In the eighth grade, I told my buddy Roy about a crush I had on a girl named Terri. Roy then betrayed that confidence and went to Terri to reveal my secret feelings, to which Terri made a sarcastic and dismissive comment. When Roy shared her response with me, I was crushed. I confided in Mom about my broken heart. (It was eighth grade puppy love, but it still hurt). The next day, there was a note awaiting me on my pillow when I got home from school. Mom consoled me and invited me to consider that Terri’s sarcastic comment was likely rooted in her own sense of inadequacy and pain.
During a visit home during my undergraduate years, Mom and I were talking about college life. I naively asked her, “Mom, was college the highlight of your life? Has it been a letdown ever since?” (I honestly couldn’t imagine anything better at the time.) She gently and wisely shut down that nonsense: “No Andy; college was a special time, but every stage of life has offered its own beautiful gifts.” I had no idea how helpful that wisdom was until, years later, I experienced how absolutely correct Mom had been!
As a graduate student visiting home, I once began spouting criticisms and grumblings concerning US politics and policies that I had heard at university. My dear mom, with words that were uncharacteristically pointed, challenged me by asking, “Well then son, what would you do to improve the situation?” I was caught flat-footed and left sputtering and baffled, wondering when my sweet mom had become such a meanie. Through neither of us had heard of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks back then, my Mom was presciently raising something he wrote decades later: “…we have a culture of grievances that are always someone else’s responsibility.” Mom was challenging me to major in solution-finding, rather than fault-finding.
Proverbs 31, in addition to teaching about the (impossibly) ideal woman, records an oracle that the mother of King Lemuel taught him. It included warnings against promiscuity and drunkenness as well as exhortations to judge righteously, to speak up for the destitute, and to defend the rights of the poor. Wise words, for then and now. Like King Lemuel, I’m grateful for the words of a prudent Mom. Mom knew when to comfort, when to enlighten, and when to challenge, each in their own time. On this Mother’s Day, I thank the Lord of all wisdom for the gift of a Mom who sought God’s wisdom and who passed it on to me.