As Mother’s Day approaches, I was thinking again about the model of unconditional love that a mother’s love portrays. My own mother has demonstrated that very unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness to me. The first time I discussed the prodigal son story, I commented that the most important part of the story was that the younger son came to his senses after wasting his advanced inheritance. The second time I discussed the prodigal son parable I related the reactions of the older son (he became angry) with the reaction of the father (he was filled with compassion). I think the point of the parable 2000 years ago, just as it is now, is that the father’s acceptance of his returning wayward son is a perfect image of the love, acceptance, and forgiveness our heavenly Father has for each of us. But isn’t a mother’s love for her children an equally good image of Best Love?
For many people their father’s love seems more conditional, especially towards their sons. How many sons feel that they can’t quite measure up to what their father expects, or would like to see in the son. It is extremely common for men to feel that they don’t, or never did, measure up to their father’s expectations. Maybe that’s the reason Mother’s Day is one of the top three days for fathers to attend church (with Christmas and Easter), while on Father’s Day the father is more likely to go fishing or play golf. It doesn’t help that the Mother’s Day sermons usually praise mothers to no end, while the Father’s Day message is more likely to be along the lines of how fathers need to straighten up and be better fathers.
When I talked about how we all need eyes to see and ears to hear, I mentioned that there is no stronger example of love in the animal world than that of a mother protecting her children. A mother’s love for her children is a model of God’s Best Love for us. Unlike lovers plucking petals from a daisy to discover if they are loved, every petal we pluck from God’s daisy says: “He loves us.” Mom’s daisy is the same – there are no petals for “she loves me not.”
I believe one of the highest compliments you can pay someone is to say that you admire them. And I believe that admiration, like love, is something that can be passed through the family from generation to generation. So allow me to share one of those stories. My mother’s father, Daddy Guy, lived in a very small town in Mississippi. Right after WWII ended, Daddy Guy started a trade school for black veterans who were able to take advantage of the GI Bill. The emphasis of the training was the use and maintenance of heavy farm equipment. Daddy Guy was able to hire the woman considered the best black teacher in the county. At the time she felt she was moving to a better job not only for more money, but because she saw the potential to accomplish more. The students of the trade school, while grown men, were only at an elementary school level academically. This teacher was able to integrate (no pun intended) reading and math into the curriculum, and do it in a creative enough manner that questions raised by the government monitors were always satisfactorily answered.
There was surprise in store for the town on the Fourth of July in 1948. As everyone lined up in preparation for the town’s parade, Daddy Guy showed up with his flat bed truck, the bed covered in artificial grass borrowed from the black funeral home. Standing on the back of the truck were three black veterans, all in crisp dress uniforms: one from the Army, one from the Navy, and one from the Marines. The only other decoration on the truck was a large American flag, which a gentle breeze showed to its full advantage. The first reaction when Daddy Guy and the veterans showed up was someone asking “What do you think you are doing?” He said he was getting into the parade, and did. It was the town’s best kept secret that Fourth of July and the town reacted with continued applause along the entire route of the parade.
This is one of the most vivid memories that my mother has of her father. She has never forgotten the look in his eyes, and the small smile on his face, as he told her the story. I saw some of Daddy Guy’s eyes and smile in my mother’s face when she first told me about this. My hope is that my children can see his eyes and smile in my face as well when talking about this. My mother has demonstrated unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness that models both her earthly father’s and her Heavenly Father’s. Maybe that is the real Mother’s Day message: a mother demonstrates Best Love, and how wonderful it is when the source is the Best Love of her father and her Father.