We learn far more from the actions of people rather than their words. My mother’s life was a sermon to me and it was a good sermon, one that impacted my life to this day.
One lesson I learned from her life was that of persevering. Mom never had any expectation that others should take care of her. She never dropped hints about personal needs. She just kept on working and doing her best.
As I have grown older I have realized what a blessing it was to have been raised by parents that did not have an entitlement mentality. Their answer to difficulty was prayer, hard work and continuing to do your best. Even to this day Mom is not a whiner about personal problems.
One of my favorite writers talks about a “quitters gene” that he inherited and early in his life he found it easy to quit. Having seen it modeled in his family he thought it was an acceptable alternative until he met a track coach in high school that challenged him to change this destructive attitude.
I believe we all have that “quitters gene”. Bear Bryant used to tell his players,“The first time you quit, it’s hard. The second time, it gets easier. The third time, you don’t even have to think about it.” Mom wasn’t a quitter.
This quality was seen in her marriage. She and Dad went through some tough times and weathered them. They were married almost 52 years at the time of Dad’s death in 2008. People don’t stay married because it is easy. It’s not. They do so because they have decided that divorce is not an option and whatever problems are there have to be faced and conquered.
I saw her commitment to Dad after his stroke in 2001. He gradually began to get to the place where he needed someone to care for him all of the time. To me, this was the epitome of Mom’s perseverance. It required a lot of time, attention, and labor to serve him.
Anyone that has ministered to a stroke patient knows that one of the side effects is that the person loses their inhibitions. Dad would cry easily and he would sometimes express his frustrations at Mom over small things. Though his speech was limited you could tell he was upset. She persevered through it all and treated him like a king.
She drove him to many doctor’s appointments, gave him injections, prepared his favorite meals, cleaned up after him, and modeled for her children the vows she made to Dad. Vows that included the words “…for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part…”
Easy to say, but hard to live. In fact, when they said them to each other things were better and they were both healthy. The vows were for the future as much as for the present. It takes love and perseverance to do that.
I never saw Mom miss work. Never. When she retired from the school system her sick days had accrued to years over time. I’m the oldest child and in twelve years of public education eleven of those years I had perfect attendance. During my Junior year of high school I became very ill and missed almost two weeks. My brother and sister, Hoss and Melanie, never missed a day in school.
That wasn’t luck. There’s an old adage’ in football that you have to learn to “play when you’re hurt”. Mom modeled being faithful to her responsibilities even when she didn’t feel well and required the same of us.
I saw her perseverance in her duties at church. As a family growing up we were faithful in church attendance and she and Dad were to their ministries as well. Promises were serious matters. We were expected to keep our commitments even if it was costly.
For almost thirty years I have been her pastor. (To be honest, I don’t know that you really ever pastor your mother!) I have watched her fulfill her responsibilities in our church over these decades. She has been like a rock, always there, faithful, and persevering when it has not always been easy.
In the early years of pastoring, our church went through some severe financial difficulties. It was so difficult I didn’t know how I could make it at times. I know that God’s grace gave me the strength and the desire to do what He had called me to do. And I am so grateful for His enabling.
I also know that through watching my dear Mother for all of these years “play while she was hurt” that it had a profound impact on me. I am indebted to her for that.
One day I will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, a time when all believers will be evaluated and rewarded based on their faithfulness and service for the Lord. Whatever rewards I might gain will be gladly shared with my Mom. She has faithfully persevered and I love her for that. I want to finish well as she is doing.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is odd with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.