MAYFIELD, Ky. (BP)–Certainly Anna Jarvis thought her mother was worth celebrating. Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, had founded the Mother’s Day Work Club during the Civil War. Ann Jarvis organized West Virginia mothers to care for both wounded and sick Confederate and Union soldiers. After the war, Anna’s mother continued to minister to the needs of both war veterans and the mothers who cared for them. When Ann Jarvis died in 1905, Anna led a nine-year effort to have Congress recognize a federal holiday for her mother and all mothers in general. In 1914 this became a reality with the institution of a federally sanctioned Mother’s Day holiday.
For those of us in the Christian community, we see little need for even discussing why mothers are worth celebrating on Mother’s Day. We already know that to a very great extent our mothers possessed a very great influence on our lives.
Why are mothers, especially Christian mothers, worth celebrating?
First of all, our mothers provided us with most of the essential nurturing that we received — especially early in life. While fathers can and do nurture, for most of us, this was a role reserved largely for our mothers. For baby boomers like me, most of our mothers stayed home with us throughout our childhood and adolescence years. They tended to our needs and a good portion of our wants.
While mothers of later generations stayed at home for a lesser duration, they still provided a good portion of the nurturing of their children. Mothers of children with health care needs of all generations function as the first line of primary care providers for their own sick or injured children. Their roles are especially critical for the lives of their children.
Second, mothers play a critical role in acclimating us to our own culture and society. Long before kindergarten and first grade, mothers launch us toward our first learning experiences. Simple songs, memorizing our numbers and alphabet, and being exposed to the most elementary aspects of science, history and mathematics were under the purview of mothers. The education system simply built on the foundation that they started.
Who can forget those “gems” of socialization that mothers have advanced? Can you remember some of these sayings: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything;” “Say you’re sorry;” “Put things back where you found them;” “Don’t take things that don’t belong to you;” and “The kindness you show to others will come back to you.” While these directives became a little harsher during our teenage years, the effect remained the same — our mothers exposed us to the greater society beyond our family units. Between our individual autonomy and the needs of our society, our mothers bridged the chasm.
Finally, our mothers, whether at home or in the workforce for part of the day, were often the first or most important introduction we had to the Christian faith. For many Christian mothers, their personal mission fields rarely extended beyond their own households. Christian mothers for generations have read the Bible to their children, sung hymns and carols, had prayer with them, taken them to Sunday School and church, and taught their faith to their young charges. Our collective Christian and biblical worldview was first articulated to us by our mothers. Certainly both mothers and fathers influence our early Christian walk, but those crucial first steps are orchestrated by our mothers.
On May 8, 2011, we will once again honor our mothers on Mother’s Day. My dear Christian mother, Garnetta Hardin Wilson, has gone to be with the Lord. For those of you who still have your mother with you, make sure you take the time to honor her not only for this one day of the year but on every day.
Stephen Douglas Wilson is vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, Ky., and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.