MOTHERING - Sermon preached at Mitcham Baptist - Mothers' Day 2002
SCRIPTURE PASSAGE 2 Tim 1:1-14
POINT OF CONTACT
i) The inevitable quotes and overheads - Gore Vidal - Never have children,
only grandchildren. Bill Cosby - Parenting can be learned only by people who
have no children, and You know your children are growing up when they stop
asking where they came from and refuse to tell you where they are going.
Another: What my mother taught me about JUSTICE - "One day you'll have kids,
and I hope they are just like you..then you'll see what it's like. Finally -
'If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?' But
best - An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.
ii) The Queen Mother - our thoughts of her
iii) Your mother - similarities
- the legacy she left
- think of the way you were mothered
Three types of mothers - very poor mothers - those who neglect their
- poor mothers - those who were often poorly
- good or 'good enough' mothers - those who did their best
TOPIC - FOCUS ON MOTHERING - what it means to have been well mothered and
is it too late?
i) the above list did not include perfect mothers - why? Because there are
none - even though most of us set out to be perfect mothers
ii) the dictionary defines 'mothering' as 'caring for'
2 Tim 1:1-14 (The Message)
It's obvious that Timothy experienced good mothering and grandmothering, but
the hole in his life was no father or an absent father and Paul very
adequately filled that hole.
LET'S LOOK MORE CLOSELY AT OUR OWN MOTHERING
Cloud and Townsend (the authors of 'Boundaries') have written an excellent
book titled 'The Mum Factor'. There's no doubt that one of the most
important people in our lives is 'Mum'.
For some of us the word means protection and nurture, but for others it
means conflict and problems.
Now this book states at the outset that it is not into 'parent bashing',
where every negative thing is the fault of our parents, but rather into
grieving and forgiving, then taking responsibility for our side of the
problem, thus experiencing unlimited growth. It deals with the importance of
making emotional connections then proceeding to leaving and cleaving
The emphasis is on the need for both love and limits. Love enables bonding.
Limits develop responsibility. It shows how we can find ways of completing
what is missing.
My friend Ali - so badly mothered. I'm simply trying to fill in the hole and
provide the love and the listening ear that she never had. Many of you may
also be doing this type of thing.
But before we can be secure enough to help another it may be that we need
some holes filled ourselves. This can only happen if we are ready to seek
help. It need not be professional help. A non-Christian psychiatrist once
said that if we Christians only realised it we have the most perfect
organisation to do him out of a job - the church - the place where people
are able to be part of a community of love, where they have support and
understanding and above all fellowship - the sharing of grief and pain of
joy and achievement, the place of the listening ear. The place where we
discover the forgiveness of sin.
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH
Have you found a trusted friend within the church fellowship with whom you
can share at depth and know you are still loved - with whom you can journey
and not be condemned?
Sometimes the way we were mothered prevents us from seeking help. By dealing
with the past we are not saying to go back into the past or even into
yesterday. But whether we like it or not our mother lives with us every day
in the present. And some, our mothers taught us to put on a victorious face
and never share our problems.
So the first issue is to do with the feelings we have for our mother and the
second is the patterns of relating that we learned in our relationship with
1. Feelings - illustration of Jim and Debbie - p16 - both in love but as
they grew closer he would explode in rage if Debbie asked if he had been
able to do a certain job.
What had happened? As Jim's attachment to his wife increased his unresolved
feelings about his mother began to emerge. His anger toward his mother and
his feelings of being controlled, mistrusted and dominated got misplaced
onto Debbie. Psychologists call this 'transference'.
Jim needed to deal with these unresolved feelings because they were
distorting other relationships. The Bible calls it forgiveness, which
involves looking honestly at problems in a relationship, facing them,
letting them go, and grieving our losses. It frees us from the past. John
8:32: 'Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free'. V36-
'So if the Son sets you free you shall be free indeed'.
2. Patterns of relating- illustration of Dave and Cindy - p13 - Cindy had
prepared a special meal to celebrate an anniversary and longed to follow it
with sharing and with intimacy, but Dave couldn't handle it
In his relationship with his mother Dave had learned that closeness could be
dangerous. When he was scared or hurt, his mother would become anxious and
fuss over him to the point of smothering, so that when his wife moved toward
him in an emotional way, his walls went up and he braced him self against
over-involvement. This pattern would continue until Dave dealt with his
fears of intimacy
HOW THE CHURCH CAN HELP - an example
Jody was a diligent mother of 2 - loved them, they disorganised, rooms
chaotic, she yelled, they showed signs of anxiety, she became guilt ridden
Jody began to talk to a trusted friend about her problem. Susan responded
with empathy and understanding, so Jody began to share other shortcomings.
Susan accepted both, something her mother had been unable to do. A good
mother accepts the negative and helps her child not to feel overwhelmed. She
is comfortable with her child's imperfections. The mothering process of
acceptance integrates the child. Susan had given to Jody what her mother had
failed to give. This is what friends do for each other every day
1. There is no such thing as the 'good child' and the 'bad mum'. Mothers do
fail in being all that they need to be. Some fail in being almost anything
that they need to be. Still others do a pretty good job and just leave a few
things undone or in need of fixing. But children have defensive and
inappropriate responses as well and adult children need to shoulder much of
the responsibility. Our responsibility is to grieve and forgive so that then
we may be healed of whatever our mother did wrong.
2. We need love and limits along each step. Our mother needed to be loving
so that we learned to bond with others, and our mother needed to set limits
so that we learned to shoulder our own responsibilities. If we missed out on
one or the other we need to find a way of completing what is missing.
JOHN 10:10 - I have come that YOU may have life and have it to the full!
HOW THEN DO WE GAIN the resources to reach for wholeness
a) by identifying our unmet needs and by filling those unmet needs in
healthy, life changing ways with the help of others
b) by allowing God to transform us
I said at the outset that this book dealt with grieving and forgiving. I
hope we have gone a little way toward understanding the grieving. Now I want
to look at forgiving
In Yancey's book 'What's So Amazing About Grace', he admits that grace is
unfair. It is unreasonable to expect a woman to forgive the terrible things
her father did to her just because he apologises many years later, and its
totally unfair to ask that a mother overlook the many offences her teenage
son committed. Grace however is not about fairness.
Our experience of forgiveness in Coventry and then in Israel. Ungrace is
like the background static of life for families, nations and institutions.
It is our natural human state.
JOSEPH'S STORY - the story of his reconciliation with his brothers
? one moment harsh - throwing brothers into jail
? another full of sorrow
? then played tricks on them
? seized one as hostage
Finally Joseph, after maybe months or years, could restrain himself no
longer and forgave them - dramatically. These brothers had bullied him, had
cooked up schemes to murder him, had sold him into slavery. Because of them
Joseph had spent the best years of his life molding away in an Egyptian
dungeon. Though he went on to triumph over adversity and wanted with all his
heart to forgive them, the wound still hurt too much and it took time to do
When grace finally broke through to Joseph the sound of his grief and love
echoed throughout the palace.
The very taste of forgiveness seems somehow to be wrong. Even when we have
committed something wrong, we want to earn our way back to the injured
person's good graces. Despite a hundred sermons on forgiveness we do not
forgive easily, nor find ourselves easily forgiven.
In a world that runs by the laws of ungrace, Jesus demands a response of
forgiveness. So urgent is this need for forgiveness that it takes precedence
over everything: 'Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and
then remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave
your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled and then come
and offer your gift.
ONLY THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING FORGIVEN MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO FORGIVE
Helmut Thielicke, a German who lived through the horrors of Nazism said:
'This business of forgiving is by no means a simple thing.We say: 'Very
well, if the other fellow is sorry and begs my pardon, I will forgive him.'
We make a law of reciprocity which never works because we each wait for the
other to make the first move.
He concluded that the only remedy was his realisation that God had forgiven
his sins and given him another chance. Breaking the cycle of ungrace means
taking the initiative, because God's initiative lies at the heart of the
gospel that Thielicke had been preaching but not practising.
At the centre of Jesus' parables of grace stands a God who takes the
initiative towards us: a lovesick father who runs to meet the prodigal, a
landlord who cancels a debt too large for any servant to reimburse, an
employer who pays eleventh hour workers the same as the first hour crew, a
banquet giver who goes out onto the streets in search of undeserving guests.
JESUS BROKE FOREVER THE CHAIN OF UNGRACE
When I do say: 'I forgive you', there is something in me that still wants to
hear the words that I was right after all. I still seem to put even
subconsciously a condition on my words
BUT GOD'S FORGIVENESS IS UNCONDITIONAL. SUCH IS HIS LOVE FOR ME
It comes from a heart that demands nothing for itself, a heart that is
completely empty of self-seeking. It demands that I step over that wounded
part of my heart that feels wronged. I discovered some admonitions in Romans
12 - Hate evil, be joyful, live in harmony, do not be conceited ... then 'Do
not take revenge, my friend...it is mine to avenge; I will repay' etc. By
forgiving , I release my own right to avenge and leave it to God to work it
When Joseph finally came to the place of forgiving his brothers (and here is
the recognition that forgiveness takes time), the hurt did not disappear,
but the burden of being their judge fell away.
Only by knowing we are so totally loved by God do we have the resource to
truly forgive. Some of you are weighed down by sorrow over the lack of good
mothering in your life. In the fellowship of the church I urge you to find
a trusted friend with whom you can share and cry and to whom you can report
on your journey toward forgiveness. It is at this point that we discover
transformation, the filling of a void that has eaten into our lives, that
has caused depression and anger, frustration and bitterness. God's love for
you is such that he forgives and he heals.
The fortunate ones among us may agree with Abraham Lincoln who said: 'All
that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. No one is poor who has a
Godly mother'. Or with George Washington:' I attribute all my success in
life to the moral and intellectual education which I received from my
mother.' It may be Mark Twain's comment that best fits you: 'My mother had a
great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.'
May this Mothers' Day be one where you can grieve your losses and forgive
your mother, but one too where you are able to discover the true nature of
the Church which is a community of love in which you can find someone whom
you can trust to help fill in the holes left by your mother, who, like you,
did not experience perfect mothering either.
By recognising this I believe we can truly honour our mother and our father
as the Scriptures require.
Rev. Jan Croucher, May 2002