Old Maid without cards. We would have preferred Old Maid, but even a cheap deck could cost upwards of nineteen cents, and who had it to spare?

Mother would begin the game by hiding a small button between her hands. Then, holding her palms together in a "praying hands" position, she would pass her "praying hands" through each set of "praying hands" in our family circle. Somewhere as she moved around the circle, the button was deposited. Whoever felt the button slip into their own hands from hers, looked straight ahead with a stony countenance, so as to never let on they had just received it. When the circle was complete, Mother separated her hands and held them up, showing very clearly that she no longer had the button. Then she would say, "Button, button who's got the button?" In the attempt to ferret out the new button-holder, there were hours of motherly mirth.

Well, enough of reminiscences.

My mother, I must point out, gave to each of her nine children another button. I find this button a little harder to talk about, since it is usually linked with the word belly. The editors here at SBC LIFE would prefer I not just come right out and put the words belly and button together so I won't. Everybody has one, but the idea of talking about it is sometimes considered uncouth. Oh, occasionally the "innies" and "outies" fall into debating over which form is the most aesthetic. But such arguments are usually prosaic. There does seem to be a renewed interest in the button. More and more, some Hollywood bombshells feel a need to reduce their button size to Bikini proportions. Other Californians are piercing theirs … Ouch! And the Great Buddhas among new agers obscure theirs in the ghastly folds of their own happy obesity.

Ah, the glory of this common scar, this great universal button! Theologians have never resolved the issue of whether Adam had one or not, but we know for sure Cain and Abel had them. From Adam onward through history there is a single umbilical line, tying the human race together. All are marked with this great trans-millennial scar.

Six billion people in the world: six billion scars! All have the button. Yes, even radical feminists have the scar! To be on the planet is to wear the mark. Everybody has the mark, but mothers, well, mothers view their own children's umbilical scars with a sense of awe. To see this life scar in their own children reminds them that they were once connected in the great dance of life. The mark is evidence that they once shared the very blood and oxygen and plasmas of life with their children. Then came the bright pain that set their children beyond their warm and God-designed biology. The umbilical of life spiraled out as far as it could. Alas, it was too short. This gallant cord of oneness after reaching outward, broke and died. The powerful life of motherhood was separated into two lives. Only the umbilical scar was left

So motherhood is not just a greeting-card idea.

It's fundamental to God's idea of all that is best in human life.

Somewhere around 2,000 years ago, God took up the great button game. He passed His folded hands through the life of a young virgin. Well, you know the rest. Theologically, we call the results of God's great button game Immanuel. It just means that Jesus wore the umbilical scar. It hangs at the center of every crucifix just to remind us that when God became a man, he took no shortcuts. What we cannot know for sure about Adam, we have no doubts about Jesus. He had a mother. He wore the mark. He was made in every way like we are, yet without sin. He took up the robe of human flesh, not willing to call God Father without using the word mother along the way. So to all of you who are mothers, "thanks for making the human race possible, and have a very Happy Mother's Day!"

And to all others, I ask an old, old question my mother taught me as a child: "Button, button! Who's got the button?"

Just about everybody, I guess.

    About the Author

  • Calvin Miller