A young boy rises like a rocket to stardom. People from all over the world will do almost anything just to get a glimpse of the man who is bigger than life. Kids all over the country want to wear the same shoes he wears. His team becomes the talk of the town simply because he plays for them. On asphalt basketball courts dotting the landscape all across the land, kids try to emulate his every move and copy his manner. Millions of dollars flow into his pockets like the bubble gum which fills the pockets of his admirers. It seems like everyone owes him a debt of gratitude as people pay continuous homage to the crown prince of sports. Fans adore him. Corporations coddle him. Coaches cherish him. With all of the adulation that comes his way he takes the time to pause every time the camera pans his direction to say “Thanks!” — not to the corporate heads, not to adoring fans, or coaches, but to mom. You’ve seen it time after time as athlete after athlete looks into the camera with a little boy grin and a glimmer in his eye and says, “Hi mom.”
Have you ever noticed how you can watch a professional football, baseball, or basketball game and see millions of dollars of publicity for the mothers of America? Corporate America pays those guys mountains of dollars every year to hold a Coke can, wear Nikes, or say, “I’m going to Disney World,” while mom gets publicity with no contract ever having been signed. Corporate America might capture the wallets and bank accounts of talented athletes, but mom has captured their heart!
Thomas Edison once said, “I did not have my mother very long, but she cast over me an influence which has lasted all my life. The good effects of her early training I can never lose. If it had not been for her appreciation and her faith in me at a critical time in my experience, I should never likely have become an inventor. I was always a careless boy, and with a mother of different mental caliber, I should have turned out badly. But her firmness, her sweetness, her goodness, were potent powers to keep me in the right path. My mother was the making of me. The memory of her will always be a blessing to me…”
A mother’s mark was made on the life of Thomas Edison which carried him through those times in which he was teetering on the edge of using God’s gifts to bless humanity or choosing to go his own way. A mark has been left on your life and mine as well. For many of us those marks left by our mother’s bring a smile to our face and a warm feeling of acceptance and comfort to our hearts. There are others of us though, those who’ve not experienced the nurture, training, and acceptance which is so vital to our maturity as people and believers.
Julie knows what I’m talking about. She was born under extreme conditions. Her mother already had four kids, the youngest was in her twenties. Julie was, in the words of her mother, a mistake. From the beginning of conception until the present Julie had the tag put on her that she wasn’t supposed to be. It was time for her mother and dad to enjoy their times of quiet, but instead they spent their evenings rocking a colic baby and changing diapers. Julie’s mother resented her even more with each new stage of her life. When Julie began school, her mother would criticize and chastise her for every mistake she made rather than trying to help Julie learn a better way.
When summer would roll around, invariably, Julie’s mom would comment about how she was gaining weight and would never fit into her bathing suit. Julie got the feeling that she was all alone and her mother didn’t want her around.
As Julie moved into high school she tried and tried to fill the emptiness she felt while at home. Julie just wanted to be loved, but dad was too busy traveling and making money for the family, and mom, well mom just didn’t love her. Julie found a boyfriend who loved her, or at least he said he did which was enough for a love-starved teenager. Or it was, until she found out that she was pregnant and wanted to have the baby. It was then that Julie once again learned that there is no such thing as real love in this world. The word is simply thrown around to get what you want.
When Julie’s mom found out she was pregnant she was livid. “Look at what you’ve done — what you have put me through! How do you think your father and I will survive you going around town acting like that with every boy that comes along?” Julie’s mother insisted that she go and live with her grandmother in another community until the baby was born; and once again Julie had reinforced what a burden she was on every one.
Julie thought she had survived the horrid mark left on her by her mother when she finally married and moved out of the house. Sad to say though, as much as Julie tried to resist, she found herself repeating many of the same negligent characteristics her mother used to crush her while she was a child. She hated the fact she was so critical with her own children and her husband. She tended to be self-absorbed and burdened with the needs of her family rather than seeing them as a joy in her life which would end all too soon.
“You’re a loser! You are just like your father! I knew you would never make it in that class! Why aren’t you as well-behaved as your sister?! If you can’t find the answer to a simple little question how are you ever going to amount to anything in this life?” The marks that are left on us by our mothers, whether they be good or bad, are marks which can bless us or haunt us for the rest of our life.
This morning I want us to take a look at some of the mothers found in God’s Word who proved to make a mark on their children. Take a look at 1 Samuel 1:2-28 with me for the next few minutes.
2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” 9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s temple. 10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.” 15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” 18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. 19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” 21 When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.” 23 “Do what seems best to you,” Elkanah her husband told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him. 24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. 25 When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. 27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. (1 Samuel 1:2-28 NIV)
Hannah is not heard from much as we recount the great stories of the Bible, but I believe Hannah is one of those special, invaluable, mothers who made their mark on their children and as a result God used them to touch the lives of countless thousands. She saw God’s grace bestowed upon her so that she might have a child, a child who made a deep impact on his nation. In 1 and 2 Samuel we don’t see a spotlight shining on Hannah, but we hear about her little boy who grew up to be the great judge and deliverer of Israel — Samuel. God used Samuel as he called all of Israel to repentance and renewed dedication to the Lord. The people acted and God heard their prayers and delivered them from the hands of the Philistines reaffirming Samuel as a divinely ordained leader. When the people cried out wanting a king like all the other nations, God used Samuel to anoint Saul as king over all Israel. God used Samuel to anoint the greatest king in Israel’s history, King David. Samuel was a tremendous leader who also was a constant reminder to the people of Israel that they must not turn away from God, but that they must turn away from their sin.
From reading our Scripture this morning it would appear that Samuel’s mother longed for his birth and through the first three years or so of his life nurtured and cherished this special little boy whom she knew would be given to the service of the Lord at the Temple. When we get to the end of the very first chapter of 1 Samuel, we find Hanna handing little Samuel over to Eli the priest.
I have read some very insightful information from books written by child development experts who speak of the importance of the first few years of a child’s life and I am convinced they are right. Hannah handed Samuel over to the priest when he was about three, surely we can’t say that she had very much to do with the powerful presence Samuel had as a leader later on in life.
The focus of the story in 1 Samuel certainly turns from Hanna and her predicament to the powerful presence of her little boy, but Hanna is not forgotten, nor does she forget that little child of hers.
In chapter 2, while the story is focusing on the evil being committed by Eli the priest’s kids, Samuel is ministering before the Lord. In 1 Samuel 2:18-19 we read,
18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. 19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. (1 Samuel 1:18-19 NIV)
This is seemingly one of those insignificant sections of Scripture which we read right over and never give a second thought. I want you to think with me for a minute. Picture a young boy who was the apple of momma’s eye. Picture a godly woman who has served the Lord faithfully and continually all the days of her life. Picture the woman being able to see her son, her only son, going into the service of the Lord. Can you imagine the pride that Hannah must have felt? Oh, when he was little she handed him over to the Temple and went home, but let me assure you that he never left her mind. All of those times they had together from the time she conceived until she handed him over to Eli would prepare him to become a great man of God. You know Hannah would describe for Samuel the great future he was going to have in serving God. You know she would describe for her little boy how faithful God would be throughout his whole life. She would hold her little boy in her arms and say, “Once upon a time while our people were slaves, God raised up a little boy just like you who grew into a man and led us out of slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey. Our fathers and mothers were hard-headed and didn’t do what God asked, but God never gave up on them. He is a way-maker and He made a way to get us where we are today. He made a way through the wilderness. He made a way through the waters of the Red Sea. He made a way for Sarah when she thought she was too old to have a baby. He made a way for Joseph so that he might gain favor with Pharoah and save his people. Oh, my baby, God made a way for your momma by giving you to me. You are a special child and God is going to use you to do His will.”
Hannah had done her job in preparing her little boy for God’s service, but she didn’t stop there. Every year when she and her husband would go to the Temple for the Feast of Tabernacles she would make her boy a little robe. Now doesn’t that sound just like a mom? She would count the days until she could get to the Temple to see her son. When she would arrive she would hang on his every word as he proclaimed the Word of the Lord. When the service would come to an end folks would file out of the Temple and say, “Good sermon rabbi. Really enjoyed it this morning. You went a little over time, watch it next week.” Or something like that. When all of the people were gone there would be one little couple left. Mom would rush up to Samuel and say, “Oh Samuel, I had always hoped you’d grow up and be like Billy Graham. You know what? I’m not saying this because I’m your mother, but you’re better than Billy Graham.” She would hug him tight, give him the little robe she had been working on since the last time she saw him, and say, “I am so proud of you Samuel. God is using you to do many great things. I pray for you every day.” Then she would turn with her husband and wipe tears from her cheek all the way home. Not tears of sadness, but tears of pride.
Moms and dads, let me tell you, it makes it so much more difficult for a child who receives praise and encouragement from their parents to fail than for those who are the constant recipient of put-downs and criticisms. I know this because my mom was, and is, the queen of praise. My mother believed in me and every new challenge I faced while I was growing up. She continues to believe in me to this day. It did not matter if I had never done it before, and it did not matter what “it” was, mom was in my corner and willing to do whatever it took to get me to realize that I could rise to the occasion.
I have seen the same thing happen with my own kids. I too often tend to challenge our kids too much. I press them to do better, try harder, and never, never give up. I tend to be more like Vince Lombardi than the caring, nurturing father my Heavenly Father is to me. Connie desires for our kids to strive for excellence just as much as I do, but the way in which she nudges them towards excellence far exceeds my feeble, gridiron, tough as nails approach. Praises roll from her lips as quickly as children rush to a candy counter. She has always known how to hold our kids, when the boys were living at home, and now with Annie, Connie would draw up next to them at night before they went to bed and speak words of comfort and encouragement. She has made a mark on our kids which will bless them for the rest of their life.
I know that not everyone has been as blessed as Samuel with his supporting and loving mother Hannah. So many people today are involved in support groups and living dysfunctional lives because there has been a breach in the relationship they have shared with their mother or father. I’m not taking applications for the Ophrah Winfrey or Dr. Phil show, but I do believe in the powerful influence a mother can have in the life of her children.
A Mother’s Scars
You may not have grown up with a mother who was warm, she may have been cold as ice. As you think back over your childhood, you don’t recall memories of love, you recall that you were a burden to her. Mom was not the rock of your home, she wore a chip on her shoulder at all times. I know many of you have lived with mothers like I have just described and it has been extremely difficult for you because of the tension you feel to this day.
Some mothers realize they are destroying the lives of their children. We hear stories today of mothers abandoning their babies, taking no responsibility for the care and nurture of their children, and looking out for themselves only. One of these mothers found in the Bible is Rachel. Let’s take a look. Rachel gives us incredible insight into the dangers of being self-centered. She shows us how easily we can be distracted by lesser things so that we lose sight of the high calling of parenting which God has given us. Rachel sought her own good and she did so to the expense of her children.
In Hebrew culture there was tremendous power in the naming of children. When you put a name on a child you were speaking that child’s destiny before them. There is a wonderful book by John Trent and Gary Smalley called, “The Blessing,” which vividly portrays how important it was in the culture of the Israelites to bless the children. That blessing started at birth by naming the child with a name which conveyed a bold message the child could carry around with them in life.
With this understanding of how important the name was to the Hebrew it is easy to see how Rachel somehow got off track of her God-given role as the one who would nurture and love her children. For some time Rachel was barren and that was a heavy load for a Jewish woman to carry. Coupled with her barrenness was the reality that her sister was having children at will with her husband Jacob. Leah, was the more homely, less desirable sister, but she was also the fertile crescent. Rachel was the wife that Jacob really loved; she was beautiful, stunning, glamorous, but barren. Rather than trusting God to bless her in His time, Rachel became jealous of her sister. In Genesis 30:1-8 we read,
1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” 2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” 3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.” 4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan. 7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali. (Genesis 30:1-8 NIV)
Do you notice what’s going on with Rachel? Rachel is not praising God for the birth of a precious child, she is in a race with her sister to see who could field a baseball team first. Rachel is not trusting God to open her womb and give her a child; no, she repeats a mistake made by Sarah some years earlier by sending her husband to her maidservant to bring forth a child. Trouble is sure to come when we stop trusting God and place our faith in a secondary solution. She is not picturing a great future for the boys God gave her through Bilhah, she has defeated her sister. We don’t know very much about what kind of mother Rachel was, but we do read about an ongoing battle between her and her sister Leah which tips me off that Rachel was much more concerned with herself and getting the upper hand on her sister than she was about raising her children in a godly home.
Rachel continued having her maid-servant bear children for her until finally God blessed her with a child, Joseph. Rachel became pregnant for a second time and this time she had problems in her delivery and died. Before she died, Rachel tried to tag her child with a remembrance of the pain he caused her during childbirth. We read this in Genesis 35:16-18,
16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last–for she was dying–she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:16-18 NIV)
“Son of my suffering?” What a burden for a child to bear his whole life. How would you like to be reminded that you were the cause of your own mother’s death every day that you lived. Thank God for Jacob who stepped in and at the last minute and changed the name of Rachel’s last son from “son of my suffering,” to Benjamin, “son of my right hand.” The only trouble is that Jacob should have been there the whole time being the leader rather than doing whatever else he was taking care of. It was the father’s job to name the children in Hebrew culture, not the mothers, but it is only here that Jacob assumes his responsibilities and lifts the tag, “Painful child” and calls him, “My right hand man.” Now there is a name which would cause a young boy to stick his chest out and and be proud.
Mothers, on this special day in which we all honor you, I hope you will trust in God’s grace so that you might be the mother who will leave a mark of love, grace, and encouragement upon your children, rather than a scar which will serve as a constant reminder of the heartache they have caused you.
I want to close with a beautiful paraphrase of I Corinthians 13 written by Dianne Lorang in which she points out the incredible opportunities moms have to love their children.
If I talk to my children about what is right and what is wrong, but have not love, I am like a ringing doorbell or pots banging in the kitchen. And though I know what stages they will go through, and understand their growing pains, and can answer all their questions about life, and believe myself to be a devoted mother, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give up the fulfillment of my career to make my children’s lives better, and stay up all night sewing costumes or baking cookies on short notice, but grumble about lack of sleep, I have not love and accomplish nothing. A loving mother is patient with her children’s immaturity and kind even when they are not; a loving mother is not jealous of their youth nor does she hold it over their heads whenever she has sacrificed for them. A loving mother does not push her children into doing things her way. She is not irritable, when the chicken pox have kept her confined with three whining children for two weeks, and does not resent the child who brought the affliction home in the first place. A loving mother is not relieved when her disagreeable child finally disobeys her directly and she can punish him, but rather rejoices with him when he is more cooperative. A loving mother bears much of the responsibility for her children; she believes in them; she hopes in each one’s individual ability to stand out as a light in dark world; she endures every backache and heartache to accomplish that. A loving mother never really dies. As for homemade bread, it will be consumed and forgotten; as for spotless floors, they will soon gather dust and heelmarks. And as for children, well, right now toys, friends, and food are all-important to them. But when they grow up it will have been how their mother loved them that will determine how they love others. In that way she will live on. So care, training, and a loving mother reside in a home, these three, but the greatest of these is a loving mother.
Mother’s, with God’s help, you can make a mark on the life of your child which will prove not only to bless his or her life, but will bless countless lives long after you are gone. Make your mark!
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91
OKC, OK. 73114
May 13, 2012