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The Creation Of Mothers Took Overtime

May 10, 1998 | First Presbyterian Church Orlando | I Corinthians 13

Richard Lederer is a Ph. D. professor of English who loves to collect what he calls “accidental assaults upon our language.” One of his funniest collections is what he titles “The World According to Student Bloopers.” Listen to some of these gems he has collected from actual student essays and tests:

  • “The inhabitants of ancient Egypt were called mummies. They lived in the Sarah Desert and traveled by Camelot.”
  • “Jacob was a man in the Bible who stole his brother’s birthmark.”
  • “The Greeks had a lot of myths … a myth is a female moth.”
  • “Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice … They poisoned him, but, actually, Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.”
  • “History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.” 
  • “Nero was a cruel tyranny who tortured his poor subjects by playing the fiddle to them.” 
  • “William Tell shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son’s head.” 
  • “One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was that the English put tacks in their tea.” 
  • “Benjamin Franklin went to Boston carrying all his clothes in his pocket and a loaf of bread under each arm. He invented electricity by rubbing cats backwards and declared, ‘A horse divided against itself cannot stand.’ Franklin expired in 1790 and later died for this.”
  • “Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin which he built with his own two hands.” 
  • “Gravity was invented by Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.”

It’s obvious from these classic student bloopers that sometimes we miss the message. Sometimes we stop short of the full truth and end up with a distorted or strange answer. Sometimes we play around the edges of what is accurate, and we get close, but we wind up missing the main point. That’s what I Corinthians 13 is all about. It’s Paul’s attempt to underscore the main point of the Christian approach to life.

Paul had founded the church in Corinth in about 50 A.D. and he had stayed there for nearly two years. But then when he moved on to the work in the city of Ephesus, he kept getting reports of trouble in the Corinthian church. As long as he was with them, everything was fine—but when he left, it all began to fall apart. Conflicts and cliques, divisions and dissension, party-strife and power struggles were tearing the church apart. What in the world had happened? Well, the Corinthians had gotten a taste of religion but they missed the main point. They were playing around the edges and thus distorting the true message of the faith. So like a parent teaching his children, Paul wrote them a letter outlining all of their problems for twelve chapters. Then he said: “Now I would like to show you a better way.” In essence he was saying: “Listen up! This is what it is all about. Here is the secret. You want the key of life? Here it is.” And then he launches into the well-known 13th chapter of First Corinthians, the Love Chapter. It is by any standard the most beautiful and the most comprehensive description of love ever penned. And it ends with these remarkable words: “So faith, hope and love abide—these three—but the greatest of these is love. So put love first. Make love your aim.” Paul is saying to the Corinthians and to us: “If you miss love, then you miss the main point of life and the main point of faith.”

Of course, the best illustration of Paul’s words is the love we find in those who are mothers. Somehow I am convinced that God gave us mothers and God gave His Son a mother so that we and He might come to know what love really is—sacrificing, unselfish, caring and beautiful. A mother’s love—ah, it is beautiful to behold. I keep thinking today of a little story told by Dan Clark:

There were some preachers discussing the merits of the various translations of the Bible. One liked the King James Version best because of its simple and beautiful English. Another liked the Revised Standard Version best because it came nearer to the original Greek and Hebrew. The third minister preferred Today’s English Version because of its up-to-date vocabulary. The fourth minister was silent. When the others pressed him for an opinion, he replied: “I like my mother’s translation the best.” The other three expressed surprise. They said: “We didn’t know your mother had translated the Bible.” He answered: “She translated it into life every day of her life, and it was the most convincing translation I have ever seen.”

Now let me run with that thought for a few minutes.

There’s an old Chinese proverb which says: “A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home.” And there’s an ancient Spanish proverb which reads: “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” Those proverbial truths suggest that mothers shape the lives and destinies of their children more than any other person. Mothers are in a position to teach and exemplify the Christian faith and the Biblical truths in ways which surpass even the ministry of the church. The love of a Christian mother is God’s chosen vessel for pouring out His love upon each new generation. We can easily become sentimental about mothers and their love until we see that God has chosen them for tough spiritual duty in building the Kingdom of God on earth. Reference is made in the Bible to many mothers, some named, others unnamed, but what they hold in common is that God used them in special ways to accomplish His purpose in the world.

Look, for example, at Jochebed, the mother of Moses. At the time she gave birth to her son, the Egyptian Pharaoh had declared that every son born to a Hebrew mother was to be drowned in the Nile River. But with a courage born of a personal faith in God, she refused to obey this murderous decree. Her faith was sorely tested and tried, but God gave her the victory. She was a mother worthy of the highest honor because she took her stand upon her faith in God at great cost, but in the end God used her son Moses to deliver His people from slavery. Courageous mothers ought to be honored.

Or look at Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She was the definition of a “praying mother.” Long before her child was born, she poured out her heart to God at a time when godliness was at a low ebb in the nation. Her own desire was that her child be completely given over to God for His use. The Lord answered her prayer and gave her a son, Samuel. True to her word, Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord, and Samuel was used by God to bring spiritual renewal to the nation. Praying mothers ought to be always honored.

Or look at Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. We know from the writings of Paul that Timothy had learned the Scriptures as a child and that his mother and grandmother had been his teachers. God then took Timothy’s faith and his knowledge of the Bible and used Timothy to spread the Gospel to the then known world. Double honor is due those mothers who teach their children the Bible.

Of course, we must look at Mary, the mother of Jesus. It would not have been easy to raise Jesus, but Mary possessed enough spiritual sensitivity to recognize her son as a special gift from God. Therefore, she proceeded to shape His growing life with extraordinary devotion to what she believed God wanted her to do. She called herself “the handmaid of the Lord,” and so she believed that her primary task was to instill in her son a faith in the Lord which would withstand any attack. Any mother willing to follow her example deserves our highest honor.

I look at what these Biblical mothers gave to their children, and then look at how so many modern mothers approach their high calling. Modern mothers want their children to enjoy the advantages to today’s world. They want them to have a good education. They want them to be well-dressed. They want them to have material things in life. They want them to be popular. In short, they want their children to succeed. Nothing wrong with that, except that all too often our modern definition for success does not include God. The result is painfully obvious in our society. I wish that more mothers today would follow the lead of these mothers from the Bible. You see, I would contend that if mothers today want to give their children the best—and they do—then the best thing they can do for their children is to point them to Mary’s Son and to say to them the most powerful words anyone can ever say: “Go and follow Him.” And it is my prayer that one day, because mothers everywhere have pointed their children to Mary’s Son, we shall see the end of the horrors of war and the pains of hunger and the stench of slums and all else that harms the growing souls of children in our world. Of course, for a mother, that is both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity of them all: translating the Bible into their everyday lives and loving their children with a I Corinthians 13 kind of love, thus bringing their children to the love and knowledge of God.

So …

Everything I have been trying to say today can be summed up by the late Erma Bombeck who wrote a beautiful piece called “The Creation of Mothers Took Overtime.” Listen:

When the good Lord was creating mothers He was into His sixth day of overtime when the angel of the Lord appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic, have a hundred and eighty moveable parts, all replaceable. She has to run on black coffee and leftovers. She has to have a lap that disappears when she stands up, and a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And she has to have six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook his head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands? No way!” “It’s not the six pairs of hands that are causing the problem,” said the Lord. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

“That’s on the standard model?” the angel asked. The Lord nodded. “One pair that can see through closed doors when she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t, but what she has to know; and of course, the ones in front that can look at a child when he or she goofs up and says, ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve gently, “Go to bed. Tomorrow …” “I can’t,” said the Lord, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who can heal herself when she is sick … can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger, and can get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” the angel sighed. “But tough,” said the Lord excitedly. “You can’t imagine what this mother can endure.” “Can it think?” asked the angel. “Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran his finger across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” he pronounced. “I told you … you were trying to put too much into this model.” “It’s not a leak,” replied the Lord. “It’s a tear.” “It’s a what?” asked the angel. “It’s a tear,” repeated the Lord. “What’s it for?” asked the angel. God said, “It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, loneliness and pride.” “You’re a genius,” said the angel. The Lord looked solemn. “I didn’t put it there,” said the Lord.

 

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