The month of May brings many things–warmer weather, an end to the school year, and a chance to celebrate moms. Last year, Christine and Rachel posted a pair of reflections on what it means to be a mom. While I am not yet a mother, their words caused me to contemplate a role and perspective that I have enjoyed over the last twenty-seven years–being a daughter. Not only that but a daughter whose parents, like so many of you, desire to leave a lasting spiritual legacy in the lives of their children.
As I think about my mom this Mother’s Day, there are many things I could say. I could write about the way she looks to the interest of others before her own. The way she feeds the neighborhood I grew up in or the way she lovingly taught Kindergartners and encouraged their families for over thirty years. I could write of the way she’s sacrificed so much for each of her three children. The way braces came before a new kitchen floor, clean uniforms came before sleep, truthful words filled with grace came before her own comfort.
I could tell you many beautiful true stories about the person whose life has impacted my own more than any other, but today I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m choosing to tell you what I love the most about my mother and what made her faith in the Gospel most attractive to me as a pair of watching eyes. Today I’m going to tell you that my mom is not perfect.
I don’t mean this in a “throw-you-under-the-bus” kind of way. (Mom, if you are reading this, you can relax.) What I mean is that I think, particularly inside of Christian circles, there is a great deal of pressure to perform, to be the ideal, to be “perfect.” A friend of mine who recently became a new mother told me of her own struggles in this department, “I’m just afraid I’m going to do something wrong and ruin her. I didn’t have parents who knew the Lord. I don’t know what this is supposed to look like.” As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a mom but even as she spoke I started to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the “bigness” of the world’s most challenging job title. Knowing that I had no “primary-motherhood-experience” advice to offer, my friend asked about what my mom was like and how her faith impacted my own. What came to mind was one simple word with so many tangible examples–My mom, and her faith, were real.
Real as in messy, two-steps forward and one step back. Real as in not perfect, and not pretending to be either. Real as in asking questions and when necessary, asking for forgiveness. Real as in a process that won’t be complete this side of heaven. Real as in not just Sunday mornings, but Friday nights and everywhere in between.
In 2 Timothy 1:3-5, Paul writes of this type of faith.
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
When Paul writes of the generational faith of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy he doesn’t use the word perfect. Instead, he uses the word sincere. Take a look at the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 and contrast it to the stories of the people you find in in the Old Testament, and you’ll find the same thing. Faith filled with mistakes, flaws, and sins, but sincere faith that impacts future generations nonetheless.
Growing up, I didn’t always understand it nor did I always appreciate it, but what gave my mom’s voice and her faith credibility wasn’t her perfection, but the way she handled her imperfection. It was the way she came and apologized to me for occasionally losing her temper, the way she made it clear she was a sinner in need of grace just like me. It was the way my mom shed tears and asked questions as she prayed with me amidst a heart-breaking situation as a teen. It was the way even in injury, illness, and tragedy she grieved, but not as someone without hope. It was the way she approached her God not just with reverence, but with honesty, that let me know I could do the same.
From this daughter’s perspective, leaving a legacy has more to do with sincerity than perfection. More to do with being real, than being religious.
Happy Mother’s Day.