Summary: A prophetic call for mothers to value their children.
Reality TV has become an icon of our culture. From Survivor parties to Fear Factor reruns, our culture has embraced the genre of reality TV, and now we can add to the list Nanny 911, and Supernanny, two reality shows whose premise is for parents with uncontrollable children to call in English nannies to help them solve their problems with their children. The official press release from the Fox Network’s Nanny 911 reads:
NANNY 911, a new unscripted series that follows a team of nannies armed with the dos and don’ts of child-rearing. Each nanny has a specific area of expertise, ranging from proper etiquette to controlling temper tantrums, and all are ready to help exhausted parents tackle the issues creating chaos in their home and whip their families into tip-top shape.
Are our families out of shape? As we survey the landscape of our culture, many would answer, “Yes, our families are out of shape.” They might look to last week’s Shreveport Times and call attention to an article about two missing children in Shreveport and Bossier as evidence that our families are out of shape. Those people might also reference the increasing amount of drug and alcohol abuse among our teenagers as evidence that our families are out of shape. They might also point to the high number of unwed pregnancies, or to the sky-rocketing rate of single parent families as sure signs that our families are out of shape. If they are out of shape, the proper call is not to Nanny 911, but rather to Mommy 911. Mothers are the ones who have the strength and ability to reshape the home and the family, and I wonder if it is not time to make that emergency call.
I have chosen a difficult passage of Scripture for this morning’s message. The passage is from Lamentations, and Lamentations are the laments of the weeping prophet Jeremiah. The words are born out of the bitterest tears of Jeremiah as he sits and watches his beloved Jerusalem laid siege by King Nebucadnezzer of Syria. But there is also a great rebuke in the tear-stained words of the prophet—a rebuke that is sharp and biting. The words are a rebuke directed at the most unexpected target.
What is the target of the prophet’s rebuke? The words of rebuke are not directed at some worthless father. In this age of absentee fathers, the experts tell us it is quite alright for children to be raised in home without a father, and we have come to accept it as much as the norm of a father in the home. Clovis Chappel tells the story in one of his old sermons of Little Johnny who had a dearly loved dog named Laddie. One day, while Johnny was at school, Laddie got into the street and paid the ultimate penalty for his mistake. Johnny’s mother was terribly distressed for she knew how much the old dog meant to Johnny. She lamented how she might tell him in a tender and loving way. Finally, she determined that the best way was to simply tell him the truth. So, when Johnny came home from school, she quite timidly said, “Johnny, Laddie was killed today.” To her surprise he said, “He was?” and then went on upstairs to play. Johnny’s sister was upstairs, and she began to give Johnny the details of the tragedy. All at once there was a loud wail from the upstairs, and Johnny came running back downstairs with tears streaming down his face. “Why are you crying so over what Sister told you when you didn’t seem to mind when I told you that Laddie was dead?” Struggling to speak through the tears, Johnny said, “I thought you said ‘Daddy’.”
But the prophet’s words are not for the fathers, but for the mothers. Jeremiah was a prophet, and prophets were called to say things that were biting and hard to hear. You must know that these words are indeed difficult for me to read, especially on this special day. This is Mother’s Day, the day we have set aside to honor her whose love is about the most beautiful and enriching that this world knows. This is a sentimental day when we are ready to let our tears flow freely as we remember with sweet joy she who held us, rocked us, and loved us to maturity. These words are out of place, jarring us to our foundation, and they arouse in us a little bit of antagonism and make us wonder if they are not just a little sacrilegious.
For it to be otherwise would dishonor us, and it would dishonor our mothers. To be jarred by the prophet’s words speaks of the loyalty we have toward our mothers. But Jeremiah’s words remind us of what we are prone to forget, and that is that motherhood in itself is neither a badge of goodness or greatness. A person can easily forget that motherhood is one of the deepest and sweetest secrets of human blessedness that God ever whispered. Unfortunately, some never heard the whisper, or they have forgotten they heard it, and it is to those women that Jeremiah directs his words.