Why Mom Deserves a Mother’s Day

By: Paul Thigpen

Not until our first child was on the way did I begin to appreciate just how much my mother, and every mother, deserves a Mother’s Day.Now I know something of the price Mom paid for me even before I was born. Sluggish days and sleepless nights in a sweltering south Georgia summer before the advent of air conditioning. Morning sickness and swollen ankles. Fragile emotions and mysterious cravings. The painful climax when she stifled a scream to push me out into the world.

That much alone deserves my gratitude and respect for a lifetime.

Like all moms, however, she found that the sacrifice only began with childbirth. Looking back now, I continue to marvel at the price she paid to raise the five of us. I think, for example, of the agony she must have felt over her two-year-old (me) who contracted a dreadful bone disease as she wondered whether I would lose my arm to amputation. I recall dimly the faded dresses she wore out from a thousand washings, without complaint, so her brood could have new shoes for the first day of school. I think of the aching legs and calloused hands of a tireless woman who labored long hours beside her husband every day for 20 years to fulfill his dream of a family business. And I remember how she came home every night after those long days to cook, clean, iron, and keep us from ganging up on our younger brother.

Sunday was her only day off from work, so it should have been her well-deserved Sabbath. But how do you rest when you have five kids to get ready for church? With so many faces to scrub, locks to brush, outfits to iron, and shoes to polish, a woman of less vigorous faith might have given up on regular church attendance, sending us all out to play on Sunday mornings while she treasured a few hours of silence. But to this day I know by heart almost every song in that tattered old hymnal we used at the little church down the road–and I can still remember her sweet soprano singing as we filled a whole pew, scrubbed faces and all.

Maybe she knew it was all worth it the day I stood before the congregation, a stammering five-year-old, and recited the Lord’s Prayer. They awarded me a Hershey bar for being the first child in my Sunday school class to do it, but Mom was beaming so brightly you’d have thought it was an Olympic medal. Later came the bookmark for memorizing the books of the Bible, the silver dollar for learning the children’s catechism, and the coveted three-year attendance pin–156 Sundays without a miss.

Multiply her efforts by five kids, and you get 780 scrubbed faces and 1,560 shoes polished without a single break. They should have given all the prizes to Mom.

Meanwhile, the services each Sunday only brought to a crescendo the gentle spiritual rhythms of the week before. Day in and day out, my mother made sure that simple prayers were a familiar, dependable constant of our family life. Never a bedtime without committing our young souls to God’s care for the night. Never a meal without giving thanks for the food, even when it wasn’t much more than grits. As poor as we were, I can’t ever recall fearing as a child that there wouldn’t be enough to eat; and I have no doubt that’s because my faith in the Lord’s provision was fed three times daily as we bowed our little heads and affirmed together: “By His hands we are fed. . .”.

In time those precious little heads grew into adolescent hard heads, and Mom’s faith and patience were tried as never before. What kind of
heroine does it take to live 22 years under the same roof with one or more teenagers–and still come out with her sanity? What kind of fortitude was required to hold together a family of seven wildly diverse, often-clashing temperaments that had little in common but a strong will?

I’m not saying we were bad kids; all five of us survived the turbulent and selfish ’60s and ’70s remarkably free of drugs, alcohol, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and brushes with the law. But it seems to me now that it was precisely my mother’s unconditional love and infinite patience that formed for us the primary channels of grace to behave ourselves despite the temptation and tumult of those days. We all toed the line to a great extent, I believe, simply because breaking her heart was a greater price than we were willing to pay–even for the most seductive thrills.

Yet most of all, I think I’m grateful for Mom’s silences. Don’t misunderstand: She’s a talker. No one in our family ever knew the meaning of shyness. But as I’ve struggled over the years with critical decisions about school and career, faith and doubt, marriage and parenthood, I cannot recall even once when she tried to make my choices for me or manipulate me into doing things her way. Perhaps that cost her most of all: to hold her peace when she could see the dangers, to pray for me instead and trust that my life was in the hands of Someone who would never fail me, just as He’d never failed her.

Such is the nature of solid faith, genuine love, and authentic saintliness found not just in my mother but also in countless other moms today whose sacrifices will never be told. For so many evidences of grace and goodness, these women surely deserve a medal. But for doing it all with joy–counting their children well worth the cost–they deserve a Mother’s Day.

“An excellent wife, who can find?… Her children rise up and bless her…Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:10, 28, 30

(The above material was published by the American Tract Society in Garland, TX.)

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