Thanks, Mom!

Colossians 3:15

Can I confess a little trepidation this morning?  I was reminded this last week that Mother’s Day isn’t always filled with warm fuzzies and sweet sentiments.  For many it brings pain and difficult memories.  Some have recently lost their mother and this first Mother’s Day without here leaves an empty hole.  There are some who always wanted to be a mother, but were never able, and those who have lost children and Mother’s Day just refreshes those painful wounds again.

And then, I just always feel a little out of my league on Mother’s Day.  I’ve never preached a sermon on Mother’s Day that I felt did justice to the women who wear the precious name “Mom.”  Either it’s too sentimental (just an overgrown Hallmark Card sermon), or it paints such a lofty picture of motherhood, that all the moms go away deflated thinking, “I could never be that kind of mother.”  I’ve tried giving moms the day off, preaching to children and husbands about how they should honor and serve mom.

For most of you, motherhood is your “other” full-time job.  You don’t jump out of bed in the morning just to get kids up, washed, dressed, fed and delivered to school – you do that on your way to your 9 to 5, and then it’s home in the evening to pick up kids, feed family, do some cleaning and laundry and help kids with homework and then get kids to bed, before falling exhausted into bed yourself, only to start again in the morning.  And that’s the short version.  The last thing you need is advice from a preacher about how great moms do all that and have time for a vibrant spiritual life as well.

So, would it be OK if I just spent a few minutes saying “thanks”?  Thanks from me – thanks on behalf of your husbands and your children – and thanks from all of us who stand on the sidelines watching you make it look easy.

Sometimes it takes a little perspective: 

Glenn Adsit was a missionary in China – he and his family had been under house arrest for several months, when one day the soldiers came to his door and said, “You can return to America.”  They all began celebrating, when the soldier said, “You can take 200 pounds with you.”  Well, they had been there for years, and you accumulate a lot of stuff after that much time.  200 lbs? They got out the bathroom scale and the family arguments started – husband, wife, 2 children.  “We must take this vase” – “well, this is a new typewriter” – “what about my books?”  And they weighed everything, and took things off and put things on, and finally, right on the dot, 200 lbs.   The soldier came to escort them to the dock – “Are you ready to go?” “Yes.”  “Did you weigh everything?” “Yes.”  “You weighed the children?”  “No…”  “Weigh the children.”  And in the blink of an eye, the typewriter and the vase and the books all became trash.

We’re usually not forced to take account and intentionally whittle our lives down to the most important and then have our eyes opened with a real wake up call.

You’ve heard the phrase, “it’s a thankless job.”  The first time it was used, it was probably about being a mother.  Why is that?  What does being grateful cost you?  How much trouble is it to express appreciation to your mother or your wife for what she does?

The pay certainly isn’t very good, the fringe benefits are few and far between.  But there’s probably not a mom here who wouldn’t say it was all worth it if she felt like what she does was appreciated.  So why are we so stingy with our appreciation and words of thanks?

Because we take you for granted.  You’re always there.  Around our house, Diana does everything so smoothly and efficiently, that I just don’t give a lot of thought to everything she does do that keeps us in clean clothes and good meals and a clean house.  And all that is on top of a full time job as a school teacher, and all the ways she serves here at church.  I take her for granted. And I am so guilty of thinking appreciative thoughts, without ever voicing my thankfulness.

At the end of Col. 3:15, Paul tags on one of those powerful little reminders about something that is so important:  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

¨        When Paul talks about thankfulness, he usually directs it toward God, and with good reason.  God is the source of all our blessings, and we rightfully acknowledge our debt of gratitude to him. 

¨        But right here, he’s talking about our relationship with people, and he’s telling us to develop an attitude towards others – “And don’t forget to be thankful.”

¨        The attitude of gratitude – find it, develop it, use it.  What an incredible difference it will make in the life of the woman in your home who pours herself out in service to her family, if only she would regularly hear those words coming from your lips – “thank you.”

So this morning, I say “thank you.” 

Thank you for the loving care you pour out for your families.  I’ve been around long enough now to know a little bit about most of you – to know what great wives and mothers you are to your families – to know what a blessing you are to the lives you touch most intimately.  For every one of you it is a labor of love.  You do the things you do, not because you love laundry, or enjoy vacuuming, and if changing diapers were an Olympic event, most of you would be marathoners.  You don’t do what you do because of obligation or duty, but because of your unconditional, extravagant love for your family. 

And I want to put in a special word for our single moms, who go beyond the second mile, and often third and fourth miles.  You do what most of us two parent families struggle to get done, with half the man-power and none of the encouragement.  You don’t have someone picking up the slack when you’re stretched too thin.  And what impresses me most is the way, week after week, you get up on Sunday mornings, get yourself and your kids ready and come to church, and bring them up in the Lord and try to pass on to them your faith.  And I know it’s not easy, and I know there are times when you are wrestling with a squirming child on one side and a fussy baby on the other, not getting a thing out of the sermon and somebody gives you that “can’t you keep your kids quiet” look and you wonder, “why do I even bother?”  Thank you for your faithfulness and love for the Lord and your children.  And shame on some of us for adding to your discouragement instead of lending a hand.

Moms, thank you for loving the Lord.  I watch the women in this church who are the bedrock of faith.  I know that God invests the leadership of the church in men, but the spiritual giants I know are you women of faith who quietly go about serving and sharing and growing and making most of us men look like spiritual anorexics.  You moms are the ones who set the spiritual tone for your family and you faithfully read the Bible to your children and you’re the one who makes sure your kids are at the activities and the youth group events and you’re the one who prays for your children every night.

And a special thanks to you grandmothers, who didn’t retire from motherhood when your last one moved out.  I watch you grandmothers who remain a source of strength for your children and your grandchildren.  You are involved in their lives and you pick up the slack and you are always available whenever you are needed.  And I watch some of you bridge that spiritual gap for your grandchildren.  You’re the one who makes sure they get to church and you’re the one who provides their spiritual guidance and you are making sure that your faith will make it through to another generation when your children have dropped the ball.

I was trying to think about exactly what it is that the Bible says uniquely about mothers – the Bible has a lot to say generally about parents and parenting, but only in a few instances does it specifically address mothers. 

I thought of what Paul wrote about his own ministry in Thessalonica – 1 Thess. 2:7-9 “…but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 

Isn’t it interesting that when Paul wants to talk about ministry and selfless service and unconditional love – he immediately thinks of a mother caring for her children?  It is the kind of serving that goes beyond the call of duty – it willingly pours itself out in loving sacrifice.

Or how Isaiah described how intensely God loves his people –

Isa. 49:15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

And I remembered what a friend of mine had written about mothers in a book of his several years ago –   

Moms: Why do you love your newborn? I know, I know; it’s a silly question, but indulge me. Why do you?

For months this baby has brought you pain. She (or he!) made you break out in pimples and waddle like a duck. Because of her you craved sardines and crackers and threw up in the morning. She punched you in the tummy. She occupied space that wasn’t hers and ate food she didn’t fix.

You kept her warm. You kept her safe. You kept her fed. But did she say thank you?

Are you kidding? She’s no more out of the womb than she starts to cry! The room is too cold, the blanket is too rough, the nurse is too mean. And who does she want? Mom.

Don’t you ever get a break? I mean, who has been doing the work the last nine months? Why can’t Dad take over? But no, Dad won’t do. The baby wants Mom.

She didn’t even tell you she was coming. She just came. And what a coming! She rendered you a barbarian. You screamed. You swore. You bit bullets and tore the sheets. And now look at you. Your back aches. Your head pounds. Your body is drenched in sweat. Every muscle strained and stretched.

You should be angry, but are you?  Far from it. On your face is a for-longer-than-forever love. She has done nothing for you; yet you love her. She’s brought pain to your body and nausea to your morning, yet you treasure her. Her face is wrinkled and her eyes are dim, yet all you can talk about are her good looks and bright future. She’s going to wake you up every night for the next six weeks, but that doesn’t matter. I can see it on your face. You’re crazy about her.

Why?  Why does a mother love her newborn? Because the baby is hers? Even more. Because the baby is her. Her blood. Her flesh. Her sinew and spine. Her hope. Her legacy. It bothers her not that the baby gives nothing. She knows a newborn is helpless, weak. She knows babies don’t ask to come into this world.

And God knows we didn’t either. We are his idea. We are his. His face. His eyes. His hands. His touch. We are him. Look deeply into the face of every human being on earth, and you will see his likeness. Though some appear to be distant relatives, they are not. God has no cousins, only children.  We are, incredibly, the body of Christ. And though we may not act like our Father, there is no greater truth than this: We are his. Unalterably. He loves us. Undyingly. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  (Max Lucado, Gentle Thunder, p. 47)

That was it – it is in you that we see such a pure picture of God’s unconditional love.  Moms, thank you for loving like God loves and showing us what it means to lay down your life for your children and your family.