MITRA: Making marks on a mother’s heart
Jimmy Dean, the country-western singer, did a number that leaves listeners with a big knot in their throats.
It’s titled I Owe You.
In the song, a man is looking through his wallet and comes across a number of long-standing “I owe yous” to his mother, which he names, one by one.
Borrowing that idea, it might be good for many of us, who have been guilty of presumption, to unfold some our own “I owe yous” that might have turned yellow with age.
If we would only consider the priceless value of the one woman who made our life possible — our mother — it would help us avoid many a trips to the psychiatrists and the rehab centres.
And, if there’s one attitude families are guilty of more than any other when it comes to mothers, it’s presumption — taking them for granted, being nearly blind on occasion to the load moms carry.
Think about her example, her support, her counsel, her humour, her humility, her hospitality, her insight, her patience and her sacrifices.
Also, perhaps her faith, her hope, her love.
U.S. president Abraham Lincoln was right when he said: “He is not poor who had a godly mother.”
Yes, indebted, but not poor.
The spiritual value of women’s work has been given little credence in Western Christianity.
As in ancient Greece, men are still often seen as more capable of sustained philosophical and theological reflection, while women are tied to earth in the messy physical work of childbearing and raising.
But, mothering is not only about folding hands and closing eyes.
As the daily life of a mother is more physical and immediate, so is her experience of God.
Crankiness can murture quick forgiveness; exhaustion calls for humility and community.
And, best of all, children themselves provide unlimited chances to live in gratitude and joy.
Practising conventional disciplines, when she is able, prepares her to simply practise the presence of God in seasons of life filled with disorder.
Many great men of past, including biblical characters like Moses, Samuel and Timothy, have been richly blessed by what they learned at their mothers’ knees.
In Proverbs 31, the Bible devotes a section entirely in praise of women, probably because men see to their own plaudits sufficiently well.
The person described in this passage is at once a woman, a wife, and a working mother.
Her personal worth, practical works, prudent words, and her profound wealth set her apart from the rest of the society.
Some principles that apply from the said scripture passage are:
He is most manly who treats a woman with profound respect.
She is most womanly who inspires and enforces it.
The Word of God castigates a battle of the sexes as sheer nonsense.
Though acknowledging the reality of working mothers, the passage idealizes the woman’s commitment to raising a family.
Most of all, it declares that motherly virtues are chiefly rooted in the fear of God (Prov.31:30).
All other virtues of womanhood rest on this worth that God places.
Susanna Wesley, mother of Charles and John Wesley, used one hour daily in prayer, praying for her 19 children.
Besides that, she took each child separately for a full hour each week to discuss spiritual matters with him or her.
No wonder the two Wesley brothers were used of God to bring blessing to all of England and much of America.
The yearnings of a godly mother’s heart left rich legacies indeed.
Her motto: Subdue self-will in a child and work together with God to save his soul, teach a child to pray as soon as he or she can speak, never allow a rebellious, sinful act to go unnoticed, but punish no fault which is freely confessed.
This would prevent lying.
In our times, long hours, undefined pay, and guilt-ridden retirement years seem to be the givens for what is known as “the second oldest profession” that is motherhood.
But, about 85 years ago, Anne Jarvis campaigned for the observance of Mother’s Day.
Now it is the day when most phone calls are made and most flowers and gifts sold and bought for mothers.
On a day dedicated to her, it is easy to idealize a wonder mother in such a way as to make real mothers stagger under the weight of such expectations.
The monastics of yore developed many spiritual disciplines which valued regularity and solitude.
Words like rule and order describe them.
Family life, while no less holy than monastic life, makes consistent order impossible.
In reality, the wild rhythm of parenting cannot provide the only model for spiritual discipline.
Though the spirituality of a mother with children might look little like that of a monk, the same grace can be sought by her by drawing on the same grace of God available to anyone seeking it.
Narayan Mitra is a chaplain at Thompson Rivers University.