Some of the most regretful memories of my teen years involve my mother. If I could change one thing about my life as a teen, I would have treated my mom better. I wasn’t that I was horrible or that I didn’t love her, but mom made me nervous. She thought apples were a good dessert, she would walk into my room and ask me to share my hopes, dreams and aspirations and she would cry when I said something out of line. Dad yelled and veins popped out on his neck when he was mad; he was always happy to apply the discipline of the Lord swiftly and from the left side. He never said, “This hurts me worse than it does you,” because we both knew it was a lie. Dad felt much better after wearing out my backside, the way other people feel better about themselves after building a Habitat for Humanity home for a deserving family.
I understood dad, but I really didn’t understand mom. She wanted to have family devotions though they were always a flop. She could begin with the Levitical Codes and we would end in uproarious laughter (except for mom who would be crying). She watched every one of my high school football games though I was pretty sure she didn’t want me to play. She wanted to know if my girlfriends were Christians. When I told her they weren’t but at least they were good looking and she would not be cursed by ugly grandchildren, she never laughed. Then mom did weird things. She always ate the burned grilled cheese, she always got her piece of chicken long after the breasts were gone, she would tell me she was praying for me and then there was that main thing…she wanted more for me than I wanted for myself. That one drove me crazy.
I often wondered as a seventeen year old, “What does this woman want from me?” Then I read James 1: 19-27 and suddenly I understood.
James 1:19-27 (NLT)
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.
24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
And in discovering what my mom wanted from me, I found out what God wanted from me as well.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois