Saturday, May 07, 2011

A strange example of what it might mean to "honor thy mother"

The bible has a few different instances of instructions to children, and how they should obey their parents.

Things change as the child grows, though, and eventually they mature into adults with children of their own. At that point, while a 30yo might not be called to always obey their own parents, they are certainly called to honor them.

Mother's Day is surely an opportunity for us adults to honor our mothers, and we should do so! It is a special relationship and no matter how awesome, loving, flawed or absent your own mother might have been, she has undoubdedly shaped much of the way you live.

I look at the way Jesus honored his mother in the bible, and it didn't always include obedience or even explicit words of affection:

-- When as a 12yo he went to the temple, he knew his mother would be worried about him. But for some reason he felt that he was in the right place, and there was a higher purpose than his mother's peace of mind.
-- When she asked him to make more wine for a wedding party, he spoke to her in a way that could be seen as disrespectful ("Woman, it is not yet my time"). Yet he obeyed and performed what we consider may have been his first public miracle.
-- As he was dying on the cross, his love for his mother shone through. We only see seven recorded statements from Jesus on the cross, which makes sense for someone dying of asphyxiation. One of those final seven statements was to make sure she would not be alone ("behold your son", talking about John) and to make sure someone would take care of her ("behold your mother", talking to John).

So sometimes Jesus honored his mother with words, but other times his words were mixed and his honor took a much more complex form through the way he lived.

Mine works the same.

I will call my mother tomorrow and tell her I love her, you bet! Yet my life also includes very complex, difficult decisions as I care for my own family, and I can honor my mother by how I make those decisions.

As an example, I quit my job last week. And I don't have another job lined up yet. This could be seen superficially as a rebellious rejection of my mother's teachings, since there were many times she told my brother and I never to leave a job until we already had the next one in place.

Yet a few years ago my brother also quit a job without having the next one landed. What's happening here? Were we honoring our mother?

I say wholeheartedly, "Yes we are!"

Because while she taught us to find a job before leaving a job, she also taught us higher values of integrity, faith and a generous and light hand with material wealth.

Integrity called me to leave this job now since I was in a leadership position, and was being pushed to make commitments both publicly and privately that I knew I couldn't live up to.

Faith reminded me that when I live with integrity (and really, even when I don't), things usually work out and my family will not starve.

A decade's worth of careful and conscious stewardship by my wife and I have put us in a financial position to be without a job, yet still without hardship.

So sometimes we have a choice -- to follow a single instruction from our mother, or to break that instruction by following the more holistic themes of her teaching.

These are the ways we honor her. I will call her and say I love her. I will raise my children with dedication and sacrifice. I will remember that I'm not the most important person in the world. And sometimes I'll even quit a job, turn away from a friend or ruffle feathers at church.

At a simple view, those things might not seem like they honor my mother. But thank God, she knows that life is not always simple!

Love you Mom!