The member of my church who gave the children’s sermon on Mother’s Day helped the children make a list of things they had learned from their mothers. I am sure most of the adults in the congregation, like me, have spent some time since then pondering what they learned from their mothers. I was blessed with a good mother who tried to teach me many things, and once in a while she may have succeeded.
There are a very few things I am glad I did not learn from her. She was convinced, for example, that fat women should never wear bright colors or large, splashy prints. She nearly always wore dark neutral colors like black, navy, and gray. In my opinion, she failed to express her quite colorful personality. If I feel good in something, I wear it. If anyone thinks my red outfit makes me look like a walking barn, he can look the other way.
Most of Mom’s lessons, however, I either learned, partially learned, or wish I had learned. She tried hard to teach me core Christian values like kindness, meekness, and honesty. These come in the partially learned category. I’m still not doing so well on meekness; after all, I am my father’s daughter too. I’ll never forget the verse from Psalms she taught me to use as a prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
Another bit of wisdom stuck forever in my head is the idea that Andrew was the first Christian missionary. He met Jesus and went to tell his brother; it is as simple as that. I’m still not very good at witnessing about Jesus, but thanks to my mother, I sometimes make the effort.
Perhaps the value about which Mom was most strict was honesty. When I was a young, single adult living away from home, Mom always wanted me to call home when I arrived at my own place after a visit to let her know I got home safely. Some of my friends had a neat system of placing a person-to-person call to themselves. Their parents could say they weren’t there. Presto. Mom and Dad would know their daughter got home safely, and it would not cost a cent. When I told Mom I would do this, she said, “You will not! If you don’t think you can afford the call, call collect, but you’re not going to steal it from the phone company.”
My mother tried to shape my character by example, as well as precept. She was always very kind, forgiving, and tolerant toward others. Even though her standards were strict, she was never harshly judgmental toward others who did not live up to them. For example, my mother was an adamant opponent of liquor. However, if my cousins or my brothers and their friends came home in an inebriated condition (which, I’m sorry to say happened fairly often), Mom was just as friendly and hospitable toward them as toward her own friends who were always sober.
On the other hand, when she felt the need to speak out, she could bravely do so in no uncertain terms. When a member of our church criticizing the pastor and his wife for their imperfect toddlers said, “My children never behaved like that in church,” Mother replied, “I think you may have forgotten. The first time I came to church here, there were two little ones running back and forth in the pew in front of me being so rowdy I could not hear the preacher. When I asked someone who they were, they were your two youngest.”
Set downs like that one were not common, but Mom was not mealy-mouthed. She and that same neighbor often argued Scripture a bit. Hattie’s key verse was, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” That, she felt, gave her the right to sift others’ faults to determine who was fit for office in the church or deserved to be treated well. Mom’s key verse was, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Neither ever made a dent in the other’s philosophy, so I guess I learned (or should have) that arguing Scripture is usually an unprofitable exercise.
Mom also set a lovely example in her ability to laugh, even at herself, and I think I have learned that one fairly well. After all, if you learn to laugh at yourself, you have a lifelong source of entertainment.
Although I never heard her quote it, another verse of Scripture my mother could have claimed as her own was Paul’s statement, “I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content.” We never had much in the way of material things. If Mom got a new dress every few years, she was happy with that. We never had electricity until about 1947, and there was no bathroom in the house until after I left home.
I have a lot more than my mother ever did, but I still have not mastered the contentment bit. Hanging onto my temper is another area where I am no match for my mother. If you are looking down from heaven and watching me, Mom, try to remember that I’m a work in progress.