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Reflecting on the tremendous role of mothers in the lives of children

This Mother’s Day will be the 13th since my mother died. Her death ended four years of being bedfast, unable to do anything except sometimes eat. She was not a perfect mother, but for a woman who lost her mother when she was 12 and had only an elementary education, she did amazing things. I know that she prayed every day for me and my sister who is 16 years younger than me. She was a reader from her childhood, and her wide reading gave her an amazing grasp of world events.
Many times I have shared that she had read the entire Bible to me before I started to school. I don’t know how we survived Leviticus and Numbers, but I know she did a lot of reading to prepare for the prophets. Her awe of God was the subject of many conversations.
Every afternoon I was supposed to take a nap, and it always began with a reading session. Often Mother and I would get so involved that a nap did not happen. Many nights Mother would tell me that she had planned an excursion for us. We would be up early and take a nature walk or hike up a barren New Mexico hill to collect rocks or wildflowers. I had heard most children’s classics by the time I was 8. When the U.S. entered World War II, we began to learn world geography. In junior and senior high school, she encouraged me to talk about my studies. She loved the books I read, and she studied Roman history while I learned Latin. She encouraged me to know the Bible better than anything else. Reading and learning were the principal ingredients of my experiences with Mother.
When I married Joyce, I gained a mother-in-law who was an amazing caretaker. Her first child had suffered a brain injury at birth and had never been expected to live through the first 16 years of his life. As a team, Joyce’s mother and father were outstanding parents, giving love and endless attention. Joyce’s mother modeled for her the ideal of care and love. Although she did not like my marrying and taking Joyce off to Oklahoma, she loved me and was a powerful encourager in all that I tried to do.
Joyce is a devoted mother to our three children, Melissa, Lynette and Michael. She is a natural caretaker and nurturer. Her children tell stories about outings with her to do Christmas shopping, to buy school clothes, to go on school or scout field trips. She ran a major business when the girls were selling Girl Scout cookies — they always sold twice as many as any other troop members. Joyce even led a Cub Scout den when none of the fathers had or would take time to do it. Joyce always picked up family responsibilities when my job or church duties were consuming me. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her three daughters (two by birth and one by marriage) are continuing that exhausting and powerful work of nurturing another generation.
As I consider the strong and pervasive influence of my mother on me and other mothers on their children, my admiration for Mary the mother of Jesus increases. Growing up in a tradition where Mary has been viewed as just another mere mortal in reaction to other traditions that have deified her, I have only slowly recognized that God’s choice of Mary to bear and rear God in the flesh reflected divine wisdom and design.
The words of Gabriel to Mary testify to God’s knowledge of and trust in the simple girl from Nazareth: “Greeting, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. … You have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David …his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:28-33).
From Jesus’ birth, when Mary wrapped him in cloths, until he was 12, we know little except that he grew in stature, found favor with men and learned enough of the law and the prophets to amaze the crowds as he listed to and questioned the teacher in the temple court. Mary treasured in her heart all she heard and saw from her son. She alone knew his destiny.
Mothers shape lives, and I am pained that not every person has had a loving nurturing mother. May God bless every mother and fill her with wisdom on a special day the nation has set to honor mothers!

  • Feedback
    Truth is beauty and beauty is truth. Perhaps no greater truth is found on earth than in a mother’s heart.
    May, 13 2008

Filed under: Insight

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