Writer’s Note: Many years ago I took a crack at writing up a family history for my grandparents’ (my mom’s folks) 50th wedding anniversary. I was inspired and it came together surprisingly well. In fact, over the years my mom has asked me to create similar writings for various family occasions and milestones. So, I thought I’d take it upon myself to write something, without her asking, for a special birthday milestone we just celebrated with her. (I will let her share the milestone.) This is my humble attempt at a gift with the written word.
I have been privileged to be reared by a 1 Corinthians 13 mom. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the phrase “1 Corinthians 13 mom.” This makes sense because my mom may be the first one ever. We all know 1 Corinthians 13 as the “love” chapter of the Bible, a book that is an anthology of love. Every day Mom displays some combination of that chapter’s familiar trio of goodness: faith, hope and love. This being the year of a milestone birthday, which we celebrated last month, it seems fitting to share.
We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13 that the greatest of the trio of goodness is love. So, saving the best for last, let me start with hope.
I am grateful that I grew up under the influence of Mom’s hope, which manifests as all-out genuine enthusiasm for everyone around her. When I was growing up, the word on my mom was, if you’re at a gathering and can’t find her, simply listen because soon you will be able to hone in on her laugh. It wouldn’t be a loud obnoxious laugh but an infectious, gracious laugh that ties together everyone in the room, the yard, the fellowship hall, whatever the space might be. Scripture doesn’t list a named spiritual gift of enthusiasm, but it should. Mom has it. It’s driven by her hope. As soon as you meet my mom, she is your number one fan. It doesn’t matter what you do or what stage of life you are in: you have a new fan to encourage you, laugh with you, and connect you to others who do what you do and are in a similar stage of life. It’s enthusiasm driven by the hope Mom sees in each person she’s around…not simply seeing “the good side” but hoping for the best out of anyone in her orb.
This is the kind of hope you have when it is driven by faith.
I think the biggest and best gift regarding faith that Mom gave to me she actually didn’t know she was giving it. And I didn’t know I was receiving it. In the house where Mom and Dad now live, where I grew up from seventh grade on, all of the bedroom doors are clustered around the end of a hallway. So, when growing up, we all shared in each other’s pre-bed routine, which for me, usually involved a trip to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal. On my trek to the kitchen I would always see Mom and Dad in their bedroom kneeling in their respective prayer spots, Dad at the chair, mom at the side of the bed. I would fix my cereal, (which at the time involved mixing cereals), find something to read, and enjoy a nice big bowl of cereal, the size of bowl you can enjoy when you don’t yet have to worry about calories. This of course included additional pours of cereal and milk until the last of each came out just right. After 20-ish minutes I’d head back to my room, passing Mom and Dad’s door. Still praying. I’d go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Still praying. Eventually I’d hear them stir about, hear a chuckle or two from both of them as they laughed about something in the day, and then I’d hear the click of their light. And a few more chuckles.
It wasn’t until later in my adult life that I realized the impact of seeing my folks pray long and often (daily, actually). Their actions planted a seed in me about the reality of God; that a relationship with God was personal enough and real enough to affect daily behavior. I saw that God wasn’t a compartment in their lives. He was their lives. His promises and precepts were worth trusting. Heaven was real. God was real. I had no idea, as I brushed the cereal out of my teeth while they prayed, how much I would need that rock-solid reality later in life.
This then brings us to the greatest of the three traits of my 1 Corinthians 13 mom: love.
I remember, around late grade school, forming the thought that people enjoyed being around my parents. They lingered around the dinner table long after dinner was done. Our family seemed to be a drawing card.
As a child growing up with a 1 Corinthians 13 mom, (really, 1 Corinthians 13 parents, but it’s my mom’s birthday we’re celebrating at the moment) I always knew I was loved. Looking back I see the security that gave me. I always felt safe. As a new parent myself, I see the sacrifice it took. The essence of love is selflessness. What stands out about Mom, though, is how easy she makes selfless love look.
I am a grateful son. At that point, here are some things Mom has taught me…things I’m thinking of at this moment. The list gets longer the more that I think; I better start writing and hit “post” soon.
1. The best things happen around the dinner table (or breakfast table, or lunch table, or birthday table, or Christmas table, or Buckeyes-on-TV table).
2. Laugh. Laugh until you cry, or pee your pants, whichever comes first.
3. Go to funeral visitations, even though you don’t want to. You’ll never really want to.
4. Send thank you notes; gratitude is the force behind all things good.
6. Enjoy your family; value time over money.
7. Forgive. Your ability to forgive protects your family more than anything else you could do.
8. Start with the benefit of the doubt; be quick to let someone off the hook.
9. Sing. If you can read music, sing your part. If you can’t read music, learn to. Then sing your part. The Doxology and Happy Birthday are both better with harmony.
10. Contentment is great gain (more stuff means more problems).
11. Never speak harshly to your kids, whether to them, or about someone else; in fact, the less you speak harshly in total, the less you have to worry about that.
12. Respect teachers (especially the math teacher you’ll have all four years).
13. Keep falling in love with your spouse; not only is it the best gift for you and your spouse, it’s the best gift for your kids.
14. Oneness with your spouse—in decisions, in finances, in disciplining children, in faith, in everything—is the hub that supports all other spokes of life.
15. Respect authority (a paddling at school will mean a paddling at home).
16. Don’t let your son get away with saying “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
17. Make compliance your first thought, it’s the path of peace.
18. Read the classics (it took 30 years for that one to take, but it took in a big way).
19. Understand music’s Circle of Fifths (45 years and it’s still taking).
20. Affirm people every chance you get; make that your default setting.
21. Respect your elders, both spiritual and chronological.
22. Don’t be selfish, especially with your time and resources.
23. Look for more than the good side of people; find the best side.
24. Know and trust the Word of God; in fact, stay fascinated by it.
25. Life is not fair; in fact, life is one, giant freshman semester: one adjustment after another.
26. Eat the things you don’t like but are, of course, good for you, especially Brussels sprouts.
27. Be able to quote things your dad said, your mom said, your grandparents said.
28. Even though it will eventually hurt, don’t be afraid to get pets for your kids (cats, ponies, ducks, gerbils, wonderful dogs).
29. Don’t be critical.
30. Offer your giftedness to your church.
31. Tithe, and start the habit early. Ten percent of a $1 allowance is a dime. Drop it in the plate. The dollar amount of that 10 percent amount will grow, and it won’t get harder as the amount gets bigger.
32. Record, collect, and act on those spiritual reference points, those times when God pokes His finger through the veil and you’re more assured of His existence than your own.
33. Cherish your friendships.
34. Be a good worker.
35. Take sermon notes. If you know shorthand, take sermon dictation. Decades later you’ll be glad you did.
36. Aspire to the organization mantra of “A place for everything and everything in its place” and give yourself one messy room so that other rooms can be organized by that mantra.
37. Love and trust Jesus. He never fails.
Mom, you have taught me how to be a good parent, a skill I never thought I’d employ. And as I now get to employ that skill, I get a front-row seat to watching you be a 1 Corinthians 13 grandparent. And of course, my hope, is that someday my kids will be able to write about their 1 Corinthians 13 dad.