Why I Gave Up My Mother For Lent

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I’ve been going to my parent’s house more often since I’ve been off the road. It sure beats spending time by myself in an empty little house or eating alone in a restaurant. And, besides that, my mom’s cooking is unmatched in the world. The usual routine was to have a meal during the week and also come home for Sunday dinner.

My plans to “leave and cleave” never came to fruition. All of my closest friends eventually married and disappeared from my life. My siblings (especially the married ones) are very independent and not usually available. Thus there is little other choice for meaningful social interaction during the week besides home. And, since my dad isn’t much for talking about much besides work, the bulk of my time talking is with my mother—who is quite similar to me in personality and temperament.

Going back a step…

Apparently, as a child, I was the only one who would cry when my mom would step out for a minute with the garbage. This separation anxiety never fully went away either. Even as an adult I’ve had a terrible fear of losing my mom. That could simply be because I’ve remained single and (besides a few online mothers who have been there for me) have really only had one significant nurturing person in my life.

In the past couple years, in particular, as my only opportunities for regular meaningful social interaction at church dried up and marriage remained unattainable, my mother was all I had. My mother is the one who has always been there for me through thick and thin. I love her despite our getting under each other’s skin sometimes.

Too much of a good thing?

As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. That is suggested in Scripture where too frequently visiting neighbors is advised against: “Too much of you, and they will hate you.” (Proverbs 25:17) It does seem too much of even a good thing is bad. And, at very least, the law of diminishing returns may eventually apply to any activity and one would be better doing something else with their time.

Anyhow, with the thoughts of my over-dependency in mind, and my own terror over the thought losing this person who has been in my life longer than anyone else, and considering that Lenten season is about sacrifice, it became clear what to do:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26 NIV)

It is easy for those born into Christian homes to treated this teaching of Jesus as hyperbole or a command only necessary for new converts, but what if Jesus did mean it to be taken literally?

Would you literally give up your mother and father to follow after Jesus?

My mother, while imperfect as I am, was never the smothering type. Late into middle school (possibly the start of my 8th grade year) things weren’t going very well and I begged my mom to homeschool me. She denied the request. And, despite my discomfort with her decision not to give me what I wanted, she made the right call. Because, even though it is impossible to know where I would have ended up otherwise, I did eventually break past some of my shyness and am glad for that experience rare for a conservative Mennonite.

Mary and the sacrifice of motherhood…

I’ve been listening to a lot of Jordan Peterson lately and his contrast of the “devouring mom” with Mary (the mother of Jesus) caught my attention. Interestingly enough, both feminists and patriarchal men do not give Mary her due because both undervalue female contribution—both see masculine roles as superior and therefore discredit the importance of motherhood.

Mary, as a mother, was willing to sacrifice her son to the world. In fact, the first miracle of Jesus recordes in Scripture, was at the prompting of his mother:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so… […] What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1‭-‬8‭, ‬11 NIV)

That is an extremely interesting exchange between a mother and son. Based in his initial response, the miracle was out of the timeline that Jesus had in mind. Mary, for her part, totally ignores his “my hour has not yet come” protest and, without further comment, moves on to tell the servants to do what her son tells them to do.

It is important to note that the choice of “woman” by translators could give an incorrect sound of rudeness. According to various sources, the word he used was more similar to “ma’am” and might suggest he was distancing himself a bit from his mom or asserting some independence. But, despite being pushed outside of his comfort zone, he complied readily with his mother’s request.

Mary did what a good mother does for her son. She gave him a little nudge, she showed her confidence in him—first in ignoring his initial response and then by her instruction to the servants to follow his lead. And because of that we have this wonderful example of motherhood.

Before Jesus could become the ultimate sacrifice to the world he first needed a human mother willing to nurture him and then give him up. In some ways Mary shared equally in the sacrifice made by God. She, like God, sacrificed her own son—the child who grew in her womb—to be tortured and killed.

My mom…

My mom, like Mary, has always been my biggest encourager. Yes, like all good moms, there was always a push and pull. She would probably be happier if her other children not moved so far away and I may have happier to stay in her home until married. But without her push I’m not sure how much I would’ve accomplished with my life. It because of my mother that I opened a savings account as a child, it is because of her that I bought my house a decade ago, she has encouraged my writing, and her overall push has always been for my independence. She has empowered rather than enslaved me.

My mom had a good balance of empathy and necessary toughness. Unlike some parents, both she and my dad always tried to be fair (perhaps too fair) in how they presented me to the world. For better worse, we aren’t a family that is much for overselling ourselves. If asked, I would probably say that my parents are average and not without their flaws. Yet, in true fairness, saying my parents are average is a vast understatement—they are extraordinary people and I’m very grateful for them both.

So, anyhow, I have given up many things dear to me in the past year and, Lord willing, I will be completing the transition from Mennonite to Orthodox this year.

However, for all the once important things I’ve sacrificed in an unbending quest for the truth, I’ve not yet broken my dependency on my mother. My mom said goodbye to her mom last spring and, with my budding romance, it is bound to happen sooner or later—that is why I gave up my mom for Lent.

A Mother’s Response: Forgiveness or Vengeance?

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been tried and found guilty of playing a role in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings. I have not studied the evidence against him, but a jury has decided that the evidence implicates him as being guilty of all charges and he awaits sentencing.

His mother, interviewed on WhatsApp, unleashed a tirade in response. She refuses to believe her son is guilty of anything, she alleges conspiracy and promises vengeance. If there’s truth to the saying about the apple not falling far from the tree, then one could wonder if her son wasn’t just following after her example.

An innocent man killed and forgiveness offered

Walter Scott was gunned down while trying to flee from a police officer. Clearly the use of deadly force was unwarranted and the officer who pulled the trigger has been charged with murder. It is a tragedy for two families and a grave injustice to one.

Scott’s mother has ever reason to be upset. Her son (besides being back on his child support) was innocent, had no trial, and was shot in the back. However, in a CNN interview, while clearly heartbroken, she would not take her interviewer’s bait and offered forgiveness.

Which mother more closely represents you?

The contrast is amazing. One is a picture of beauty and grace; a real taste of heaven on earth. The other seems to be painting a path that can only lead to indiscriminate violence and more destruction. One is a solution to the cycle of violence and a way to peace, but the other is fuel for hellfire.

The world will not be made better by those who take vengeance themselves. I hope more choose the way of forgiveness of even a terrible injustice. Choose love over hate.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends…” (Romans 12:9a)

I love mom

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It isn’t Mother’s Day…

But who says I need to turn my love of my mom into a once a year cliché? 

Traditions have a place for expression of love and appreciation.  However, spontaneity seems to have a more authentic or genuine ring to it and I know moms need love from their children year round.

I’ve been struggling trying to blog.  I have plenty of ideas.  I’ve started numerous blogs.  I’ve even published some only to later remove them because they weren’t well-written and thought out.  My mind is just moving too fast right now.  I have something else sucking the oxygen out of the room that makes focus on anything else next to impossible.

Then, after several failed blog brainstorm thoughts, I realized there was one topic that could keep me fixated for long enough to finish the thought.  It is the person who sees the best in me.  Despite my imperfections and flaws, my mom still loves me deeply.  I owe her more than I could ever think to repay.

I would not have made it through the past year without mom.  I’ve had some deep struggles, probably deeper than any I’ve had before in my life, and sometimes my only remaining motivation for living was to not disappoint my mom.  It is why I weep at the thought of losing her.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly others who deserve a portion of the credit.  I am grateful for brothers, sisters, pastors, friends and my dad for their investments.  I have deep appreciation for the time and resources they have invested.  However they have not combined matched the contribution of my mother in loyalty, patience, wisdom and depth of concern for my well-being.

I think it is easy to gauge our worth to another person.  Simply estimate the amount of time it would take for them to realize you are gone.  If I were abducted by aliens it could be weeks (even months) until my friends noticed.  Certainly my presence on social media would drop suddenly and somebody may notice, but not many would raise an alarm.

But there are two people who would know.  One would be my boss when his faithful employee was a no-show and didn’t respond to his frantic messages.  The next is most definitely be my mother who has an awareness of when we last spoke and checks in if she doesn’t hear from me.

True concern is what makes a mom special.  But it goes beyond that too.  My mom understands me in a way nobody else does.  I spent more of my life with no other person on earth.  I share some of her personality.  She carried me for months before I was even born, sang to me, fed me and encouraged. 

It was mom who always told me I survived a traumatic birth experience for a special purpose.  I’m not sure I have found that special purpose yet, but I do know my mom hasn’t given up on it and therefore how can I?  I don’t want to disappoint my mom, I’m her sunshine after all, right?

My mom will tell me when I’m wrong.  However, unlike the world that piles on when you need love with criticism or condemnation, I have a mom who will help untangle, pull away weighted objects and dig through the mud to find me in the pile of rubble.  Her hug is worth more than a million words of unsolicited advice from those thinking that’s what I need.

I have an extraordinary mom.  I have a mom who is intelligent and wise.  I have a mom who has overcome many obstacles that may been too much for a weaker person.  She gives me hope when I can’t find my own and love rather than judgment when I fail.

My mom isn’t perfect.  In fact, my mom is much like me and very human.  We don’t always agree.  We argue sometimes.  She’s stubborn and opinionated.  Yet none of that makes me love her less.  If my mom were flawless could she love me?  I mean, love has a component of grace and grace is somewhat a product of knowing how difficult living to a high standard can be.

Anyhow, Mother’s Day is a day before my birthday this year and I like that coincidence.  But my mother has my undivided love year round because there is simply no other in my life like her.  I would be lost in the world without my mother’s love.  Her love is the color in my world.