My son has just turned 2—he delegated to me the task of buying a Mother’s Day card and writing a message on it. I’m coaching him to say, “Thank you mommy” and “I love you mommy” (though it will come out, at best, as “Thar Thaw Momeeeee” and “I yubba oo Momeeeee”).
But what do I hope he will say thank you for, in 20 years, as he looks back on having grown up with a Christian mother? Here’s what I’d love him to say as a 22-year-old, as he gives his mom some Mother’s Day chocolates (chocolates, not flowers, son—chocolates tend to get shared with fathers, while flowers just get looked at on mantelpieces).
1. Thank you for putting Christ before me. You taught me from the word go that I’m not the center of your world, because I’m not the center of the world. And you told me who does have that position—the Lord Jesus. I was never allowed to rule our house, and you always made it clear that my opinions and preferences, though important, are not authoritative. Thank you for the times you were not able to spend time with me because you were ministering to someone else. Thank you for the times you were not able to spend money on me because you had given it to someone else. Thank you that in never treating me like the most important person in your life, you pointed me to the most important Person in the cosmos.
2. Thank you for showing me grace, not works. You did so much for me, and you never threw it back at me to make me feel guilty, never suggested that your love depended on me reaching a certain standard, never held a grudge after I’d let you down, never wondered out loud why you bothered. At sports and at school, they taught me that the best win, and that work pays. At home, you taught me that I don’t need to be good enough to be accepted, and that love gives. And thank you for disciplining me fairly and firmly, and forgiving me completely and repeatedly. Thank you that the boundaries were clear, and that accounts were kept short.
3. Thank you for showing me repentance, not false perfection. You made mistakes—lots of them. Thank you for not excusing them or belittling them. Thank you that you would stop and say sorry to me, and sorry to God in front of me. Thank you that you knew you were forgiven and lived as though you were. And thank you that you always backed me but never excused my sin or let me think I was good enough for God. Thank you that I learned from you not to wear a mask of self-righteousness, but that you taught me to enjoy wearing Christ’s clothes of true righteousness.
4. Thank you for caring more about my character than my abilities. You encouraged me to be kind, thoughtful, and patient more than you urged me to do well at school, learn an instrument, or get good at sport. It’s not that you didn’t help me with homework, make me practice music, or take me to football; but I always knew that who I was, and who I was becoming, mattered more than what I could do.
5. Thank you for knowing that gospelling me was your and Dad’s job. Thank you that you told me Bible stories, sang Bible songs with me, prayed with me, and told me about God as we went about our day-to-day chores and trips. Thank you that you didn’t think you could delegate this job to my children’s and student ministry leaders. Thank you that you didn’t shoehorn Christ into every conversation, as though mentioning him every other sentence would convert me; but thank you that he didn’t need shoehorning in, because he was a constant companion in our family. Thank you that I’m one of those kids who can’t remember the first time they were told about the Lord Jesus, and can’t remember a day since when they didn’t hear about him.
6. Thank you for loving Daddy. He makes mistakes, too (more than you, Mom). Thank you that you loved him; that you forgave him when you needed to and asked for forgiveness when you needed to; that you laughed with him; that you were affectionate with him; that you submitted to him; that you cried with him. Thank you that you did all those things in front of me, so that because of the wife you were to him, I know what it means to be a Christian man, husband, and father.
7. Thank you for giving me chances to serve. Often, serving people with you was great fun, Mom, as we baked together, visited together, and made cards together. But sometimes it was boring, tiring, or costly. But thank you that we did it anyway, and we did it together. Thank you that you never shielded me from the reality of the Christian life—I was never allowed to think that church was all about my needs, or that serving should always have me as the recipient. Thank you that you always offered me a cross to carry, as you carried yours. But thank you that you always explained why we were serving others, and that I learned (slowly) to be joyful that I could serve the Christ who has served me.
8. Thank you for showing me what sacrificial love is. Every day of my life since the very first, you’ve done something for me that was hard or costly for you. In the way you’ve mothered me, I can see a glimmer of how Christ lived and died for me. You’ve shown me Christ.