I’m looking forward to celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend. If my husband has taken my many cues, he will have worked with the kids to craft some kind of memorable gift, probably involving a handprint or leaf. With any luck, he will also inform me that I can sleep in as long as I want while he takes care of the kids. With more luck, he’ll tell me I get to sleep in two mornings. (Emphasis added for Bryan’s benefit. He reads all my posts. Indirect spouse communication is a fringe benefit of having a blog.)
Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to reflect on what you would like to be celebrated for. Right now, my kids are young enough that they are celebrating me because I simply exist as their mother. Over time, they will hopefully grow to appreciate me for more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Extending the time horizon even further, I was reflecting on this question today:
What do I hope my kids will say about me at my funeral someday?
This isn’t morbid. It simply puts the question of my parenting priorities into the context of a completed life.
I remember having the “what do you hope people will say at your funeral someday” conversation with a friend in college, outside of the context of kids. She said that she would want people to say she was really nice. I said that I would want people to say that I was really smart! The perspective of my 21-year-old self was quite limited, to say the least.
This topic came up recently in a conversation with another friend. I had been trying to explain how life looks different when you place Christ above everything. He asked for some examples. I thought for a moment, then offered, “At my funeral someday, the most important thing I would want my kids to say is that I was a woman of faith who raised them to know the Lord.” Tears immediately welled up in my eyes, realizing how much God has changed me since I answered that similar question at age 21.
Even if I am the nicest, most loving, most fun, most joyful, most opportunity-giving parent…what does it matter, if I haven’t raised my kids to know the Lord?
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
With that in mind, here is what I hope my kids will be able to say about me someday when I’m gone. I have a long way to go to make this reality, but it will be my life’s work.
My mom raised us to know the Lord. She always told us that she was not gifted with faith by nature, but that she, by the grace of God, recognized the unwavering importance of putting Him first in life. She readily acknowledged the questions and doubts she faced and openly encouraged us to acknowledge our own so we would always pursue truth without fear. She wanted to make sure we really understood why our family believed what we believed and that being a Christian was not just about going to church on Sundays.
Mom always taught us the importance of knowing the Bible especially. We could never get away with memorizing John 3:16 and calling it a day, though many times that would have been easier – for us and for her. Instead, she made sure that we knew how to study the Bible in depth, teaching us all about the Bible’s historical, cultural and theological contexts. She never tired of engaging us in this pursuit of knowledge in order to prepare us for a lifetime of following Christ, solidly rooted in God’s Word.
Mom was extremely focused on making sure we were grateful for all of our blessings and never took anything for granted. She taught us how to use our blessings to serve others and stressed the importance of humility in serving. She always reminded us that we were serving for God’s glory, not for our own.
Mom was the first to admit she had a fiery temper, rarely experienced the “gentleness” fruit of the Spirit, and spent more time finding things to worry about than putting her daily trust in God. But she always used her own imperfections to teach us about the value of prayer, the meaning of forgiveness, and the importance of humility.
We will always know how much she loved us because she spent her life caring for much more than our basic needs – she cared for our souls.