Her voice shimmered vivid over my head, pitch-perfect, clear and right as birdsong.
Sunday morning sunshine streamed in the stained-glass windows and rainbow hued the small sanctuary. I sat next to her and strained my eyes to make out a word to sing, to follow along. To sound like her.
“Oh victory in Jesus,
my savior forever...”
Her brown arms lifted the red, hard-bound hymnal. Her short-trimmed fingernails revealed a life of work, but the softness of her fingertips belied her profession: mother. Laundress, housekeeper, budget-maker, rule enforcer.
In my blue eyes, she was the law and the love and the safety I needed.
In time, my mom became less in my vision. Of course, I became infinitely more important in my own estimation, being sixteen.
And of course I snuck out and did my share of lying to her; I felt pangs of guilt, but pushed them down in the murk of denial. My mom, though she possessed the softest, round arms, was a rock. She took what seven kids dished out and still managed to get dinner on the table and make Christmas happen every year.
It wasn’t until I was seventeen, and my parents and I moved to California (my grown siblings settled in their own lives), that I saw her as just a person.
She remained my mom, but apart from everything that had grown familiar and in a new ministry (my dad was a denominational pastor and took a position in a little church, now closed, in San Jose), I began to realize my mom wasn’t super-human, just human.
She had a sign posted on her bathroom vanity mirror that read, “I know I’m somebody, cuz God don’t make no junk!” I had never seen that in our old house, but understood that now, in the newness of our situation, apart from almost everyone (her kids) who had served to define her purpose and priorities, my mom was healing, re-learning her own identity in Christ Jesus.
The “rock” I’d seen was vulnerable, a little less perfect, but so much more an individual, a person. And I realized I wanted to get to know her, not for what she did for me or what I could get from her…just her.
Her thoughts, her story, her past riddled with mistakes and wrung free with redemption’s grace.
The years passed and I began my own life as a mom. Now I am the mystical, miraculous, misunderstood mother. And, when she helped me learn to nurse and bathe and become all thing mother-y, I vividly remember being just a little bit in awe of her again.
More years and more additions to my family came, while age settled into the lines of my mother’s face and the bones of her body. Suddenly old. A new hip was installed and I left my four kids to care for her as she recovered. And even in her weaker, vulnerable state, biding her time in physical therapy and pain management in the nursing home, her strength, her faith flashed vivid and strong.
And I am more like her and she is more like me as we accept not our human positions and responsibilities in life, but as we, with great resilience grasp hold of our heavenly positions: redeemed, forgiven, loved children of God.
The famous “love chapter” in the Bible tells us that these three remain:
Faith and Hope are the gifts that keep us looking forward. Someday, faith and hope will be unnecessary because we’ll be with the Author of our Faith and we’ll be in the presence of our Great Hope. Only and always Love will remain.
Of all the gifts my mom gave me, these three remain: faith, hope, love. Albeit imperfect and perfectly flawed, she revealed to me in part the only things that will truly matter in the end. Because we all know that a mother’s indefatigable love is the closest representation of the Abba-Father love we know in Christ. And that she did well: God didn’t make her junk, he made her a mom.
Linked up here with Lisa Jo: