Sunday, May 1, 2011

Things I Learned from My Mother




On May 1, 1928, Joan Telfer Campbell took her first breath. That same woman would later watch me take my first breath too. My mother died on Christmas Eve in 2009. If she was still with us, she would turn 83 years old today. Honestly, I don’t think about her all that often. That’s for self-protection. When I think of her I hold a mixed bag of emotion: gratitude mixed with guilt. I feel guilt that I didn’t love her as well as I should have, wasn’t there for her as she probably needed me to be. And yet I feel grateful for her influence in my life. To celebrate her birthday, I thought I’d reflect on some of the lessons she taught me—most of them more caught than taught, really, but important things that continue to give direction to the way I live my life.

Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. I don’t remember not knowing the name of Jesus. My mother saw to it. She taught me that the Bible is God’s word and that it is important to read it every day. I saw her do it. I still do it.

Work is good. She was a hard worker. After her stroke or whatever it was in 1964 that rendered her right side essentially useless for the rest of her life, she learned to use her left side and became the fastest left-handed typist in the history of the world. She worked for the same attorney for almost 40 years, never made much money, never took vacation, rarely called in sick, and gave more than a day’s work for a day’s pay. I never heard her complain once. She was grateful to have a job. She also encouraged and allowed us boys to have jobs at very young ages. I have her work ethic ingrained in me.

Education counts. She was always very bright. She didn’t get to go to college till well into her adult years, and she didn’t get to finish her degree even then, but she always encouraged her boys to get an education, and I think she was proud when we did so.

Read books. She watched her share of television, but the woman was an avid reader. She read spiritual books. She read mysteries. She read Shakespeare. I don’t know how many book clubs she was part of over the course of her life, but they were many. And in her retirement she volunteered at the local library. I read a lot of books too. I wish she could have lived long enough to enjoy a Kindle. She would have really liked that.

When it’s time for kids to be let go, let ‘em go. She raised us boys to be independent, to take care of ourselves, to clean up our own messes, and to purchase our own stuff. She set us free to live our lives as we felt led to lead them. When it was time to let us go, she let us go.

Theology matters. She left her beloved Presbyterian church over bad theology. She was a Sunday School teacher and was disturbed at the curriculum. She said it questioned the truth of the Bible. She tried to make a case for changing the curriculum. She was largely ignored, and she left a church and denomination she loved because she felt they had turned their back on God’s word. Thankfully, in her latter years, the church came back to classic Presbyterian theology and she gladly went back. As a pastor, this was a good lesson for me to learn. It’s made me take my theology seriously too.

The tithe is the Lord’s. Even when we had nothing, she made sure to tithe what she had. She made sure we kids knew it too. She wasn’t doing that to brag; she was doing that to teach us a lesson. When you put God first in your finances, God will take care of you. She believed that. She practiced that. And I do too.

I could probably think of others, but this will do for now. I know this is too little too late, but it’s my way of honoring her on her birthday. It’s my way of saying that in spite of my inattention to her since I left home some 37 years ago, I learned from her, profited from her wisdom, and am a better person for having been her son. Happy 83rd Birthday, Mother.

1 comment:

  1. she sounds like an incredible woman, and obviously raised and incredible man.

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