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The Mother Who Waited At The Window

Judges 4:4-9,5:24-28

I heard about a young minister who traveled widely giving a seminar entitled “How To Rear Your Children.” The seminar had great drive, power, humor, and pathos. But something terrible happened to the young minister. He and his wife had children of their own. Suddenly all the power, drive, humor, and pathos in his seminar vanished. So he developed a new seminar and entitled it “Some Suggestions For Parents.” It worked fairly well for a while, though he did not seem to approach the seminar with the same confidence and gusto. Then something even worse happened. His children became teenagers! He had to change his seminar again. He threw out everything that he had said and done before and started over. He called the seminar “Feeble Hints For Fellow Strugglers.”

I understand that. I have three—count ’em, one, two, three—teenagers at my house. And all of the wisdom and insight and advice and counsel which used to flow so freely from my lips no longer flows quite so freely or easily. In fact, I am not altogether sure that I have any wisdom of my own to share. However, I have asked God to bless this sermon with His grace. You see, a preacher’s confidence cannot rest in his own wisdom or lack thereof. It must rest in God, in God’s Word, in the dynamic power of God’s spirit. So my prayer is that whatever I say today shall be a blessing both to you and to me…

I begin by going back to one of the least traveled chapters in the Old Testament, a chapter which tells the story of three women. The first of these women was Deborah. She was judge of Israel. Now a judge in those days did more than render legal opinions. Deborah was in fact the judicial, political, military, and religious leader of Israel. At the time she was engaged in a running battle with the enemies of Israel, the Canaanites. The Canaanites had a mighty army commanded by a general named Sisera. However, Deborah’s forces prevailed in the battle, and all of the Canaanites were killed except Sisera. He fled for his life, and as he did, he came upon a tent. In that tent lived the second woman in the story. Her name was Jael. Jael was an enemy of Sisera, but he did not know that. So when she invited him to take refuge in her tent, he accepted. She fed him and then covered him up to hide him. After a while, he fell asleep. Then—and there is no delicate way to put this—Jael took a hammer and a tent peg and drove it through Sisera’s head. The Bible says simply: “He died.” Little wonder! When the news of Sisera’s death reached Deborah, she began to sing a song of victory. In the song she mentioned the third woman in the story. Listen to what Deborah sang: “Behold out of the window the mother of Sisera gazes and asks: ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?'” That is the picture of Sisera’s mother: sitting at the window, looking and waiting for her son to come home.

Well, I see in the face of Sisera’s mother the face of every parent who has ever sent a son or a daughter out into the world and then waited, hoping and praying that that loved one would return. I see in this mother who waited at the window something which has set my mind and my heart to deep thinking. Join me in the thinking, please.

The first thing to notice about this mother who waited at the window was that she was worried about her son.

That to me is a picture of the universal zeal which exists in the heart of every parent to care for and to protect their child. And there is a lot of worry, a lot of anxiety connected with that.

There is the anxiety of the newborn when every cry from the crib sounds an alarm in the parents hearts then. There come the childhood diseases—the fever that will not break, the croup that threatens to suck all of the air out of tiny lungs, the confused look of suffering in the child’s eyes while mother and father bend close with fear nibbling at the edges of their hearts. There’s the first day of school, holding Mom and Dad’s hands, but as you look closely it’s hard to tell who is holding the tighter, the child or the parents. There is the first dance recital or the first Little League game—the time when pride and anxiety run a race to see which will claim the parents’ hearts. There is the time of waiting—waiting for the school bell to ring to pick up the car pool, waiting with a magazine at the orthodontist’s office, waiting at the mall to try on a new dress or purchase a basketball, waiting into the night for the return from the first date, waiting to hear if they have made the cheerleading squad, waiting for the name to be called on graduation night. Then, of course, there’s going off to college, packing the car to overflowing, making the drive which one parent told me is the only trip in the world which is twice as long in the returning as it is in the going. After that, the waiting begins for the phone call or the letter. Then there comes a day when the wedding march begins, and he steps in from the right, and she comes down the aisle with her father—and every time it happens I look at the faces of both of their mothers and I always see the strangest mixture of joy and anxiety, faces bright with both smiles and tears. Then the two go off to build a new life together and they have children and the whole cycle begins again. Now they become the parents waiting at the window.

You see the chief difference between the love of husband and wife and the love of a parent for a child is this: husband and wife grow closer together, but parent and child grow farther apart. That’s the reason for the anxiety, the worry. The love of a parent for a child is costly indeed. Solomon Rosenberg and his family were caught in the horror of Nazi imprisonment. It was a death camp but the prisoners were allowed to live as long as they could work. When they faltered, they were put to death. Rosenberg’s parents were the first to go. Rosenberg knew that next would be his young son David, who was not strong, slightly crippled, and able to work less and less. Each morning as the family members went to their respective work assignments, Solomon Rosenberg wondered if he would ever see little David again. Each evening when he returned to the crowded barracks, his eyes would scan the room until his eyes rested on his wife, and David and his older boy, Jacob. One day what he feared most happened. He walked into the barracks and didn’t see his family. He was frantic. Then over in a corner, he saw his son, Jacob. The boy was sobbing. Rosenberg embraced his son and in agony asked if David had been taken. Jacob said: “Yes, Papa, they said he could no longer do his work.” Rosenberg said: “Well, where is your mother? She is strong, she is still able to work.” Jacob’s reply was unforgettable. “Papa, when they came to take David, he was afraid and he began to cry, so Mama said to him, ‘David, don’t cry. I will go with you and hold your close.'” That mother went with her little boy to the ovens so that he would not be afraid!

Let that burn its way into your heart. Then look back and see the faces of your parents at the window. See what it cost them to love you. They loved you enough to give themselves for you and then they loved you enough to give you away. That’s why there’s some anxiety, some worry in their faces. But we can ease some of the pain of that anxiety if we pause every now and then to look back and say “thank you” to them.

The second thing to notice about this mother who waited at the window was that she was missing her son.

I think I shall never forget going to the hospital one day to visit a young man there. He was sixteen years old and he had had surgery that morning. When I walked into that room he had not roused completely from the anesthesia. His mother was leaning over the bed, gently stroking his hair, kissing his forehead. She looked up at me and said—I shall always remember—she said: “He won’t let me love him when he is awake.”

We are living in a time when expressed love and affection between parents and children is not always encouraged. Christopher Lasch says that we are living in a time when after a child reaches the age of independence, the relationship to the parents becomes less and less meaningful. But the fact is that where we are in life is not entirely the result of our own efforts. It’s also due to the love and sacrifice of our parents. And our parents need to know that we understand that.

Dr. Irwin Lefferts was the president of a small college in Michigan. He says that the single most significant moment in his life was when he was driving on a trip with his son who was twelve years old at the time. It was winter. It was snowing. They had a terrible accident. Lefferts was thrown from the car and knocked unconscious. As he began to regain consciousness, he was aware of his little boy’s arms about him and he heard the boy praying: “Dear God, don’t let my Daddy die. He tries to do what is good and right, and I need him so much.” Hearing that prayer in that moment changed Dr. Leffert’s life. He went on to become a great servant of Jesus Christ.

And I suppose that in an extreme moment like that, we would say those kinds of things about those who are waiting at the window in our lives. But what about moments which aren’t so extreme? What about today? And what about you? This is a matter of special urgency for me. You see, I cannot say such things to my mother today! Because of the nature of the Alzheimer’s disease with which she is afflicted, she cannot understand the words. But I could stand here and talk until tomorrow and not be able to tell you how much it means to me to know that before that awful disease wrested her away from reality, I did say those things to her. I did not leave her waiting at the window.

So…

Sisera’s mother waited at the window for her son, but he never came. Someone is waiting at the window in your life. Your parents are watching, hoping, anxious, praying, caring, waiting. If they are still on this earth, then I plead with you, make some contact with them today and say “I love you.” If they are already experiencing the glory of heaven, then it is still not too late. You can whisper the words and the wings of God’s spirit will carry them to heaven. You can say: “Mom, Dad, I love you.” And they will hear, and they will know, and they will understand.

I apologize to you today because I feel and believe more about this than I am able to say. It overwhelms my thought and outruns my powers of expression. I can only ask you to take these thoughts to your hearts and to take Jesus to your hearts and to look back in your life and to thank Him for those who have waited at the window for you..

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