Emma Lou Akin was my mother and one of the kindest, godliest people I have ever known. She showed me the beauty of Jesus her whole life. Our family regularly noted that the phrase “I want” seemed to be completely absent from her vocabulary. Every time a special occasion rolled around, like her birthday, anniversary, or Mother’s Day, we would always ask, “Momma, what do you want to do?” “Where would you like to go out and eat?” Much to our frustration, her answer was always the same: “Whatever you all want is fine with me.”
My mother was the quintessential Philippians 2:3–5 woman:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.
She always put others ahead of herself. It was just the natural thing for her to do, because she was so much like the Lord Jesus whom she loved and adored.
There are many times I can recall when my mother showed me the beauty of Jesus. Here are three.
1. The Beauty of Jesus in the Bible
I have the most wonderful memories as a little boy of sitting in my mother’s lap and listening to her read Bible stories to me. Knowing that small children love pictures, she made a significant financial sacrifice and purchased The Bible Story, a 10-volume set with more than 400 stories. I still have seven of the volumes in my library today!
I’m sure my mother grew weary of her young son coming to her again and again with one of the volumes of The Bible Story in his hand, wanting her to read it to him. But I have no memory of my mother telling me, “I’m too busy.” She stopped whatever she was doing, let me crawl up into her lap, and read to me the wonderful stories of the Bible. I still remember her telling me how wonderful Jesus was, how much he loved me, and how he wanted to come into my heart and save me from my sins and make me his child. I put my trust in Christ at the age of 10. No one played a bigger role in bringing me to Jesus than my momma did.
2. The Beauty of Jesus in Sacrifice
In 1977 God was doing a special work in my life. That summer, our youth group was going to Sells, Arizona, to minister on an Indian reservation. We would hold a revival, run a vacation Bible school, and conduct backyard Bible clubs in towns and villages outside the main city.
I wanted badly to go, but there was a problem. I had a part-time job at J. H. Filbert’s, where my mother worked full-time. I worked from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., five days a week, entering purchase orders for margarine and mayonnaise. Because I was part-time, I had no benefits, including the two weeks of vacation I would need for the short-term mission trip.
I am in the ministry today because my mother showed me in a tangible way the beauty of being like Jesus.
I approached my mother about the problem, and to my surprise she was remarkably calm and unbothered. “Oh, I am sure everything will work out,” she said. While her words were reassuring, the fact that she didn’t offer a solution left me less than satisfied. Over the next several months, I repeatedly approached her about this roadblock, and each time her response was the same: “Oh, I am sure everything will work out.”
Finally, two weeks before the trip, I went to her, resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go since I hadn’t found someone to cover for me. To my utter amazement, she smiled and said, “Don’t worry; it is covered. You go and have a great time.” She walked away and said nothing more. Later, I would discover that things were indeed covered—by her! For those two weeks she worked her regular 8 to 5 office job. Afterward she would come home, fix dinner for my dad and tend to the house, and return to J. H. Filbert’s to work my 10 to 2 shift. Then she’d return home, sleep for three or four hours, and go right back to work.
I didn’t find out about this until I returned home from the mission trip, a trip during which the Lord called me into the ministry at an old-fashioned revival service on a Monday night. The first person I called after the service that night was my mother, still unaware of the incredible Christlike sacrifice she had made for her son. I am in the ministry today because my mother showed me in a tangible way the beauty of being like Jesus.
3. The Beauty of Jesus When He’s the Only Thing Left
My mother died in her early 70s from Alzheimer’s disease. At the end of her life, her gifted mind was gone. She couldn’t take care of herself, nor could she converse with a family she no longer recognized. There were occasional moments she’d become agitated and upset—and we didn’t know why. However, in these moments we’d often hear her cry out, “Help me, Jesus!”
Her mind was virtually gone, but her love for her Savior was still there. From the beginning of my life to the end of hers, my mother showed me the beauty of our Lord Jesus. When I see her again in heaven, I will tell her what I should have told her when she was still alive on this earth: Words are inadequate to capture how you affected my life and showed me Jesus.
You can read previous installments in this series.