Our relationship with our mothers is at once the most wonderful and yet the most difficult of all our relationships.
We love them deeply, and we get so upset with them we almost hate them. Few of us are neutral about our mothers; we hold them close and then push them away forcefully. We get homesick for them, and when we get home, we neglect them. A wonderful, difficult relationship.
We care about what they think, and yet we rebel against them every chance we get. We need their approval, but we also need to show them how far from home we’ve gone. A wonderful, difficult relationship.
We want to be embraced and cared for by our mothers, and yet we run as hard as we can from that embrace. We need their love and yet we sneer at mother love becoming “smother love”. We pretend to be indifferent to them, but get upset if they are indifferent to us!
Our relationship with our mothers is at one and the same time the most wonderful and yet the most difficult of all our relationships.
This is true even if your mother is deceased. Mothers have the power, it seems, to reach up out of graves long sealed and shake their disapproving fingers at us! It is a strange but wonderful thing, the power of mothering.
And so today I thought I would share a strategy for dealing with your mother. What can we do to deal with all this stuff mothers do to us? What can we do that will just turn this peculiar relationship between child and parent on its end? Again, even if your mother is deceased, she likely exercises some sort of influence on you. How can we go beyond that strong but silent hold she has on us? How can you win at the guilt game? How can you drive your mother crazy?
Well, first, I want you to imagine what it must have been like to have been the mother of Jesus. If Jesus of Nazareth was this tower of perfection the church says he was, then what must it have been like to have been his mother? What did Mary experience? Let’s guess:
Never a dirty handprint on the wall? Always ate his spinach and asked for more? Never, never teased and tormented the girls in synagogue school? Got up at the crack of dawn to do his chores and pray up a well-balanced breakfast? Some paragon of platinum-plated perfection?
One of my Sunday School teachers when I was a teenager interrupted his lesson one Sunday morning and asked out loud, "I wonder what Jesus said when, in that carpenter shop, he hit his thumb with a hammer? Something like, ’Oh, dear me?!’"
Oh, get real! Get real! That is not the kind of perfection the Bible is talking about when it says that He knew no sin. One of the great claims of the Christian faith is that the very son of God came down to earth to live as we live, to touch what we touch, to feel what we feel, to be tested as we are tested. I see Jesus as a real boy, as a genuine teenager, as an authentic young adult, with all of the growing pains that that involves. And I can suspect that Mary found it very trying in many ways to be his mother. I can suspect that Jesus very nearly drove her crazy on more than one occasion!
For, after all, our relationship with our mothers is at one and the same time the most wonderful and yet the most difficult of all our relationships.
Listen to a Biblical story with me and see if you do not hear the sounds of conflict. But listen more closely and you will also hear Jesus resolving those conflicts beautifully and quietly. What Jesus did on this occasion is so wonderful that it must have driven his mother crazy.
The story is of Jesus at the wedding feast in the village of Cana:
All right. How to drive your mother crazy, in three easy steps. Take some lessons from the Master, from Jesus.
The first strategy to use in order to drive your mother crazy is to be your own person, knowing what time it is in your life. Be your own person, aware of what time it is in your life. Know what you must do in order to grow.
You see, that will drive your mother crazy, that is exactly what she wants for you, but doesn’t think that you know that she knows! Be your own person, knowing what time it is in life.
Watch the story. There they are at this wedding, having a great time partying, At least we guess they were having a great time, I don’t know how much partying a thirty-year old man is going to do when his mother is there too! But, at a crucial moment, when the festivities were far from over, the wine gave out. No more bubbly! What is to be done?
So Mary said to Jesus, "They have no wine". And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."
"Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?" That remark should destroy forever your image of Jesus as a platinum-plated paragon of perfection! Sounds terse, brusque, doesn’t it?
But focus on this: "What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
You see, Jesus had a sense of his own life; He had learned his own priorities, He understood his own timing. She had asked him, rather indirectly, to perform a miracle. Do something about this wine shortage. But Jesus wanted more than anything to live out of his own priorities, He wanted to do what was right when he was ready to do it. He wanted to respond to an inner call rather than to his mother’s distress call.
Well, you know, that drives mothers crazy, because it is what they really want! Mothers down deep want their children to grow up, they want them to be self-directed, they want them to act responsibly. Mothers, and, for that matter, fathers too, want our children to achieve the right level of maturity for their time of life, but our problem is that we can never quite be sure. We can never quite believe it is happening.
When that wine ran out, Mary could have kept quiet. She could have waited for Jesus to do something. But mothers are not very good at waiting, and so she prompted him, “They have no wine.” Aren’t you going to do something? Well? Well? But Jesus knew his own timing. And his response was impatient because He did not need to be prompted. He knew what time it was in his life. And mother did too, if she had only allowed herself to believe in him completely.
When I was in campus ministry, working with college students, usually aged around 17 through 25, I found out that I asked more from these students than their parents did. As their campus minister, I expected them to be able to plan programs, do sophisticated Bible studies, and manage the finances of our organization. But when I would meet their parents, I would discover that their parents didn’t think they could plan anything but TV time, study more than one paragraph at a time, or keep money from falling out of their pockets! We had totally different perspectives on these students! The parents still thought of these young adults as children.
Well, for a while, I was very caustic and critical of that, until one day I realized that my own children were older than the college students I was working with, but that I expected more from the students than I did from my own! Wow! So I’m a worrisome parent just like all the other worrisome parents!
Do you know what time it is in your own life? Do you understand your own values and abilities enough to let those determine what you will do and when you will do it? I know people my own age and older whose mothers are long deceased, but who are still living out of “My mother always taught me” and out of “My mother wouldn’t want me to ...” Do you know what time it is in your own life? Are you your own person?
Be your own person, knowing what time it is in your life, and it will drive your mother crazy! But secretly she will be delighted.
A second strategy to drive your mother crazy is to do what is right anyway, and to do it without fanfare. Just do what is right, though maybe it isn’t exactly your priority. But do it because it is right and because it will serve some need. But if you go ahead and do what is right without praise or payment, it will nearly drive her crazy.
Or, then again, maybe not. Not if she is a mature and confident soul. Listen to Mary. Jesus has just told her that he doesn’t much care about the wine problem and that it’s just not time for that. He’s not ready for it. But what does she say, what does she do?
No arguments, no whining. No fuss, no muss. Mary said to the servants, ’Just do whatever he tells you." And within moments Jesus had accomplished what she wanted. The water jars were filled with water and a good sweet wine came pouring out.
The trouble is that most of us are not content with simply trusting our children for responsible behavior. The trouble is that most of us are so insecure about the parenting job we did that we are not sure we can just leave our children alone to do the right thing, in their own time and in their own way. We feel a need to manage them. And when they just go ahead and do what is right, we are shocked and it nearly drives us crazy. It nearly drives us crazy not so much because we don’t trust them as because we do not trust either ourselves as their parents or the Lord as their guide. And so it shocks us and drives us bananas when they do what is right without our pushing it.
I’ve often laughed about the way some of you deal with your church staff. Church staff have sat in committee meetings with some of you, maybe not getting out until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. But in that meeting we’ve agreed to provide something you wanted. Well, the next morning around 8:30 or 9:00 you call and want to know if we’ve gotten it done yet!
Usually when that happens we will sheepishly admit that we didn’t stay up all night doing what you wanted done. Or we will grumble at you that it’s unreasonable to expect results that soon. Well, the last time I saw that coming, I developed a strategy. I did get here real early the next morning, and I did prepare the document that was asked for. And when you called ... you know who you are ... when you called at about 8:45 and asked if I had it, I was able to say, “Yes” ... and it knocked your socks off! It nearly drove you crazy, didn’t it, to discover that we could just go ahead and do what was needed without prompting and pushing?
You see, the issue is always trust. Do we trust our children to do the right thing even when we can’t see them, even when we can’t prompt them? Trust. I have a theory, on which I will preach one of these days, that says that trust is an equilateral triangle. Trust is an equilateral triangle, the legs of which are trust in others, trust in ourselves, and trust in God. Take away any of these three and everything crumbles.
So, if you want to drive your mother crazy, whether she is living or dead, just go ahead and do the right thing, be trustworthy and be trusting. She halfway doesn’t expect it and it will drive her crazy!
Finally, there is one more strategy to drive your mother crazy.
I’ve said that you can send her up the wall by being your own person, knowing what time it is in your life.
And I’ve suggested that you can put her into a rubber room by doing what is right, and doing it without fanfare.
But one thing will really put her into a strait jacket, and that is to go beyond what is expected, do even better than what is asked for. No self-respecting suspicious mother ever thinks her child will do more than he is asked to do, and if you do more than what is required, she will be bonkers!
The text tells us that when they tasted the water that had become wine, they said, “You have kept the good wine until now.” “This is even better than we had before. This is better than we expected.” Jesus not only changed the water into wine; he changed it into something superior, he did more than he was asked to do.
The word to remember is expectations. We are either frustrated by what others expect of us or we are empowered by what others expect of us. The expectations of our parents ... again, even though they may be long dead ... the expectations of our parents either break us or make us. They either frustrate us or they empower us.
Men and women, it is possible to hold out to a child such low expectation that he or she will immediately measure down to it ... not measure up, but measure down. Tell a child that he is stupid and he will prove you right. Remark to a young woman that she is “only a girl” and probably not very good in math or mechanics, and she will likely prove that very point. A girl I grew up with was not very pretty as a small child, and her father took to calling her "fish-face”. Well, she rewarded him by spending her youth and young adult years proving she could be seductively attractive to any man and every man! Expectations can destroy.
But expectations can also empower. To hold out high but reasonable expectations for a child is to challenge him or her to do even more, to be even better, to exceed every goal.
May I offer a personal reflection on this? This is my first Mothers’ Day without a living mother. You will remember that my mother died on the day after Christmas. I’ve been reflecting on her legacy. What did she expect of me?
Most of the time my mother was so quiet you really didn’t know what she wanted or expected. She never vigorously advocated anything. But she did have a way of letting you know when you had not measured up to her expectations. A report card with mostly A’s but a sprinkling of B’s and whatever those other letters are ... I would give it to her. She would slowly turn it over and look at it, Then a quiet “Hmph", “Hmph". As if to say, "You can do better," I was expected to be a good student.
A bedroom filled with clothes, books, papers, baseballs, and blankets, knee deep, would evoke nothing more than, “I don’t see how you can find anything in there.” Not much, but enough to let me know that I was expected to be organized.
On Sunday morning, never any cajoling, arguing, or bargaining about what we would be doing; just breakfast at the right time and the car warming up 15 minutes before Sunday School. Not much, but enough to let me know that I was expected to support our church.
Those quiet but firm expectations empowered me. They empowered me to do more than what was asked for. I found myself wanting to be not just a decent student, but an excellent student. I discovered myself with a passion ... some of you think an obsession ... for organizing things. And I learned that no institution in all the world means more to me than the church of Jesus Christ.
Want to drive your mother crazy? Do even more, be even better than she ever asked you to be.
You ask, “Where is the Gospel in all this? Where is the Christian message, where is the story of salvation?” The Bible tells us that Jesus did this sign and revealed the glory of God, and His disciples believed in Him.
To live like this, being your own person and knowing what time it is in your life ... that may drive your mother crazy, but it will reveal the glory of your God, who made us a little less than the angels.
To live like this, doing what is right just because it is right, without expecting praise ... that may cause delirium in your mother, but it will reveal the glory of your Christ, who for the sheer joy that was set before him endured the cross.
To live like this, going beyond what is expected, empowered to excel ... that may surprise and astound your mother, but it will reveal the glory of God’s Holy Spirit, who will someday be able to say, “Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy ... the sheer, crazy, wonderful joy ... of the Kingdom.”