To be my mother’s son

by Lt. Colonel Kurt BurgerBob Docter called me to tell me I am late with the submission of my 650-word column for an upcoming New Frontier. “The next issue’s release will be close to Mother’s Day,” he hinted. Good! Finally, I have a chance to brag about my mother publicly; she deserves it.

I just returned from the funeral of my dad; he died peacefully in his bed at the ripe old age of 90. As my two brothers and I honored his life, standing at his graveside, next to our mother’s, in pouring rain, we could not help but think not only of our dad, but also of our mother who was such a quiet but strong influence on him. Our dad was a great success in life; he reached a high level in his chosen profession, engineering. I am convinced, however, that he could not have accomplished everything without my mother’s support. (I know: it’s politically incorrect to infer that “behind every successful man is a good woman” ­ so, I won’t.)

Three things about her: She was a strong example of Christian love to us–a godly woman. Blessed are children who are nurtured by such a mother. I am not running for public office, but: what this country needs is not more information, more computer games (you make up your own list), but more mothers who live and model the love of Christ to their children. Mothers (and dads) who are there when the children need them, who teach so that one day their offspring can claim, along with the writer of Proverbs: “an oracle his mother taught him.” (Proverbs 31:1 ­ NIV)

She was consistent in her example. Her approach to life was consistently marked by Christ’s behavior: gentle but firm, forgiving but strict, honest and also demanding honesty, open but careful with her words, trusting but not naive. On the day my twin brother and I decided to throw a whole carton of eggs against the kitchen wall (to find out what this would look like), and our clean-up efforts failed to erase all evidence of the crime, our mother knew that the explanation of why there were traces of eggs on the wall, baseboards etc. was inadequate (translation: we lied). However, instead of accusing us of dishonesty, she simply reminded us that the greatest asset a person can enjoy is a clear conscience: one sleeps better (a healthy thing), she lectured, relationships with people are easier (they will know over time whether or not you are trying to hide something bad), she predicted, and, this is the best, truthful people’s prayers are heard by God, while lying people’s prayers are not. Funny, how minor events (the vicious egg-attack never made the newspapers) when handled correctly, can have a major spiritual formation impact on children. This was our mother.

But more: our mother’s example was above all positive. Being a child of the living God was a positive thing to her–joy loomed large in the house. She had little patience with people who praised God on Sunday for saving their soul but exemplified gloom and doom during the week: Easter spirit in a Good Friday world was her hallmark. She knew that something eternally significant had taken place when, as a child, she accepted Christ as her Savior, something to celebrate and talk about often. After all, it is the bedrock of Salvation Army theology and worship: joyous, positive Christianity. We need to renew and revive it ­ I know it’s real; I’ve seen it in my mom.

She was called home seven years ago, leaving a tremendous legacy, strong example, undying love for her Lord and her earthly family. Much of what we learn is not contained in textbooks or on the Internet. In spite of an abundance of gadgets, instant access to just about anything, dot-com companies (Mom, you wouldn’t have liked them), building character still depends on people, mothers who care. Thank God, my brothers and I were blessed with one who did, leaving us a good name and heritage. I’m proud to be my mother’s son: Thanks mom!

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