There are several Christian authors I enjoy reading. One of them is Chuck Swindoll. Swindoll once wrote something I found very interesting. He tells about a book he discovered on his bookshelf one day. It was a book he had never read. I understand about books being on my shelf I have never read, I have many falling into the same category. This book, however, was different. It was a little more special than the others. As Swindoll looked at it, he found this book was one his mother had once owned. She had died some twenty years before Swindoll had found the book. As he began reading it, he saw she had written many notes in the margins. At the end of the book he found she had written, “Finished reading May 8, 1959. That brought back a flood of memories for Swindoll. He remembered where he was and what he was doing on that particular date. He was a marine stationed in the south Pacific. He was going through a bit of a spiritual struggle. It seemed God was calling Chuck into the ministry and he was resisting every way he could. He didn’t want to go. I get that. Then, during that month, May 1959, Swindoll decided when he got out of the Marine Corp, he would begin working toward entering the ministry. As he read the book he found different references to prayers his mother had prayed for his safety while he was away and for his spiritual wellbeing too. As he read he found himself shedding a few tears. He also said a prayer when he had finished reading the book. He thanked God for his mother, for all of her prayers and most of all, he thanked God for sustaining grace.
What do you think Chuck Swindoll’s mother’s motives were? She, at a minimum sacrificed time and effort to pray for her son. Why would she do that? Why do our mothers do so many things, all the things they do for us. Is it for pride or selfishness or love or something else? The list of reasons, after all, could be endless. The reasons for Swindoll’s mother’s prayers are really not all that important, at least not to us. What is important is in her, we find a model for motherhood.
In truth, in every mother we find a model for motherhood. Some obviously are better than others. Some are somewhere close to perfect, at least in our eyes, and others have made many mistakes and still others leave a great deal to be desired. Still, they are all models for motherhood.
Often times when we think of a Biblical model for motherhood, our thoughts go first to Mary the mother of Jesus. We focus on her as the ideal. Mary accepted all the hardships given to her. She had a baby where God was the father. She lived with extreme ridicule for being unmarried and pregnant. She had a baby in a stable. Mary accepted the heartaches coming to her life without complaint. She saw her son die, unjustly executed by the Jews and the government. And, through it all, she never stopped loving her first-born son.
Biblical writers like to show Mary as an impeccable example of motherhood. Indeed, that is at least a part of the problem. While we may, on some future mother’s day, look closer at the example of Mary for motherhood, for our purposes today she just doesn’t seem quite right. For many people she seems more than a little too perfect. In Mary we never see any anger. We never see any self-interest. She seems to lack many human character traits. She is so good. So right. So proper. So without sin. She just doesn’t seem quite real to many of us. The Roman Catholic Church has found her to be so perfect in her humanness, they have made her a saint, perhaps even a saint above all other saints.
Of course, most of us Protestants don’t see her in quite so glowing terms. Still, we do see her as the perfect mother for the perfect son. And, at least some of the time, many of us put our mothers into that same category, perfection, or at least somewhere close to it.
Some time ago, there was a boy who dreamed of being a big time singer. He wanted to be great. His mother thought he was very talented and wanted him to have the best musical education she could afford for him. She did without. She scrimped and she saved and saved and sent him to music school. When he got there they told her she shouldn’t have bothered because he didn’t have enough talent to worry with. But, she didn’t listen. She continued to sacrifice. She was determined someday, somehow, someway, she was going to get her son the musical education she believed he needed. That young man went on to become the great opera singer, Enricia Caruso. He did have talent. The only thing he needed was the right instruction. Well, that along with some love and care.
I feel certain Caruso’s mother was not as perfect as Mary, though at times he may have thought so. And that my friends, is the problem with using Mary as the example. She is so perfect an example she is impossible for normal women to match up. In many ways Biblical writers leave her without human character traits and without those marks of humanity, can she be a realistic model?
So, where in the Bible can we find a realistic model? I think we can find several. One of them is in our lesson this morning. In Genesis 27 we find the story of Rebekah. Rebekah is a great model for motherhood? Rebekah who favored one son over the other? Rebekah who worked to trick her husband Isaac? Rebekah whose decisions seem so selfish?
I believe our moms often make decisions by what they truly believe is for the best. That is nowhere truer than it is in the story of Rebekah. She truly believed her favorite son could do a better job at what God set before them than her older son Esau could do. She acted in what she though was best and what she saw as right.
I think Rebekah shows us human mothers are not perfect. They have needs and desires and problems in their lives every day. They act not only in love and care for their children but sometimes out of self-interest too. They influence our lives through conscious and unconscious actions. They don’t normally act out of malice. They don’t normally act out of intentions that will bring harm to their kids. They act out of what they believe to be right. And, they act out of love for their children.
Tony Pena played catcher for several major league teams including the Cardinals, Pirates, and Red Sox. He is retired now. He grew up in the Dominican Republic where he said it was every boy’s dream to grow up and come to the United States and play major league baseball. He said they would use rocks and sticks and whatever else they could get their hands on just to practice a little in an effort to develop their skills. And, they would play with anybody who was willing to play, just so they could get better. Tony gives a lot of credit for his baseball skill to his mother. After school was out and the homework and chores were complete, she took her sons to a pasture where they had cleared out a makeshift pitcher’s mound. First she would pitch to Tony’s little brother Louis. He mother would say, “Louis, this one is coming right down the middle.” She wanted him to make contact with the ball. Tony was past that. To Tony she would say, “This one is coming in on the hands. You’ve got to learn to hit the inside pitch.” Well, possibly because of her love and care and teaching or perhaps because of the teaching of others, Tony did make it to the major leagues. Shortly after breaking into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates he returned to the Dominican Republic. He was driving his mother around when he pointed to a house. He asked his mother how she liked that house. “It is a fine looking house Tony,” she replied. “Why? Are you think about buying it?” she asked. Handing her a set of keys Tony said, “I already have Mama, and it is for you.”
Whatever the decisions Tony’s mother made, they affected his life in profound ways. She may or may not have always made those decisions with Tony’s best interest at heart, but she probably did. I also doubt she ever gave thought to the idea, if Tony made it to the Big Leagues he would buy her a nice big house so she could live a better life. What she thought, If eel certain was, if Tony gets good enough and can play baseball in the United States and makes it all the way to the major leagues, Tony will have a better life.
The decisions our mothers make may not always be the right decisions, perfect decisions, but they are decisions that usually have the best interest of their children at heart. The point here is not to criticize mothers for any bad decisions they might make, quite the contrary. No, they are not perfect, nor do most of them claim to be. Our purpose today and every Mother’s Day is to celebrate their dedication to rear their children, maintain households, and even work outside the home to help provide the best life possible for their kids.
Most mothers invest heavily in the lives of their children. The greatest nurturing done in the American family almost always comes from Mom as she prepares today’s children for the challenges of adulthood.
I met a young lady several years ago in a speech class I took while a student at Sam. Sandy was from Columbia and when she became a U.S. citizen she was allowed to change her name. She decided all she wanted to do was to add a middle name, the name of her grandmother Maria. She didn’t know her grandmother very well, but she knew the stories about her. Maria grew up in Columbia and married very young and had two children when her husband died. To support her children she went to work as a maid. Eventually she started working for a government official and the two fell in love and married. They also had two children. After Sandy’s father, Ernesto, was born, Maria’s second husband passed away. Maria had no choice but to go back to work to support her family. She scrimped and saved. She wanted Ernesto to come to the United States and go to college. Once he got here, he was able to stay and go to work. Then he arranged for his mother to come and live out the rest of her days in the comparable luxury of the United States.
Did she think of what was in it for her? Probably not. What she did, she did out of the best interest of her son. He in return gave love and understanding to the mother who had given him love and understanding. We do that as well. Our mothers deserve that from us.
Were you raised in a Christian home? I was. Were you raised in a loving home? I was. And, as I remember it, we went to church most every Sunday because my mother knew how important it was. I seriously doubt I would be in ministry today if it were not for my mother and her insistence that I be in church each week. I believe most of us owe our love and our faith to our mothers.
Willis Moore wrote of the mother figure in his life. It was his grandmother. He said she used to eat cold grits for breakfast every morning. It wasn’t because she liked her grits cold, she preferred them hot. But every morning, she got the family up and she would prepare breakfast and they would sit down and eat. As they were eating, she didn’t eat. She would take out her Bible and sit down and read to the family over breakfast. She wanted to make sure they got their day off to a good spiritual start. When she finished, everyone stopped eating and prayed. When the prayer was over, everyone would begin eating again and that is when she would sit down to eat. By that time everything was cold. But, the spiritual growth of her family was more important to her than a hot breakfast. Wills Moore says he believes he became a Christian because of the powerful influence of his grandmother.
It seems to me our mothers are a symbol of God’s abiding love for us. If you appreciate your mother, let her know today. If she is still here on this earth give her a call or a visit. If she is now spending eternity with God, then do what Chuck Swindoll did, lift up a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Thank God for all of your mother’s prayers, for all her caring, for all of her love. Thank God for the abiding grace that was given to you through her. Most all of us have reason to say that prayer, because God blessed us with a loving mother.