I’m going to tell you a story that causes me shame whenever I think of it. I’m reminded of it, because today is Mother’s Day, it involves my mother, and I recently told it to my siblings when we met to spend time with my mother in February. I’ll begin by giving you some backstory.
My dad was a busy pastor when I was growing up and my mom was as involved in ministry at the church as he was. I remember practically living at the church. I’m pretty sure there was no one save the janitor that spent as much time at the church as we did. My dad had to prepare two different sermons a week, one for Sunday morning and one for Sunday evening, plus a mid-week Bible study and adult Sunday school class. He was also the youth pastor and sang in the choir, which my mother directed. And, of course, there were lots of meetings, hospital and home visits, potlucks, weddings, and funerals. It was the 60s and early 70s. Dad provided for the family and Mom was responsible for our home and the care and feeding of the children. She also worked as a school teacher, a successful Avon Lady, and a college fundraiser, over the years, to supplement the family income. She was probably as busy or busier than he was, especially when we were young.
The backstory continues. I remember it being an issue that we, their three children, balked at picking up our toys. My dad liked things tidy. Mess was a source of stress for him. I remember my parents fighting about this and Dad telling Mom she needed to discipline us. If you know my mother, you know she’s a big, ole marshmallow, as sweet as sugar. She was on the permissive side of things, as far as parenting goes. She was too busy to argue with us and she didn’t like confrontation, either. She was a pushover because she was a peacemaker, always trying to smooth things. I don’t remember doing much around the house ever. Unlike my husband’s family, where the children were required every Saturday to do set chores before they were allowed to play or leave the house, we did very little. I emptied the dishwasher, set the table, and did my own laundry as I got older, but nothing more involved than that. Onward to the cringe-fest.
When I was in high school, my mother was planning a party. My parents were hospitable people and we had groups in regularly. She was busy preparing the food and cleaning the house and she told me to clean the downstairs bathroom, the one my sister and I used. I had never cleaned a bathroom before. I flatly refused. An argument ensued, but I was, at the time, a rebellious, depressed teenager and I knew there was no way she could make me do it. I won the argument and stormed out of the house, leaving her dumbfounded, I’m sure. I came back later and headed downstairs to my room only to find her stooped over in the bathroom, weeping, as she cleaned the toilet I’d refused to clean. I turned away, went into my room, and shut the door.
I did this. I was disobedient, I disrespected her, and then ignored her pain. I can’t recall if I ever said I was sorry. I can think of other instances like this, as well. I had a rather rocky adolescence. In other homes, this kind of ongoing, rude behaviour may have caused permanent harm to the relationship, but not in our home. You see, my mother is probably the most Christ-like person I’ve ever known. She met surliness with gentleness, meanness with kindness, and offensiveness with grace. She lived out the two greatest commandments. She loved God and loved people with all her heart. My dad’s success in ministry was due in no small part to her. I was a fortunate recipient of her love and grace and she lavished it on me through all my crying, whining, arguing, general messiness, mood swings, friend troubles, school skipping, and growing pains. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” My mother could say this, though she never would because she’s far too humble and, while I’m still not much of a bathroom cleaner, I do my best to draw near to God every day in the hopes I’ll become more like Jesus and, yes, more like my mother.
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