This is my mom with my eldest son a few Christmases ago. She’s an excellent grandma and an excellent mother. More than any other human being, she is the one who is responsible for the fact that I made it. She’s the reason I have a tangible account of what grace means.
My mother does not always approve of what I do, but she’s always been on my side. She had high expectations for me and there were consequences when I broke her rules, but I knew that I started off every day with a clean slate. I never used an alarm clock growing up, because my mother would always come into my room to wake me up. She always had a beautiful, warm smile. The way she said, “Good morning,” was one of the most wonderful parts of every day. I don’t think I ever woke up cranky because of her. As I got older as a teenager, she got a little bit feisty if I was having trouble getting out of bed. Sometimes she would tickle my feet. At least once she dumped water on my head when I was especially groggy.
My mother has always been there for me when I was hurting. Two memories stick out in particular. When I was in middle school, there was a phone in the front hallway where kids could call their parents to come pick them up when they got sick. But nobody really monitored it to make sure you were actually sick. So I would call my mom when I was having a bad day getting bullied and what not. Whenever I called her on a bad day, she would have a warm, chocolate cake waiting for me when I got home.
A decade after that, in my mid-twenties, I had to return to North Carolina and live at home after a failed job and failed relationship in Michigan. I really thought that my life was over and that I was probably never going to be able to do more than be a cashier at a local gas station. For a couple of months, I spent most of my time in my room staring at the ceiling. I came out to eat, go to the bathroom, and for my daily walk with my mother in our neighborhood. Every day, we had the exact same conversation. She never got impatient with me. She didn’t have quick solutions and easy answers. She just listened and loved.
As a pastor today, I try to keep those daily walks with my mom in mind when I’m walking with people who are broken. I realize how much patience and trust in God it requires to be encouraging in a conversation with wounded people who are sure that their lives will never be better. As a pastor, I’m able to have a little bit more distance in these conversations. I can’t imagine what it’s like as a parent to see your grown child shrivel up and crash-land back into his nest. Whatever fear my mother may have felt, I never saw any of it. All that she showed me was faith, hope, and love. And that’s why I made it. I will always be grateful.