Matthew Henry, the eighteenth century English preacher and author of the renowned commentary that bears his name, began his examination of Proverbs 31 with the following words:
When children are under the mother’s eye, she has an opportunity of fashioning their minds aright. Those who are grown up, should often call to mind the good teaching they received when children.
This seems appropriate in light of this recent Mother’s day and therefore I want to “call to mind the good teaching I received as a child” and pay tribute to my mother who was the instrument of God’s saving grace in my life.
Ours was a family torn apart by divorce when I was only 6-years-old. So, I know too well the destructive effects that the dissolution of the family brings. When the familial relationship which God intended is broken, everyone involved suffers. Things are not as they should be and what is desperately needed is God’s restorative grace and mercy upon all involved. My mother was the instrument of this grace in my life and our family as a whole.
When I was 12, my mother—now remarried—was brought to faith in Christ while attending a Billy Graham Crusade. This was the visible beginning of God’s redemptive work in our family and my life personally.
I remember my mother taking me to church and constantly sharing the story of Jesus with me and what he had done for her and how his saving work on the cross was available to me. However, my adolescent years were marred by severe rebellion, narcissism, and self-destructive behavior. I was—like so many children of divorce—angry, consumed by a sense of rejection and an unsatisfied longing for love and acceptance. I would qualify this by saying that my sinful anger arose out of my own sense of entitlement.
Like all sinners, I believed that I was first and that I deserved unconditional love and acceptance and second, that such love and acceptance could be satisfied through others. That is not to say that parents aren’t obligated to love their children; they are, but to expect perfect love in our fallen state is to deny the reality of our condition and excuse our own contributions to this fallen condition. This false perception of ourselves coupled with the misplaced expectation upon others has produced only heartbreak, disappointment, and misery.
Suffice it to say that I was not responding to my mother’s entreaties to turn from my rebellious sin and call upon His mercy. I was stiff-necked and hard-hearted. In biblical terms, I was a fool! Nonetheless, my mother never relented and she never gave up on me although I’m sure she was tempted many times. She never shrank from speaking the truth and she prayed for me constantly. Ironically, even when I was at my most rebellious, I secretly knew my mother loved me and that she would never forsake me even though my conduct warranted a good forsaking! The fact that she persisted in pressing the Gospel when I was so resistant, confirmed its truth in a way that I did not fully understand, but I knew this represented a risk on her part. She risked losing me and yet she persisted because she knew this was the only Truth that could ever save me. She was willing to risk everything for my sake!
For those mothers who are discouraged by the spiritual state of their children, take heart; I bear witness to the fact that the Lord can and does respond to the prayers of a grieving mother!
When the Lord, in His mercy, brought me to repentance and saving faith at the age of 21, my mother was the first person I called. I can still remember exactly where I was and the sense of joy at letting her know that I while I tried not to listen in the years prior, I had heard her. The Lord had heard her prayers and thankfully blessed her faithfulness. These twenty-nine years later, my mother remains a spiritual mentor, wonderful friend, and precious blessing in my life whom I can always count on to speak the truth in love.
My mother was the spring through which the Lord poured out His grace and mercy to me, my stepfather, two sisters, two stepbrothers, a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, and at least ten grandchildren. The Lord has indeed restored “what the locusts had eaten” and what sin tried to destroy. Ours is a family of faith in which relationships have been restored and true healing experienced. This “family of faith” will be my mother’s greatest legacy, and I pray this is so for generations to come. She has fought, and continues to fight the “good fight.” Her children, and her children’s children “arise and call her blessed!”
King Lemuel concludes his well-known description of the “virtuous woman” taught to him by his mother and recorded in Proverbs 31 with these words:
Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Mom, I am the fruit of your hands and I praise you in these gates—this public place—where all may know of your steadfast faith and devotion. I love you and hope your Mother’s Day continues to be a blessing!
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