Honoring Mothers

One Week after Mothers Day - May 17, 2020
>Honoring Mothers
"Faith of Our Mothers" to the tune of "Faith of Our Fathers" 
Words by Arthur Bardwell Patten - YouTube Video
"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"  - Author: E. A. Hoffman
Singing by Michael Eldridge in four part harmony - YouTube Video
"He Keeps Me Singing"  Written by Luther B. Bridges
Sung by Slim Whitman - YouTube Video
Mommy Needs a Quarantine - A Skit Guys Video
Call to Worship - Psalm 126 - Video from the Skit Guys

Honoring Wives and Mothers

Over the few years of my pastoral ministry my wife, Yvonne, and I have had a tradition that I let her have the pulpit to speak on Mother’s Day.  Yvonne is an excellent speaker and a talented writer, see her Penspirations Blog at https://www.penspirations.com for a sample of her writing. 
This year caught Yvonne and I off guard.  On Sunday May 10, 2020, Mother’s Day, Fellowship Church of the Brethren had no traditional church service due to Covid-19 restrictions on social gatherings. 
It was decided instead to honor mothers on May 17th during the first scheduled service back in our building at 505 Blossom Drive.  It was nearly 8 weeks since we had met together, and it was not actually Mother’s Day.  I decided to take on the task of honoring mothers this year instead of Yvonne.  I did it even though I had no personal mothering experience.  What follows below is a retelling of that message with some added content.
At age 21, I had struggled financially to complete two years at Northeast Bible College. I planned to go into full-time Christian ministry when I graduated.  I had grown up in a Christian home and had been active in church all my life, but I did not have much real-life experience outside the church. 
I decided that I needed to determine if my professed faith in Christ was practical in the real world.  To test that hypothesis, I dropped out of college and voluntarily signed up for a two-year enlistment in the United States Marine Corps during the Viet Nam Conflict.  I bought into Marine Corps propaganda that said the Marine Corps builds men!  What about Christian men?
I had been an avid student of the Bible, often questioning church traditions that did not seem to match up with scripture.  I was kind of a religious zealot, always striving for perfection but often coming up short.  I thought I was becoming the perfect guy, but then I realized that pride comes before a fall and conceit is a fault.  I was not perfect – never would be, but I still needed to improve.
Prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, I had met and become completely infatuated with a young girl I met at church camp.  I proposed marriage without really knowing her. I was reluctant to accept and distressed to learn the next summer that she was not faithful in her commitment to me. We broke off the engagement.  I was devastated!  Perhaps that is why I found comfort in the wise words of King Lemuel’s mother found in Proverbs 31.

Proverbs 31:1-5 (Easy Read Version)

1  These are the wise sayings that King Lemuel's mother taught him: 
2  I prayed for a son, and you are the son I gave birth to. 
3  Don't waste your strength on women.  Women destroy kings, so don't waste yourself on them. 
4  Lemuel, it is not wise for kings to drink wine.  It is not wise for rulers to want beer. 
5  They may drink too much and forget what the law says.  Then they might take away the rights of the poor. 

A Mother's Advice to a King

King Lemuel’s mother advised her son that as a king he should limit himself regarding three things:
  1. “You should not waste your strength on women.  You are a king and women destroy kings.”
  2. “It is not wise for kings to drink wine.”
  3. It is not wise for rulers to want beer.“
When I dropped out of college to join the Marine Corps it was my intention to follow this wise advice from Proverbs in my new real-world environment.
The first four months in the Marine Corps it was easy to follow the advice from King Lemuel’s mom.  All through boot camp and infantry training I never even saw any young women and, I got no leave to go anywhere that I could even attempt to taste wine or beer.  For the first three weeks of boot camp I did not even get to drink milk!
To me it is interesting that after King Lemuel is warned in verse 2 against giving his strength to women, verse 10 begins to say just the opposite about a particular kind of woman who is hard (or almost impossible) to find.

Proverbs 31:10-15 (Easy to Read Version)

10  How hard it is to find the perfect wife. She is worth far more than jewels.
11  Her husband depends on her. He will never be poor.
12  She does good for her husband all her life. She never causes him trouble.
13  She is always gathering wool and flax and enjoys making things with her hands.
14  She is like a ship from a faraway place. She brings home food from everywhere.

Finding the Perfect Wife

There was a girl from my home church in Easton, PA who saw potential in me despite my many flaws.  She read Proverbs 31. She especially believed verse ten where it says, “How hard it is to find the perfect wife.  She is worth more than jewels.”  Strangely, she seemed to think that I might make the perfect husband, so she studied to try to become the perfect wife.  She asked to write to me while I was away in the military, but I said no.
Yvonne’s father kicked her out her home because she refused to give up church attendance.  My parents took her in.  I would not write to her, but my mother regularly wrote about Yvonne, how pretty she was, how she had lost weight, how much she helped around the house, how she had started nursing school, and all the wonderful things she was learning to do.  I really was not interested.  In the meantime, Yvonne was reading scripture and was changing to become more like what she understood the Proverbs 31 woman should be.
A funny thing happened as I neared the end of infantry training at Camp LeJeune, NC.  I began to take note of the things my mother had written about Yvonne and started to realize that she might have the qualities a man might look for in a wife.  I do not know why I would begin to think thoughts like this about someone I wanted nothing to do with just a few months earlier.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was getting sick? 
I woke up feverish one morning when we were about to go on bivouac.  I ended up in the infirmary where my fever got worse and I developed pain in my right knee.  The pain was so bad that I could not walk to leave the infirmary.  I was admitted to the base hospital where I was placed on antibiotics and given ice baths to lower my fever.  I was told I had strep throat and that the strep had gone to my knee.  This put me in the hospital over Thanksgiving.  I called home on Thanksgiving Day and asked to speak to Yvonne who was having dinner with my family.  I told her that I had decided I wanted to marry her.
I was 21 when I first got married (old enough to know better).  Three weeks later, just two days after Christmas, Yvonne and I got married when I came home on leave from the hospital and from training.  I have now been married to a nearly perfect wife for over 51 years, Yvonne, to a not so perfect husband.

Proverbs 31:15-22 (Easy to Read Version)

15  She wakes up early in the morning, cooks food for her family, and gives the servants their share.
16  She looks at land and buys it. She uses the money she has earned and plants a vineyard.
17  She works very hard. She is strong and able to do all her work.
18  She works late into the night to make sure her business earns a profit.
19  She makes her own thread and weaves her own cloth.
20  She always gives to the poor and helps those who need it.
21  She does not worry about her family when it snows. She has given them all good, warm clothes.

Why Talk about the Perfect Wife on Mother’s Day?

So why do we talk about the perfect wife described in Proverbs 31 on Mother’s Day? 

Notice that verse 15 says, “She wakes up early in the morning, cooks food for her family, and gives the servants their share.”  The perfect wife of Proverbs 31 is also a mother with a family.  In verse 21 she gives her family good warm clothes. Verse 28 says, “Her children say good things about her.”

The wife described in Proverbs 31 as more valuable than fine jewels does not exist!  Her complete list of virtues would be nearly impossible for any one person to attain even though many have tried.  Many have struggled with feelings of inadequacy because they felt they could not measure up what they believed was a biblical standard.

My own wife, the mother of my child, struggled early in our marriage as she tried to live up to the goals set by this fictitious perfect wife.  That woman does not exist.  If she did exist, her value would be priceless. 

Yvonne tells me that it was only after a pastor’s wife friend explained this to her that she felt relief from the anxiety of feeling inadequate.  It is good to have the description of what this perfect wife accomplishes as a target to steer toward.  But it is important to recognize that for one person to accomplish all that is listed in Proverbs would be an impossible achievement.

Yvonne has been my nearly perfect wife for more than fifty years.  Within weeks of being married, Yvonne traveled across the country from Pennsylvania to California at great risk to herself because I ended up back in the hospital.  She did it to be near me when she thought I most needed her.

I attended language school in Monterey, CA prior to being deployed to Viet Nam.  Yvonne would get up early in the morning to make me breakfast, polish my brass, shine my shoes, and lay out my uniform.  She worked hard, sometimes made her own clothes, and was always ready to help those in need.  She hardly ever voiced disagreement with things I felt were important.  However, Yvonne never looked for land to buy, never planted a vineyard, and she never worked late into the night on her own profitable business.  She seemed to kill almost every live plant I ever gave her.

I learned to depend on my wife.  While I have never been wealthy, I will never be poor because of her.  She has always been the nearly perfect wife to me, the far less than perfect husband.

Proverbs 31:22-31 (Easy to Read Version)

22  She makes sheets and spreads for the beds, and she wears clothes of fine linen.
23  Her husband is a respected member of the city council, where he meets with the other leaders.
24  She makes clothes and belts and sells them to the merchants.
25  She is a strong person, and people respect her. She looks to the future with confidence.
26  She speaks with wisdom and teaches others to be loving and kind.
27  She oversees the care of her house. She is never lazy.
28  Her children say good things about her. Her husband brags about her and says,
29  "There are many good women, but you are the best."
30  Grace and beauty can fool you, but a woman who respects the LORD should be praised.
31  Give her the reward she deserves. Praise her in public for what she has done.

My Wife – Mother of My Child

Yvonne and I were married for nineteen years before we had a child.  Our daughter came as a special blessing to us.  With her birth my nearly perfect wife began the journey to becoming a nearly perfect mother. Now she is the incredibly special Nanna to three incredibly special grandchildren.
Just as it says in verses 25 to 29, Yvonne is a strong person, and people respect her.  She looks to the future with confidence; she speaks with wisdom and teaches others to be loving and kind.  She oversees the care of her house.  She is never lazy.  Her daughter and foster son say good things about her.  Her husband brags about her and says, “There are many good women, but you are the best.”
None of us are perfect, but the nearly perfect wife and mother who espouses the values set forth in Proverbs 31 deserves to be praised.  She should be given the reward she deserves.  She should be praised in public for what she has done.
It is good to honor our wives and the mothers of our Children!