Mother’s Day is always a time of special memories. One I’ll never forget was the flabbergasted look on Mom’s face when I told her I was going to become a pastor! See, I was the wild child in our family. How in the world did I survive doing what Mom told me not to do? It must have been through the grace of God. Back in the “good old days,” the four of us kids in my family could spend long summer days playing, and as long as we were home when the street lights came on, Mom didn’t seem to worry.
I remember as a 10-year-old, riding my bicycle throughout our entire small Nebraska town. Nowhere was off limits – well OK, Mom insisted I never cross the railroad tracks south of town, where suspicious transients and a wild, untamed river posed terrible dangers. I couldn’t resist such an adventure! And I found it wasn’t so dangerous after all.
Mom threatened us repeatedly about listening into other people’s calls on our party line, but I always learned a lot from uncensored adult conversations.
One day, Mom was horrified when she noticed a long, ugly scar on my calf and asked what happened. I casually told her I had slipped climbing on a barbed wire fence while trying to catch the neighbor’s horse to ride bareback, with no helmet and no bridle. I wasn’t that worried about it, since it was not infected and my leg hadn’t fallen off. She didn’t want me out there doing that, but I couldn’t see why not. I was 11 years old. The horse was only eight.
Sunday afternoon visits to our family’s country friends were the highlight of my summers. I learned how to hypnotize chickens – and run from angry roosters. I found out what a diamondback rattlesnake sounds like close up (thankfully, not too close). And I thought I was going to learn a lot perched upon the corral fence when my dad helped vaccinate, brand and cut the horns off of the cattle’s heads; but he shooed me away when the cowboys were doing something very different at the other end of the soon-to-become steers…
The most important thing that Mom did was insist that we always go to church. Every week, she got us kids all dressed up in our Sunday-best clothes to go worship Jesus. I didn’t know it at the time, but those childhood years spent at church taught me the most valuable lessons in my life, including honesty, faith, true joy, peace and everlasting life in Jesus Christ. At church, I could always find hugs, compassion, selfless care, good advice and purpose that would last throughout my life. She took the verse from Proverbs 22:6 very seriously: “Train children in the right way, and when they are older, they will not stray.” She knew that the seeds we sow in our kids can allow them to blossom, and their lives will be fulfilled. That seed is Jesus.
Mom passed away nearly two years ago, but I’m continuing to find her mothering love reflected in the people I’m with in church: their hugs, compassion, selfless care, good advice and purpose.
What about you? Like me, you may be missing your mom; or maybe you never had the tender mothering you needed, and your life is broken and empty. Whatever childhood you had, whatever disobedience or sinfulness or neglect you’re trying to overcome, there is hope. If you’re yearning for that special kind of personal, fulfilling love, it still exists: you can find it in a church. You’ll find it in Jesus. And in Him, you’ll have a happy Mother’s Day every day!
The writer is the pastor at Sidney First Presbyterian Church.