The Redemption of
As one whom his mother comforteth,
so will I comfort you;
and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
Garland (c) 1998 AngelicArtistry Cross (c) New Creation Web Design
Note: This was a Mother's Day message given on May 19, 2002.
I wish mothering were instinctive.
In a perfect world it probably is,
but we do not live in a perfect world.
I play ball with my dog every night. I use two balls. While she chases one, I throw the other one high into the air to practice my hand-to-eye coordination. Over time I have become more and more intrigued with how the autonomic reflex (the natural instinct) of the brain knows exactly when to wrap the fingers around the ball as it hits the hand. How do the brain and the hand know such things? Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made, are we not?
I wish mothering were an autonomic reflex. In a perfect world it probably is somewhat instinctive, but we do not live in a perfect world. Even great outfielders drop a perfectly fielded pop fly from time to time. And so it is with mothering. In fact, most mothering is highly impacted by the inevitable dropped balls and sometimes outright abuses of one or both of our own parents.
My Mother's Mother's Mothering
I have one very faded photograph of my mother's mother huddled next to my grandfather. This is all I have of her. Sadly she spent the last 30 years of her life in St. Elizabeth's hospital, a hospital for the chronically mentally ill in Washington D.C. Her name was Ruby and Ruby made a huge impact in my life because she impacted my mother's life in very tragic ways.
My Grandmother's mothering
impacted my mother's life
in very tragic ways.
My Mother's Mothering
To say that my own mom was seriously mentally ill seems like an under- statement. Her behavior was very much like that of the character played by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She was frighteningly abusive, instigating terrible, violent fights with my father, locking her children out of the house in the freezing cold in the dark of night, tyrannizing us with vile and terrifying words, stalking her family, threatening to murder us, threatening to get us and our husbands fired from our jobs, harassing our employers, telling terrible lies about us to our friends and anyone who would listen, calling non-stop at all hours of the night to threaten and scream at us, sending the police out to tell us to hang up our phones, trying to get our children taken away from us and threatening to kill herself when she couldn't make us do what she wanted us to do. This last threat carried with it the additional threat that she would leave a suicide note blaming us for her death. My daughter's last memory of my mother is standing behind me as she tried to pour a pot of boiling water over her head. Her abuse did not stop with her family. Anyone who did not tolerate her desperate demands and neediness became a target for her vile vengeance. This awful list of her tyranny is long, yet there is another list. When she was wonderful, she was really wonderful—magically wonderful. She was a brilliant scholar with a master's degree in English literature, often quoting Chaucer with a perfect Gaelic accent, Dante, William Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and many other great poets and writers by heart. She was a poet and published author herself. She was a gifted story teller. And she was a survivor. I remember her joyful laughter. She instilled in me a love for reading, theater, classical and non-classical music, a fascination for metaphor and the mystery and wonder of God even though she did not become a Christian until the end of her life.
When my mother was wonderful,
she was really wonderful
To say that I was a seriously flawed, seriously self-centered mother would definitely be an understatement. Coming from a seriously abusive family, we were isolated from much interaction with other families. I had no concept of what a good mother looked like much less how to be one because I had never seen one. I did not physically abuse my children, but they suffered deeply from being far less important to me than I was to myself. I was not committed to my family, because I was more committed to pursuing my own happiness. I did not even begin to get a glimpse of that until I surrendered to Christ at the age of 35. Though I had been in church all of my childhood years, being christened in the Episcopal church as an infant, confirmed at the age of twelve, and water baptized in the Baptist church at the age of nineteen, I had never really surrendered my life to Christ. I was the only boss I wanted, though I was a poor one at that. My children were almost grown when I gave my heart to the Lord. When I occasionally bemoan these details to my children, they remind me that they still turned out to be very fine adults.
had no good role model
My Daughter's Mothering
Historian Will Durant once wrote that he searched for happiness in study and learning. But he discovered that knowledge alone did not bring happiness. He tried travel and found only weariness. He tried wealth and found only worry and discord. He sought to immerse himself in his writing but found only fatigue. Then one day he noticed a woman sitting in a small car clasping a sleeping child in her arms. He watched while a man got off a train and came over and kissed the woman and the baby gently so as not to waken him. As he saw the family drive away together, Durant suddenly realized that what he had just seen was happiness. This is what my daughter Wendy and her husband Brad have taught me over 23 enduring years of marriage.
Wendy had no good role model for mothering either, but I was a Christian when she married, so God's redemption was already at work in her life and her marriage through my prayers. The first thing that amazed me was Wendy and Brad's commitment to their marriage. Both of them had come from multi-no-fault divorced families. They made the decision to chose the high road, making a commitment to a no-fault marriage and a no-fault family. In other words: No divorce. No fault. No way. I'll never forget a time when their marriage underwent a very severe test. I was so angry with my daughter that I'm ashamed to say that I said, "I'd leave her Brad," to which Brad replied to me, "I'll never leave Wendy—not now—not ever."
I don't mean to imply that Brad has been a perfect husband and Wendy has been the only problem. I can also remember a time when I thought Wendy ought to leave Brad. Her response to me was very much the same as Brad's was. They married when he was 20 and she was 19. They both came into their marriage with sorry family backgrounds. They have both made mistakes in their marriage, but they have stuck them out and worked them through. Their extraordinary commitment to their marriage was stronger than mine would have been, which says more about me than I would really like to admit. More importantly, their commitment to their marriage and their family was and still is bigger than all of their problems. They are now old married folks content with and quite fulfilled in their relationship with one another. They are best friends. They like each other very much and are partners in their marriage. They completely affirm that sticking together through all the hard times was more than worth it. They don't even have to look at their very fine children to know that. And I'm so grateful they paid absolutely no attention to me.
Instead of a no-fault divorce,
Wendy and Brad made a commitment
to a no-fault marriage
and a no-fault family.
Now I'm going to brag for a moment or two. Wendy and Brad have raised three children of excellent and enduring character. Bradley, twenty-one, is a music major, finishing his second year of college this spring. He plays a very mean jazz/blues/slide guitar in the performing arts band at Rose State College in Oklahoma City and is a student coach for the women's basketball team. Last year he was a student coach for the men's basketball team. Even though he battles a serious sleep disorder called narcolepsy, he diligently applies himself to excellence every day of his life.
Ryan, age sixteen, is a sophmore in high school. He has been Oklahoma State Chess Champion ten times. In the summers of 2000 and 2001, Ryan won an unprecedented two MVP awards at both sessions of O.U.'s summer basketball camp. As a young freshman in 2001, he was the starting point guard on the varsity team at Casady College Preparatory School in Oklahoma City. He will be playing both junior varsity and varsity basketball at Norman High this year. Barring unforeseen injuries, according to many college coaches, Ryan is destined for a basketball scholarship to college in the Fall of 2005.
A boy will generally grow up to treat women the way his father treats his mother. I can already see Brad rubbing off on Ryan. Recently he was talking with his mother about girls. Actually one girl in particular. He wanted to know how he could show her just how special she was to him. It was refreshing. Wendy suggested that he make a picnic basket and take her to the park. Ryan thought it was a great idea. What a great kid.
Most important of all to me is that both Bradley and Ryan get high marks for integrity.
Both Bradley and Ryan
get high marks for integrity.
My Granddaughter's Mothering
My granddaughter Lauren is an incredible artist, winning many awards and prizes throughout her school years. She has always been a straight A student. She and Brandon have a daughter, Jaden, who was born December 17, 2000. They are wonderfully devoted to each other and to their daughter. Together they are, without even noticing, developing the same parenting skills as Wendy and Brad, who made parenting look easy, even though I know it isn't and wasn't. Jaden is a happy, well-adjusted little girl. Lauren started college this Fall at Rose State College. Wendy and Brad will be keeping Jaden while she works on her degree. Brandon plans to start college part time in the Spring.
Lauren and Brandon are also
people of integrity.
They are developing the same
as Wendy and Brad,
who made parenting look easy, even though I know
it isn't and wasn't.
We won't know for many years about Jaden's mothering, but I can testify that she shows great promise already. When she was just 14 months old her grandmother brought her to visit me. Instead of putting her in her portable crib that first night, I just put her between me and a pillow and waited for her to go to sleep. She rolled around a little bit then climbed up and stretched out face down right on top of me. She put her head on my chest and was almost asleep when she suddenly had a thought. An incredible thought. She lifted her precious little head, looked me straight in the eye and whispered in the most dulcet of tones, "Meemaw". She then gave me a little peck right on my lips, put her head back down and went to sleep. Life will never get any better than this for me. I could have died right then in complete joy. I would say Jaden demonstrated a strong potential for good mothering with that tender gesture. This sweet memory will nurture me for the rest of my life.
So why am I telling you this story on Mother's Day? Well, even the best mothers have regrets. So I want to unequivocally proclaim that God is able to overcome all of our mothering and fathering failures. The course of my life and the lives of my family have been revolutionized forever by the sheer grace of God. Our lives have been set upon a new and better path since I embraced Christ on February 12, 1976.
God is able to overcome all
of our mothering and fathering failures.
This is my story. The grace of God has overcome my mothering failures, my mother's mothering failures and my grandmother's mothering failures. In fact, as I was going over this message with my daughter on the phone, she said she would be very upset with me if I did not tell you that it is never too late for God to redeem your mothering. She made me promise to tell you that as I have grown, I have become the mother she always wanted—that my growth and change have made the past all but a faded memory. These are her words, not mine. May you be encouraged by them. And may the Lord receive all the glory, for as the old song goes, He has done great things—just as He has promised.
Joel 2:25 promises that God will restore the years the locusts have eaten. The redemption of Jesus Christ has restored the years the locust ate in my life. He has transformed my life, my children's lives, my grandchildren's lives, and now my great-granddaughter's life.
Psalm 40:2-5 ( NIV) says it so well. "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust . . . Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare." And He has done just that for me.
Jesus Christ has restored the years
the locust ate in my life.
He has transformed my life,
my children's lives,
my grandchildren's lives,
and now my great-granddaughter's life.
Today I am still "mothering". There are so many women who need an emotionally and spiritually maturer woman to come alongside them—to encourage them, to share biblical truth with them, to love them, to laugh with them, to cry with them, to wrestle with them through the problem areas in their lives. I have been mentoring women for 25 years and it is one of the most fulfilling things I do with my life.
Proverbs 31:10 asks the question, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."
Mothers are invaluable. Good mothering is more priceless than rubies. Mothers are our first love. They impact us for good, for not so good and, sometimes, though it is almost incomprehensible, they can impact us for evil. The early months of an infant's life with mom in many ways shape a child's destiny. A mother's nurturing has a lot to do with whether we become loving, caring people or unloving, uncaring people. My own story is a good illustration for the importance mothers play in our lives. Whether we work or stay at home, God has equipped women to nurture . . . That is if we have been nurtured ourselves.
Mothers are our first love.
On a somewhat lighter note, Erma Bombeck, in her book "What Kids Need from Mom", offers some practical tips for nurturing our children.
One. Train their hearts. Moms need to demonstrate that treating people well—with kindness and courtesy—is just as important as succeeding in school and sports.
Two. Boo less, cheer more. We all know that praise can do wonders for people. Excessive criticism can result in an overly self-critical child who fears to take the risks that lead to achievement.
Three. Talk "taboo." We live in a dangerous world where kids are exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex at ever-younger ages. Some mothers fear that talking about such taboo activities sanctions them. The opposite is true. A study of fifth- and seventh-graders in Southern California, for instance, found that children who have honest discussions with their parents are less likely to use drugs and alcohol and girls who are nurtured by their fathers appropriately are less likely to be promiscuous.
Four. Let limits grow as children do. Children need to be loved without qualification. Such unconditional love does not mean you set no limits: setting boundaries demonstrates to a child how important he or she is to you. When a child oversteps, show disappointment with the behavior, not with the child.
Boo less and cheer more.
Five. Show the way. Kids need a moral compass. That means instilling a sense of right and wrong not only about big issues but also day-to-day matters.
Six. Enjoy your children. With time short, moms often focus on what's "important"—catching up on kids' news, helping with homework. Yet in our tense society, children crave something more—a good time with Mom. Motherhood is a big job, but it's not meant to be a burden. Sometimes you may need to be a little less responsible—to let go of your demands on yourself and have fun with your children.
I would like to add a few of my own tips to Erma's list of what children need:
One. We often hear that children need quality time with us. It's not just quality time our children need with us. It's time they need with us—lots of time.
It's not just quality time
our children need with us.
It's time they need with us—lots of time.
Two. It is not just what we say but how we say it that matters. And it is not so much what we say but even more how we live that impacts our children.
Three. Too many of us run our kids lives according to rules. I am not against rules. Children need boundaries. What I mean to say is don't be harsh, rigid, severe, legalistic or punitive in your boundary setting. Let the law of grace and forgiveness be the supreme standard in your home.
Four. Time may seem to be going r-e-e-eal slow for you who have children at home, but it seems like just yesterday that my daughter walked down the aisle. Now she's a grandmother. Enjoy your children. If you have a child who is a challenge to your mothering, there are so many resources available today in our libraries and on the internet to help you learn how relate to him or her. I found a wonderful site recently as I explored what was out there on the net on the subject of challenging children.
The address is http://www.elainegibson.net/parenting.
Should you be interested you can click on the link. And there is an excellent new book available on this subject entitled Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach by H. Glasser and J. Easley. It focuses on "shifting the intense child to new patterns of success and strengthening all children on the inside." This book gives parents and teachers an absolutely clear understanding of how a challenging child really responds to normal ways of parenting and why traditional methods actually make the situation worse.
Time may seem to be going
for you who have children at home,
but it seems like just yesterday that
my daughter walked down the aisle. Now she's a grandmother.
I'm very sad that I did not know how to enjoy or even be with my children when they were young, but I have learned through my grandchildren to be with all of my family in a joyful, supportive and fulfilling way for all of us. We all love being together. And my great-granddaughter continues to teach me how to play and laugh and have fun. I never knew how to do that for myself much less with anyone else before the third and fourth generations came along.
Five. God is able to redeem all of our failures and deficiencies if we will only let Him work in us and in our children.
Six. I want to acknowledge here how very important fathers are as well as mothers. Father's have a lot to do with shaping our autonomy, our work ethic as well as our sense of acceptance and well-being. Certainly a mother cannot nurture as well when a father is not loving and supportive of her. I want to say that mothers' pretty much determine whether we are capable of nurturing others, but then again I'm not altogether sure that's 100% true either. My son-in-law, Brad, is the most nurturing father I have ever known. Brad attributes this incredible gift to a doting grandfather, who was apparently a very nurturing man himself. When he and Wendy married, he was in his last year of college. I recall so many times when Wendy and I would go out shopping together. As we left the house Brad would have a sleeping baby on his chest and a book in his hands. When we got home neither father nor baby had moved farther than the changing table or the refrigerator. He was still sitting there with a baby on his chest and a book in his hands. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if this is why Bradley is so in love with reading. He had read all of the childhood classics by the time he was ten. I remember that he and Wendy once had a rather intense but joyful discussion about who would change the first diaper on their first baby. Not who wouldn't change the diaper but who would get to.
Brad takes each one of his children out to dinner and a movie frequently. He coached both his sons and his daughter year round in basketball for over fifteen years. He has not only impacted his own children by his commitment to them; he has also fathered numerous other boys and girls over the years. It is fun to watch his sons mirroring him as they play with and care for Jaden, which is a strong indicator of what kind of fathers they will be. Most important of all, Brad has been devoted to Wendy literally from the moment he first set eyes on her, even though it was several years before she seriously noticed him. But he courted her until he won her. To his credit, he has been just as persistent at winning the hearts of his children as he was at winning Wendy's heart. And he has succeeded. All of the children still like hanging out with their dad. And he still likes hanging out with them. I wouldn't be at all surprised in a few years if he isn't coaching the next generation of basketball players in our family when Jaden is old enough to bounce the ball. She likes hanging out with PawPaw too.
Things remain very much the same around Brad and Wendy's home. Brad earned a Master's Degree Summa Cum Laude in Criminology a few years ago and is just finishing up his doctoral work in the same subject. He still has a baby on his chest and a book in his hand. As long as there are babies around, I suspect when he is through with all of his studies, we will still find him from time to time with a baby on his chest and a book in his hand. With three children just reaching their adult years, I feel certain he will be busy for a long time to come.
Major on the majors
and minor on the minors.
Seven. Some of the best advice I ever heard about disciplining children is "major on the majors and minor on the minors". Pick your battles carefully, otherwise your children will develop a deaf ear to your voice.
Eight. Need I say that prayer is the number one all-time, all-important thing? I have prayed for my family ever since becoming a Christian and have definitely seen the answers to many of those prayers. As for the answers for which I am still waiting, I pray that my prayers will continue to ring in God's ear long after I am gone all the way down to the last generation of my family and to the end of time when Christ returns.
Nine. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:3, " . . . you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts." The Bible your children will most frequently read is your life. You need to read it, know it, believe it with all your heart. Even more important, you need to live it. Children don't do as we say, they do as we do.
The Bible your children will most frequently read is your life.
The Promise of God's Transforming Power
So is there hope for you and your family if you weren't nurtured by your mother? Is there hope for your children and grandchildren if they weren't nurtured? Yes there is. This is why I have told you the story of God's redemption in my own life and family.
Redemption is my favorite word in the Bible. Redemption begins the moment we give Christ control of our lives, and like yeast in dough it cannot help but supernaturally pervade every corner of our lives and the lives of those we love and the lives of everyone we touch—even when we live miles apart—are continents apart—even sometimes without saying a word. Redemption is not something we can do in and of ourselves. Redemption is the inevitable ever onward and upward result of Christ's presence residing and at work within us.
Redemption is the inevitable
ever onward and upward result
of Christ's presence residing
and at work within us.
I will close with this final story. When the will of Henry J. Heinz, the Heinz of the "57 Varieties" line of foods was read it was found to contain the following confession:
"Looking forward to the time when my earthly career will end, I desire to set forth at the very beginning of this will, as the most important item in it, a confession of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I also desire to bear witness to the fact that throughout my life, in which there were unusual joys and sorrows, I have been wonderfully sustained by my faith in God through Jesus Christ. This legacy was left me by my consecrated mother, a woman of strong faith, and to it I attribute any success I have attained."
Ephesians 3:14-19 says this: "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, [that you] would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in [your] inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God."
More than silver and more than gold, more than power, more than prestige and more than great accomplishments, faith in Christ is the most important legacy we have to pass on to others and especially to those nearest and dearest to us. My prayer for you today is that Christ would dwell in your hearts through an active and living faith in Him and if He doesn't already dwell there, will you please let Him? Will you open up your heart to Him and say, "Yes, Lord. Come on in. Let your redemption begin today in my life and in the lives of my family." And will you begin to talk to Him about yourself and your family? And will you be careful to look and listen often for Him at work in your heart and your life? If He truly dwells there His redemption will roll on like a mighty river through the rest of your life and you will never be the same. Like measuring Jaden every month on the wall in her room, your spiritual growth and change will be noticeable to all.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 says, "Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut. Love doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always ‘me first,' Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end."
It's a tall order,
and who more than mothers
understands the testing fires
of these words about love?
It's a tall order, and who more than mothers understands the testing fires of these words? Only the Lord God Himself passes this test with marks of 100%. I know this is your sincerest desire though, dear mothers. Thank you for your faithfulness at the world's toughest job.
"May the Lord bless and protect you [mothers]; may the Lord's face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace" (Numbers 6:24) Amen.
The Redemption of God in Mothering
(c) 2002 by Anne Murchison
Copying this article is not permitted for commercial use.
When copying for personal use, please credit the author.
| BrokennessofGod | ArmorofGod | Eternity | Testimony | Unbrokenness | Brokenness | Forgiveness | Grace | Legalism | Repentance | Resurrection | Job | Truth |
| Cross | NarrowWay | EmbracingtheCross | Quotes | Freda | Study | Listening | Prayer | Praying | | Bio | BodyofChrist | Thanks | Home |
| Rwanda | HearingGod | HearingGod | WorldFleshDevil | MyReadingList | GodsWord | Welcome | Mookie | Ledger | Trees | Majesty | SovereigntyofGod | Jaden |
| Bella | PrayerTalk | WildernessJourney | Mentoring | Search |