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Mothers who have given us life

By Charles Qualls

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day in America. We honored mothers and mother-figures we have known. Our lives are affected by them, and in some way or another they have even given us life. Not all of our “mothers” are blood-related, you know. Some who have come alongside us and nurtured us are chosen family.

If pastors across our country were paying attention this Sunday, then they knew they walked a crooked line. For pastors know that not everyone has a healthy relationship with their mother. Some simply do not attend church on Mother’s or maybe Father’s Day Sundays because the pain is too great. Not all mothers have been stellar. We have to know that.

My own mom continues to amaze me with her resourcefulness and resilience. I checked in with her soon after the Coronavirus quarrantine time had begun here, at least. Her retirement community had locked itself down and was protecting them fiercely. I asked her about food and pharmaceuticals.

You’d have to know that my mother never owned a computer until she was 87 years old. That happened only because they offered an iPad class there where she lives. She enjoyed it so much she bought her own. Now at 91, she explained to me the other day that she had set up an online order with the nearby grocery store and had also figured out how to order her prescription meds. Both were being delivered right to her.

That resilience and resourcefulness may well be the best qualities she instilled in us. The pursuit of curiosity, the freedom to become what we are, those are also qualities that my mother championed fiercely in how she raised us.

What a riveting picture our scripture text from John 19: 23-30 gives us. Jesus is now hanging from a cross, but his own mother is there watching. This is a nightmarish set of circumstances. Any mom who has known the death of her child connects with this story in a way the rest of us cannot.

Artists across the centuries have taken turns attempting to capture the sheer energy and emotion. Eugene Delacroix depicts Mary as a still vigorous woman, noticeably strong and attentive. She is alone at Jesus’ feet, staring up at him. She will be available to him until he dies. Meanwhile, Vouet Simon shows a fragile, broken Mary. She is attended to by the other women, propped up even by one of them lest she shrink into the ground. She has given all she has.

Here is Mary. She has chosen to be present with Jesus all the way to the end. Mary has faithfully carried out the assignment she had been given long ago as an unmarried girl. She has raised God’s own Son. Now, humanity is killing her baby because it did not like what he represented. Humanity gave him a hearing, and it did not like what he did or said.

Mary wasn’t perfect. As I love to point out, she forced Jesus during the wedding at Cana to expose what he was before he was ready. Then there she was later, sending one of Jesus’ brothers out into the street to fetch Him during his public ministry. Jesus had gotten cross-ways with some church officials. Mary insisted he should come home and resume his place among the family members. She was on the wrong side of that one.

Depending on the gospel writer, we find Mary faithfully staying with Jesus all the way to the end. She is there as he is crucified. Jesus charges John with her care. Then, depending on the gospel writer, Mary may have been at the tomb on Easter. Afterward, as Jesus appears to the disciples in a locked room, Mary sits silently over in a corner among his gathered. She never quit on her son.

Healthy mothers, and mother-figures in our lives, may have given us a similar presence. Related to us or not related to us. Loving mothers have assured us we always had a home. Wise mothers have known when to draw us close and when to push us. Strong mothers have taught us that strength comes in many forms. Principled mothers have shown us when to stand up.

They have believed in us when few others may have. They have modeled, taught and nurtured some of our better qualities. They have disciplined and permitted, cautioned and freed us. This week, we give thanks for the life-giving presence of mother-figures. They are gifts from God.

The REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is the pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.