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FIRST-PERSON: What mothers teach us

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–King Lemuel decided to share with the world the wisdom he had garnered during his ascent to the throne. These “sayings” of King Lemuel are the things “his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). Restated, this means that the king learned his really important lessons from his mother.

Maybe Lemuel’s mother was unusually wise and articulate. But I suspect that the king learned these things from his mother for the same reason many of us found our mothers to be our best teachers: Mothers love their children.

One night I was privileged to handle bedtime for the three preschool daughters of my eldest daughter. As I was tucking them in, they started to plead, “Back scratch! Back scratch!”

“Okay,” I said, and I scratched their backs, but I could not perform the task precisely as their mother did and they all fell asleep feeling slightly deprived.

Mothers scratch your back out of love, not duty. They hold you close, comb your hair, clean your ears and wash your feet just because they love you. They are often our most powerful teachers, not just because they teach us when we are very young, but also because they teach us out of this context of unselfish love.

The things of which you think you are certain climb in number while you are a child. But if you are emotionally healthy and intellectually active, sometime in young adulthood that number of supposed certainties begins to decline.

The things which remain as personal certainties after the gauntlet of adolescence, education, marriage, parenting, bereavement, conflict and grandparenting are mostly the lessons your mother taught you. These sureties are solid ground for decision-making, relationships and quality of life on the planet.

The king’s mother taught him to use his power for the good of others, to abandon selfish indulgence and focus on caring for his subjects in need. She cautioned him about wine and women which she said are not the prerogatives of kings, but their downfall.

The king’s mother cared for him when he himself was helpless and needy and could not speak for himself — when he was a baby. That’s what mothers do. They encourage such behavior in their sons and daughters because they know it corresponds with fundamental truth and goodness.

This Mother’s Day we should rehearse the things our mothers taught us by word and example. Maybe the principles and virtues we learned from them will aid us in our current dilemmas, conflicts and challenges. A mother’s tenderness, gentleness and generosity should not be lost on those of us who now have opportunity to speak for the powerless and destitute.

If our mothers are still among the living, we should count ourselves blessed. They deserve a heartfelt thank you and a big hug if we can give it. If they have passed from this life, we are still blessed to have known them and known their love. A moment’s reflection about that remarkable woman on this special day might bring a smile and a laugh. Remembering her we might even see the way forward to a higher road, a deeper love and a better life. Her selfless love continues to teach us our most important lessons.
David E. Crosby is pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.

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  • David E. Crosby