Mother’s Day – True Beauty

Peninsula Community Church

May 11, 2014

Mother’s Day – True Beauty

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 

Before I begin my message let me make a comment about the founding of Mother’s Day as an American holiday. The celebration for mothers has been around for centuries but the formal acknowledgement of Mother’s Day, as a celebration here in the United States, was started in 1907 by Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, two years after her mom died. In 1910, West Virginia became the first state to recognize Mother’s Day. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed Mother’s Day a national Holiday, the second Sunday of May. 

While Anna Jarvis is the founder of the holiday, it is noteworthy that her prized accomplishment soon turned to bitter disappointment. She became enraged by its quick rise to commercialization. So, the woman who founded the day, filed a lawsuit to stop the celebration of Mother’s Day in 1923. She was arrested later for disturbing the peace at a war mother’s convention. Her complaint was that she wanted it to be a day of sentiment and not profit. Her joy was turned to sorrow.

This week in my preparation time, I also came across this story. It is entitled “Just Trust Mom.” A young man was standing at the grocery store checkout line when he noticed an elderly woman in front of him.  As she unloaded her grocery cart, she kept looking up and staring at him.  After a few awkward moments, he asked, “Why do you keep staring at me?”  The woman said, “I’m sorry, but it’s just that you look exactly like my son who recently died.” “I’m so sorry to hear that,” the young man replied. “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Yes,” she said. “As I leave, if you would say, ‘Goodbye, Mother’ it would make me feel so much better because I need closure.” “I’d be glad to do that for you,” he answered.  As the old woman was leaving, he called out, “Goodbye, Mother!” After unloading his cart, the bill came to $147.50. “How can that be?” he asked the clerk. “I only purchased a few items.” “Oh,” the clerk replied, “your mother said that you would pay for her.”

I must admit to you that as I was preparing this message, I experienced  a level of struggle and difficulty as to where to take this message. The fact is, this struggle actual was used by God to solidify where I should go. The problem in part was that Mothers Day can be one of those times where we focus on the specific role of the mother in a way that disenfranchises a group of people who may be attending the service.

In the process of considering this message, I thought about some of the different circumstances moms find themselves. The fact is I have spoken to some moms this week who have experienced different circumstances. For some, motherhood was a planned process. They looked forward to it with great joy and anticipation. These women knew how many children they were going to have and when they were going to have them. And, for the most part they did not deviate from that plan. For others, motherhood was an accident or at least it was unplanned. These moms did not plan on being a mother or at least they did not plan on being a mother when when they did or for the reasons that they became pregnant. Others have experienced the struggle and continue to struggle to have children because of a barren womb and so no children have been born to them. For many others, motherhood has come as a result of adoption or by way of marriage. There are others who have had children only to find that the child died in an untimely manner or they were born with or later diagnosed with an illness that radically changed the child’s life as well as the life of the parents. Finally, we have those moms who have children who have caused problems beyond imagination. These children have rebelled against their moms and what their moms stood for. 

A secondary issue is that society has established a view of mom that creates dissonance within the individual. The success of moms has been measured by her ability to work full time and then provide for a home at the same time. It is noteworthy that in the 1950’s only 19 percent of mothers with children worked outside the home. As of 2008, more than 80 percent of women with children between 6 and 17 worked outside the home. What used to be a respected role, it seems now that moms who do stay home tend to be viewed negatively by society. Its the do it all mentality. It is the superwoman culture. Please note, I do not think that there is anything wrong with moms working outside the home. The problem is when we try to live up to society’s expectations of what motherhood is all about.

Another societal issue is that too often the success of motherhood is measured by one’s outward appearance or one’s profession and not by the inward quality of a life dedicated to God. In the passage we read that charm and beauty are not the secrets to success but a heart that fears the Lord. This is the person that is to be praised. The writer of Proverbs notes that beauty is vain and charm is deceitful. As always, we must understand that fear is not to be interpreted as trembling with anxiety. Biblical fear is an attitude by which we desire to find our pleasure and our joy in serving the Lord. This fear is an awe inspiring view of God.

With this in mind I also thought of a couple of principles that can lead us to greater success and gain a greater hope for the future. 

First, when you fear the Lord you will see that while you may or may not have chosen motherhood when you did or how you did, God will still use you. Here’s the point, you may not have chosen to be a mother, but God chose you. You may not have chosen the circumstances by which your children were born, but He will still use you and work in you.  He purposed you to raise the children you have been given. We often say that children are never a mistake, but the fact is being a parent is no mistake. For those who do not have children, God will use you to reach other children for God. 

Second, when we fear the Lord, we understand that there are no perfect mothers only perfectible people. The goal is to open ourselves to all that God is doing in us. God does not call perfect people to motherhood but He desires to perfect the non perfect people. The idea here is that God wants to place parents in flesh so that our imperfections point our children to the perfections of God. Through our imperfections we can help our children understand the forgiveness of God and the mercy of God.

Third, your past experiences do not have to dictate your future, therefore we do not walk in condemnation but in faith for a new day. The problem too often is that we view life in snapshots rather than a video. When we view life as a snapshot, we focus on one aspect of our lives rather than the totality of all that God has done through us and in us. We cannot worry about the future based on past experiences and past failures. God is in the business of changing our future and our destiny.

Fourth, we are never too old to begin again and to have a fresh start with Christ. It is never too late to start over. God is the God of new beginnings. We see this in Job’s life. We see this in Sarah’s life because she thought she was too old. We see this Ruth’s life when her world was turned upside down because of the loss of her husband. We see this in the life of Tamar who was rejected and used deception to gain what she wanted. No matter your circumstances, God is a God of new beginnings and He wants to start today. You may be disappointed in your role as a mom, but today you can start over. The fact is, we never stop being a mother or a dad. Even if you have blown it big time, you can start over. It is never too late.

How do we accomplish this? We do so by praying for our children, no matter how old they are. More can be done by prayer than by anything else we could ever do. In our prayer, we can ask that God would change our attitude and how we respond to our children. We can pray that our example before our children would be one that honors God and positively represents the kind of life we would want our children to have. We can pray and then position ourselves so that when we have the opportunity to speak the truth in love we do so with grace and love. 

In my preparation I came across the words of Dorothy Law Nolte. She wrote the poem “Children Learn What They Live.”

If a child lives with criticism, He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,  He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, He learns to find love in the world.

Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved – Robert W. Odom

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