Summary: For Mother’s Day and Pentecost: We cannot shake off our mother’s voice. That voice needs to be one of faith, not just admonition. Yet we need to grow our own faith. The Spirit’s voice overrides all negatives.

Can you, in your own mind, hear your mother’s voice? Can you remember not only what she says or used to say, but how she says it? Many of us can remember those things. Even people whose mothers died young can remember distinctive things. It seems we can’t quite shake off Mom’s voice. It stays with us, hanging around like a perfume, fading and yet quietly present. Mom’s voice sounds off in our brains at the strangest moments. No matter how old we are, something will trigger off that voice. Remote as it may be, we can’t shake off Mom’s voice.

And some do want to. For all the sentimentality we attach to Mother’s Day, the sound of Mom’s voice is not always pleasant. Sometimes it chastises us, and we feel guilty because we are not doing what Mom would have wanted us to do. Sometimes Mom’s voice was a voice of disapproval, and something in us won’t allow us to live in peace until we get our mothers’ approval. But it just won’t come. It nags at us, and, as much as we’d like to, some of us just cannot shake off Mom’s voice.

Here’s a young woman in love. A young man has professed his love and wants to commit to marriage. But this young woman all during her childhood years heard her mother’s negativity about men. She heard sharp criticism of her father every day. She listened to her mother’s suspicions. Every time she went out on a date, her mother would lecture her about how you know boys only want one thing, and then would interrogate her the next morning just to be sure. Now, however, this young woman is going to marry. But because she can’t shake off Mom’s voice, she commits to a wedding but not to a marriage. Did you get that distinction? She commits to a wedding, to getting married. But she doesn’t commit to a marriage. She doesn’t commit to the trust involved in being married. She cannot quite trust her husband, even though he gives her no reason for mistrust. Why? Because she can’t shake off Mom’s voice. Her marriage is riddled with fear, suspicion, doubt, and mistrust. The outcome is devastating, all because she can’t shake off Mom’s negative, suspicious voice.

A middle-aged man heard every day from his mother that there wouldn’t be enough money. There had never been enough money, even though Dad, now long deceased, had made a decent living. But Mom had always acted as though the family was on the fast road to the poor house. There had always been these pointed comments about how Dad should have done better, but was not ambitious enough. There had always been these barbed insinuations that she could have done better herself, that she had had a chance at two or three of the more up-and-coming fellows of her day, but, well, it was too late. Constantly this man heard a litany of poverty from his mother, who, now, in her old age, was compulsively saving every dime and was denying herself the most ordinary of comforts. I visited her in the heat of summer and found her in an upstairs bedroom struggling with emphysema, unable to breathe. I suggested that a simple room air conditioner would make such a difference. But no, she said, there won’t be enough money.

Then the day came when Mom passed away; and there was enough money for the funeral; there was enough money for the medical bills; there was enough money to pay the taxes; and there was enough money for this son to inherit several hundred thousand dollars. Now remember our thesis, however, that you can’t shake off Mom’s voice. What did he do? How did this son respond? Within two weeks after his mother’s funeral the driveway sported a new luxury car; tied up at the Annapolis docks there was a new boat; and his wife was prancing around in a fur coat! You say, well, he certainly did shake off Mom’s voice. He went way off the deep end. No he didn’t. No, he didn’t. He didn’t shake off Mom’s voice; he just went into rebellion against it, but it was still ringing in his ears like the peal of thunder against a summer sky! His behavior was driven by rage against Mom’s voice. For it or against it, you can’t shake off Mom’s voice! Like it or hate it, Mom’s voice is indelibly etched on our memories.

The issue, then, is twofold: first, in what kind of voices do Moms want to speak so that their children will hear positive, life-building messages? And second, since we do hear our mothers’ voices, all of us, what do we do with negative and painful messages? Is there good news for us?

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