Summary: Mothers (or parents) communicate an atmosphere as much as they communicate specific ideas; we as children cannot rid ourselves of that atmosphere, good or bad. But faith in God can lift us to a new self-esteem.

Just about everybody has a story that involves Mom’s voice. Just about anyone can tell you something distinctive about the things Mother used to say. We can remember not only what she said, but also the way she said it, the tone of voice she used. It’s surprising how many of us can remember those things. Even people whose mothers died quite young can remember distinctive and special things. It seems we can’t quite shake off Mom’s voice. It stays with us. It hangs around like a perfume, fading and yet quietly present. It hovers in our minds and sounds off in our brains at the strangest moments. No matter how old we are, we can’t shake off Mom’s voice.

Even people who were not raised by their mothers deal with this. There was a mother-like figure, a grandmother, an aunt, an older sister, a foster mother, someone who took on that role, and that voice, that intonation, that way of expression, is still with us. Whoever we are and wherever we go, we can’t shake off Mom’s voice, however much we might want to.

And some do want to. For all the sentimentality we attach to Mother’s Day, the sound of that 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; we can’t shake off Mom’s voice, and it feels painful. Sometimes Mom’s voice haunts us, and we feel conflicted, because Mom’s voice was a voice of disapproval, and something in us won’t rest until we get a better word. Something won’t allow us to live in peace until we get our mothers’ approval. But it just won’t come. It’s always negative. It nags at us, and, as much as we’d like to, we just cannot shake off Mom’s voice.

A young woman is in love. There is a young man who has professed his love and wants to commit himself to marriage. But this young woman all during her childhood years heard her mother’s less-than-admiring assessment of men. She heard her mother criticize her father. She listened to her mother’s suspicions about her own father. Every time she went out on a date as a high-schooler, her mother would lecture her about how you know boys only want one thing, and then would interrogate her closely the next morning just to be sure. This young woman is in love. 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 being married. She cannot quite trust her husband, even though he gives her no reason for mistrust. 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 voice, and Mom was nothing but suspicion.

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 little 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, she had made her bed and now must lie in it. Constantly this man had heard a litany of poverty from his mother, who, now, in her old age, was compulsively saving every dime and denying herself the most ordinary of luxuries, because there won’t be enough money. Enough money for what was never answered. But 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 to reconcile the medical bills; there was enough money to pay the taxes; and this son inherited a nice little kitty of 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 may say, well, he certainly shook off Mom’s voice; he certainly left her behind. No he didn’t. No, he didn’t. He didn’t shake off Mom’s voice; he 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 dictated by rage against Mom’s voice. You can’t shake off Mom’s voice!

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