A tribute to mothers
"I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."
(II Timothy 1:5, NIV)
By BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
One Sunday morning, 7-year-old Marcia was scheduled to recite a short speech for her class at church. She had rehearsed it so many times; she knew it by heart. But when she stepped to the stage and looked out at all the people, her mouth went dry, her mind went blank, and she trembled, on the edge of panic.
In the first row of pews, Marcia’s mother shared in her daughter’s agony. She tried to calm the child by silently mouthing the opening words of the speech. That didn’t work. Finally the mother whispered, "I am the light of the world."
Immediately the girl’s stage fright faded, and in a loud voice she began confidently with "My mother is the light of the world!"
To be sure, what Marcia said was not scriptural. It also wasn’t blasphemy. Have not many of us seen in our own mothers that radiant Christian spirit of which Jesus speaks?
This Sunday, May 10, will be Mother’s Day, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who appreciates that special day more than I do. A Jewish proverb declares: "God could not be everywhere and, therefore, He made mothers."
I’m a bit uncertain on the theology of that statement, but when I reflect on the woman who nurtured me, I see her as a god-like presence embedded in my memories.
If there was not a Mother’s Day, I would find it necessary to establish one. There is no person who deserves more tribute and praise than Mother.
To all the great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and mothers in this world — to all women who lovingly care for the generations that follow them — I say thank you for the genuine faith you instill within us. We praise you for your steadfastness and the strength you give us for the journey of life.
Most importantly, we will forever remember the love you impart to us. For in that love, we see God!
I know this special day can be bittersweet, too. For those who have lost precious mothers, it can be a difficult time. In a unique way, that makes Mother’s Day all the more important. My mother passed away nine years ago, but with each day, month, and year that goes by, my gratitude for the time God gave her to me and my family remains undiminished.
Recently my mind flashed back to a scene that brought tears to my eyes. The memory reminded me that my mother is the main reason I am a minister today.
My father and several others surely influenced me in that decision, but my mother had more to do with my choice than anyone.
At about age 13, I had to recite prayers and short speeches for several groups, such as the student council in school, church youth group, and other organizations. Like little Marcia who stumbled saying her speech, I never quite seemed able to pull together my rambling thoughts and put them on paper — not until my mother helped me.
I remember sitting next to her, telling her what I wanted to say. Patiently she took up a pencil, and together we brought out the words locked inside of me. She focused in on the thought I wanted to share, and she worked with me like a potter toiling over clay until that thought became words. After she wrote down the words, she read them back to me, and then she directed me in writing them myself.
For two or three years we did this, and eventually I learned how to carve out my own prayers and speeches, thanks to Dorothy Hayes!
As I think about the tremendous amount of patience and understanding it took for her to listen, write, and respond to my incoherent thoughts, the more I am grateful for my mother. In many ways she was my liturgist, my celebrant, my congregation, my best critic, and my main supporter!
Today every sermon that I preach, every prayer that I utter, every article that I write has a part of my mother in it.
What a great compliment it is when a grown child looks upon his or her life and says, "I was able to accept Jesus Christ because of the Christian home in which I was reared" or "I was able to know the love of God through Christ because of the way my mother loved God and me."
In the New Testament, Paul gave Timothy’s mother and grandmother the highest of tributes when he wrote, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."
Paul further emphasized how he valued those women by reminding Timothy to "fan into flame" and "stir up the gift" within him.
Are we to do less?
In the local church where I served my last appointment as a pastor, my mother became a member of the congregation. We had come full circle. Each Sunday she sat with my father on the second row, observing the final product (me) that decades earlier she had helped to shape. I look back on those memories, and I realize that, in every sermon by me that she heard, hidden between the lines was my declaration: "My mother is the light of the world!"
Thank you, God; and thank you, mother!