The vital importance of mother needs no confirmation. The very existence of each of us and any progress we may have made toward physical or emotional maturity testifies to the essential nature of motherhood. Most of us could personally attest to the validity of old sayings such as, "God couldn't be everywhere (physically), so he gave us mothers." Or, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." Or again, "Behind every great man stands a great woman."
In this portion of Proverbs, God inspired the wise man, Solomon, to describe the distinctive qualities of a good help meet and mother. The qualities that have served mankind so well and fulfilled God's eternal purpose for man down through the ages. Since all good is a gift that comes down to man from the Father in heaven, these qualities could also be described as divine in their origin and nature; especially those particular characteristics that obviously emulate the divine attributes of God. It would seem significant that God gave us mothers that we might see these qualities positively demonstrated at the very earliest age. Studies in developmental psychology and related fields have confirmed again and again that parents exert by far the primary and overwhelming influence that is the determinate in setting the direction of a child's life. Much of this influence is brought to bear by the mother before the child is six years old. The mother often creates the environment and teaches the standards and values that ultimately determine a child's personality and character traits.
Of course, this is not recent news. God inspired the same wise man to say, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." In light of recent events continually confirming the breakdown of families and the abandonment of Godly standards and values in the world today, it is valid to ask if the philosophies of secular humanism, situational ethics and relativism, dominating our culture today, have not influenced parents to abdicate their responsibility to give their children Godly guidance? The following modern day parable raises this question in familiar language that can be easily understood.
"A certain man had a wife and three children. The wife, becoming dissatisfied with housekeeping, and coveting money being earned by her neighbors, said to her husband, 'Husband, secure for me the social security number that falleth to me, and divide unto me a portion of thy trousers . .' With a reluctant heart the husband granted her desire and divided his wardrobe. Not many days later the wife donned slacks and, with tool box under her arm, waved good-bye to the children, and took her journey into a far country and there secured a man's job in a factory.
She made big wages, but she associated with the wicked and listened to the vulgar stories that they told. There was a mighty spiritual famine in that land, and she grew lean in her soul. The children turned loose at the mercy of the neighbors, soon forgot that they had a mother; but the husband remembered the duties of a wife and wished that his wife would return to her home. The husband dined on cold lunch meat, while the wife tried in vain to fill her stomach with the husks of the cheese crackers that fell from the canteen vendor's machine; and no man gave unto her the respect due unto a lady. One day at rest period as she sat engulfed in cigarette smoke and smutty stories, she came to herself.
She said to herself with remorse, "Here I sit, surrounded by vulgarity, and sacrificing the respect due a lady. At home is a deserted husband, while my children roam the streets unrestricted. The money I make seems small compared to peace of mind and soul." In vain she tried to smother her conscience with the thought that she was contributing to the family's economic welfare. So she said to herself, "I will arise and go to my husband and will say unto him, 'Husband, I have sinned against heaven and neglected by family in a terrible way. I am no more worthy to be called thy wife, nor the mother of thy children. Make me as the hired housekeeper.'" So she gathered her tools together and started home. And when she was yet a long way off, the husband saw her, and ran and clasped her in his arms, and the wife said, "I am not more worthy to be called thy wife, nor the mother of thy children." But the father said to the children, "Run and bring hither a dress, and the best apron. Put shoes on her feet, and rush to the meat market and get a steak of the fatted calf, and let us have a warm meal once more. For this, your mother, was lost, and is found. So they rejoiced and made merry." (Author Unknown - The Bible Friend)
Of course, the story will seem to some archaic and extreme, but the message is clear just the same. But let us not forget the awesome responsibility of the father in such situations as well. And lest we appear to be laying a guilt trip upon mothers, we must also remember that every child ultimately becomes absolutely responsible for his or her choices and actions before God and man. It is no more legitimate to say, "My parents or society made me do it," than it is to say, "The devil made me do it." When a child does become a prodigal we must always remember the real story of the prodigal given by our Saviour. There is nothing at all in the story to suggest the father and mother had gone astray in the training and nurture of their son. Although a broken-hearted father is a central character in the story, there is no indication that he suffered a guilt trip because of the choice his son made to rebel against his parents and God. There is a story told of a mother asking a pastor when she should begin to teach her five year old about God. He replied, "Hurry home, you've lost five years already." So it is appropriate that on this special day we focus upon the importance and purpose of motherhood.
IN MOTHERHOOD WE SEE THE PRIMARY PRINCIPLE AND PURPOSE OF LIFE - SERVING GOD BY SERVING OTHERS. In a sense true motherhood personifies the essence of the Gods law of love. Jesus gave the ultimate example of selfless service. "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) God created Eve, and all other mothers who would follow, for the vital role of help meet and mother. The ordinary man is only half his potential without the help of God's appointed companion on life's journey. One of the great tragedies of our time has been the propagation of the concept that somehow the role of motherhood is secondary in the greater scheme of things. This philosophy that permeates so much of the popular culture of our time, sugests that the mundane ministry of motherhood is demeaning and slavish. It is accepted wisdom that success and fulfillment lie in a professional career outside the home. Those mothers who dare to defy the dictates of those dominating the devilish feminist movement, by opting to stay home and be real Christian homemakers, are made to feel inadequate and insignificant.
But nothing could be farther from the truth. The importance of the mother's personal role in early childhood training cannot be over-emphasized. Stories of the mothers of many great men of history such as Jesus, Moses, Samuel, Timothy, Lincoln and Wesley, confirm this. The examples of these mothers tell us that they first gave themselves to God and then to their families. One such mother who placed this into practice wrote the following testimony: "When my children were young I thought the very best thing I could do for them was to give them myself. So I spared no pains to talk to them, read to them, teach them and to pray with them, and in this way to be a loving companion and friend to my children.
I had to neglect my housework often. I had no time to improve myself in many ways that I would have liked to do. I have my reward now! My sons are ministers of the gospel; my grown up daughters are Christian women. I have plenty of time now to sit down and rest; plenty of time to keep my house in order; plenty of time to indulge myself in many ways, besides going about my Master's business. I have a thousand beautiful memories of their childhood to comfort me. Now that they have gone out into the world for themselves, I have a sweet consciousness of having done all that I could to make them ready for whatever work God calls them to do. I gave them the best that I had - myself."
A young man who was raised by such a mother was once asked, "What version of the Bible do you prefer?" He replied, "I prefer my mother's version. She has translated it into the language of daily life for me ever since I was old enough to understand it. There has never been any doubt about her version." A mother's ministry of giving and help begins with a baby's first steps, first words, the mystery of shoe strings, and the magical world of pretend and make belief. It includes the medical magic of a mother's touch and kiss. It is best expressed by the cooling touch of a loving hand upon a feverish brow in the midnight hour. But the ministry of a selfless and serving mother can extend far outside the home.
The Bible is filled with examples of those wonderful and faithful women who were helpers in the ministry of the Word. The role of Mary and Martha in the ministry of our Lord comes quickly to mind. The importance of the help of Lydia in the ministry of the apostles is made crystal clear in the Word. And how could we forget the faithfulness of Lois and Eunice in the ministry of Paul and Timothy. It was Paul who said to their son and grandson, "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also." (II Tim. 1:5)
In motherhood we see the personification of purity and virtue. Solomon's statement leaves no doubt about this. "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price [is] far above rubies." Prov. 31:10) The restoration of purity and virtue, the neglected attributes, is so vitally needed in our world today. In days gone by Godly men fought and died to defend the purity and virtue of Godly women. Many of us from an older generation can recall real life incidents that illustrate the deep underlying respect our culture had for the purity and virtue of our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. No man worth his salt would take advantage of another man's wife, sister or daughter. It may be hard for people today to understand, but it is true. In a day in which I daily encounter those who see no evil in promiscuity, fornication or adultery or no value in virtue, motherhood has been dragged down and degraded.
In motherhood we see the personifaction of a ministry of positive loving faithfulness and encouragement. The faithfulness of mothers is legendary. A Godly mother remains a friend when all others may turn away. Mary, the sister of Martha, encouraged our Saviour with a precious anointing. "(It was [that] Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)" (John 11:2) It was not such much what Mary did that matters, it is what it meant. At a time our Savior needed to be encouraged and ministered to, Mary was faithful to express the love in her heart in a practical and helpful way. Thus demonstrating the faithful and encouraging love that so often characterizing the lives of Godly women.
The faithful love of mothers is shown in this true story told by D. L. Moody: "There was a boy who was bad. He had a very bad father, who seemed to take delight in teaching his son everything that was bad. The father died and the boy went on from bad to worse until he was arrested for murder. When he was on trial, it came out that he had murdered five other people, and from one end of the city to the other there was a universal cry going up against him. During his trial they had to guard the court-house, the indignation was so intense. The white-haired mother got just as near her son as she could, and every witness that went into the court and said anything against seemed to hurt her more than it hurt her son. When the jury brought in a verdict of guilty a great shout went up, but the old mother nearly fainted away: and when the judge pronounced the sentence of death they thought she would faint away. After it was all over she threw her arms around her son and kissed him, and there in the court they had to tear him from her embrace. She then went the length and breadth of the city trying to get men to sign a petition for his pardon. And when he was hanged, she begged to governor to let her have the body of her son, that she might bury it. They say that death has torn down everything in this world, everything but a mother's love. That is stronger than death. The governor refused to let her have the body, but she cherished the memory of that boy as long as she lived. A few months later she followed her boy, and when she was dying she sent word to the governor and begged that her body might be laid close to her son. That is a mother's love. She wasn't ashamed to have her grave pointed out for all time as the grave of the mother of the most noted criminal in the state of Vermont. The prophet takes hold of that very idea. He says, "Can a mother forget her child?" But a mother's love is not to be compared to the love of God."
Motherhood clearly protrays the profound principles of a courageous and safcrifical love. One of the most touching examples of such love is found in the story of the mother of Moses. Her courageous willingness to place herself in jeopardy in order to give her son an opportunity to live and serve the Lord, reflects a selfless love typical of real motherhood. The outcome was predictable and encouraging. God blesses such courageous and sacrificial love. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an excellent example of such motherhood. What we are told of her character, attitude and life, confirms the excellency of the Father's choice of a virgin through which to bless His world. From the very beginning her submissive and sacrificial willingness shines through. "And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, [thou that art] highly favored, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women . . . And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. . . And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy [is] his name." (Luke 1:28, 38, 46-49) As the years of her unique calling and motherly ministry unfold, we are given progressive insights into the depth of her love and committal, Even when she did not fully understand, she seemed always ready to submit herself to God and seek what was best for His Son, "And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." (Luke 2:51-52) "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do [it]." (John 2:4-5) In the end we see her standing by the cross of His suffering, confirming the enormity of her love and sacrifice, as she shares the moment of her son's agony on the cross. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the [wife] of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! " (John 19:25-26)
Motherhood presents us with a model of loyalty and dedication. As this passage tells us, there is scarcely a worthwhile Godly characteristic or attribute that we do not see personified in Godly motherhood. In the story of Ruth we find the attribute of life-long loving loyalty demonstrated in the most wonderful and beautiful way. This consistent theme is repeated throughout the scriptures. Although little is said about it specifically; through obvious circumstance we see it repeated again and again in the lives those unsung heroines of the faith such as Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and even the apostles wives, who were willing to follow their husbands, the servants of the Lord, to the very ends of the earth Although many women are mentioned as being found faithful and loyal to their husband and the Lord, rarely is one mentioned who is otherwise. I believe that someday the names of the great heroines of the faith during the persecutions of the dark and middle ages will be known as well. And modern day wives of missionaries and servants of God who have also been willing to follow their husbands and the Lord to the end of the earth will also be recognized to the glory of God.