Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Letter from My Mother

Since May 1 would have been my mother’s 84th birthday and May 13 is Mother’s Day, my mother has been on my mind a good bit these couple of weeks.  From Christmas of 1964 till we graduated high school and left home, my mother raised three boys by herself.  Well, truth is: her mother (with whom we lived) helped, and we three boys pretty much raised ourselves in lots of ways too.  For lots of reasons, I was not emotionally close to my mother—emotional closeness was a rare, rare commodity in our family.  Hugs weren’t even a part of our relationship until we boys were grown.  But we knew she loved us and she made sacrifices for us.  There just wasn’t a lot of emotional stuff attached to the relationship.  My mother did some mothering things better than others, and here’s what she did the best: she knew how to let us go.  She accepted the fact that we were never fully hers.  We were always on loan from God to her for a time.

Don’t underestimate the power of knowing how to let your kids go.  As a pastor I’ve witnessed a number of moms (and dads) who just can’t let their kids grow up.  They do for them.  They bail them out when they’re in trouble.  They shield them from the consequences of their actions.  And so many times, they get in the way of God’s refining work in the lives of their children.  But not my mother!  She knew how to let us go in appropriate ways.  Her example helped me let my kids go when it was their time.

Anyway, as I was getting ready for bed on my first night at college, I opened my Bible and found a typed letter in it.  It was from my mother and dated August, 1974.  She must have smuggled it in when I wasn’t looking.  She didn’t title the letter, but if she did, she could have called it John’s Emancipation Proclamation.  So in tribute to her and as an encouragement to all mothers, I want to share it with you.

Dear Son:

     I've tried to think of some pearls of wisdom for you to have in your new life, but again, a solid knowledge of the Bible is the best and greatest wisdom anyone can have…so I commend to you the Proverbs and all that go with them.

     You know that now that you have given your life to God, Satan is waging a constant battle for you.  He could care less about wishy-washy Christians.  He only wants those whom he is losing, the ones who are totally committed to God.  As it is written, put on all your armor, and tell Satan to get behind you, as Jesus did, and all will go well.  He is a sneaky fellow who sounds very reasonable, as you know, so don't let him trap you.  Remember that God allows everything to happen (Job), but He will never allow us to be tested beyond our strength to endure.  So when the going gets rough (and it will because nowhere are we promised a bed of roses or smooth sailing), praise the Lord for caring enough about you to let you be tested and tried.  Rely on Him totally, and the tests will pass away.  You will have gone through your refiner's fire, and nothing for you will be impossible within the framework of God's plans for you.  It is only outside of His plans that things are frustrating and impossible.

     You know I love you very much, and I committed you to God's care (as I have Ray and David) many years ago, but very seriously about 2 years ago, and I totally released you the night you gave your first sermon.  I feel He has great plans for you, and you will pass all of your tests with flags flying high.  I could have said these things, but thought you might find this about the time you realized that you are now emancipated and feeling a little low, and maybe it would help. 

     Lots of good luck, son; keep that red-haired and freckle faced countenance, together with your heart, mind and spirit on things above, and all will go well.  You are always in my prayers.

All my love,

The very fact that I have held on to this letter for 38 years, tells you what it means to me.  God may not have given me the most affectionate mother or the most emotionally engaging mother, but He sure gave me a wise one.  May her tribe increase.


  1. What a wise mom - and clever, too. I should have thought of putting a letter to my children in their scriptures when they left home.

    1. Thanks for checking out the blog and responding, Janet. My mother and I weren't especially close emotionally, but she knew just what to do in this regard.

    2. John, your Mother sounds a lot like my Mom. I loved the advise she left with you. Only wish I had something like that to hold on to. But I do have her love and prayers while she was here. Lost her to the Lord when she was only 64. Thanks for sharing this special moment of your life. Blessings, (Phil. 1:3)
      Charles Mays <><

  2. This is a mini sermon in itself. Wonderful advice! I am going to pass it along to my boys! You have all the qualities of Proverbs and are such an inspiration to us. You may not have been close to your Mother, but I know how proud she would be of you!

  3. John, your mother's prayers gave you more than any of her hugs could have given you! I agree with you! I really feel like parents often rob themselves and their children of God's blessings by clutching them so tightly. Thanks for the reminder that our children are a gift from the Lord. A gift that is to be held with open hands and released back to our Savior and Redeemer!

    Amy Johnson

  4. John, I so appreciate your sharing this very personal glimpse at your relationship with your Mother. I was an only child, and while I too always knew my Mother loved me, we were not openly affectionate with each other. We were always there for each other but looking back, I wish I had shown my love for her in a more open way. Not everyone is like that though. Your Mother gave you the best gift possible, she gave you back to God with her unconditional love and blessing, and this shows what a Mother's responsibility is, to rely on God, and become independent. You have done an amazing job. Linda Suit