Thank you to Heidi Poyer, our first runner-up in the anniversary writing contest, for reminding us that some things just need to be said.
The most important thing I learned from my mother? Easy question. It’s what I’ve heard her share many times, with strangers and kinfolk alike:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
Looking back, no single crystalizing moment comes to mind, no great and memorable episode to share. Yet I know that Christ crucified for my sins is the most important thing one can know, and I know I must have learned it from my mother, because where else would it have come from?
Of course, saving faith is a gift that comes from God alone. But in my case, my mother was one of the primary delivery people. She was the one who (along with my father) had me baptized, took me to church, enrolled me in Lutheran school, and made sure we did devotions after dinner. Our home was outfitted with religious art and reading materials, and young me turned to her when questions about God came up.
By her words and actions, I grew up knowing that not only is it true that Jesus died for me, but it is also important. Along those lines, I suppose I do have a memory to share after all.
One time, my mother was chatting over the picket fence with our next door neighbor. He off-handedly remarked that he didn’t believe in God. My mother was scandalized that anyone would say such a thing. Without hesitation, she bluntly and emphatically replied that he was going to hell, unless he believed that Jesus died on the cross to take away his sins.
It is not the only time my mother explicitly shared her faith, but it is representative of her style. I was quite young at the time and I probably am not even remembering it right, and also there is a lingering feeling of awkwardness associated with the memory.
I like to think there’s a lesson in that awkward feeling.
I’m often tempted to shy away from sharing my faith with others because I kind of wish that when I bear witness, I could do it just right, compassionately and with eloquence. However, I would do well instead to follow my mother’s example. She is familiar with God’s Word and shares it as it comes to her, with a strong conviction that it does not return empty, but accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).
My mother’s willingness to make a faithful confession to anybody at any time is one of the qualities I admire about her the most. She is a nurse, and not a theologian, but when religion does come up, she can be counted on to make sure that salvation through faith in Christ alone gets shared.
It might not be artfully expressed, and there’s always the chance that the person she is talking to may get uncomfortable, or dismiss her Jesus talk as silly. My mother won’t let any of those things stop her, because some things just need to be said. Christ crucified belongs in the center of your life and the tip of your tongue, and she will make no bones about reminding you of that.
My childhood was not all sunshine and roses. Neither is my adulthood, for that matter. But I have always had the most important thing, the only thing that matters: the assurance that Jesus is my redeemer.
My mother taught me the faith. In doing so, she gave me everything.