A Mother’s Day guest commentary by Sam Codington
Mothers, I think, are very much like the Christian image for God.
There are only two women about whom I can speak, really, but perhaps some of what is true about them may ring true of others. The first is the woman who gave birth to me and raised me, and the second is the woman who agreed to partner with me in life. These two women, these two mothers, have shown me how little I understand life and how much I have to be grateful for.
My mom grew up in Brazil as a middle child in a large family. Perhaps that is why she has always had a sense of adventure and tenacity. Her intensity, intelligence and resilience are traits that began forming me before I had the capacity to articulate them. As soon as words began to flow, I came to realize my words were outmatched.
Some of the earliest words from her I remember are “obedience” (of course) and “initiative.” Those, I think, are probably good words for children to learn. She gave me a pen and paper. I hated cursive and holding the writing utensil properly. She piled books in front of me and expected me to read them (all of them), so I said I did – naturally, I only read some.
She wished for me to glide my fingers across the piano keys with flawless form, while I daydreamed of the outdoors. She emphasized accurate pronunciation in Spanish and French, though I often used flat, passive verbs in English. She maintained high standards, and for reasons mysterious to me, she did not cease to stick with me in all my half-hearted attempts.
My wife grew up in California as the youngest of three children. Her parents moved to the United States from South Korea and are two of the hardest working people I have ever met. Her kindness, dedication and creativity are traits that attracted me from the beginning. As soon as I caught a glimpse, I wanted to see and to know more.
She loved taking pictures, and I loved looking at them. She relished the beach, and I stood in awe of the ocean crashing against the rocks. She felt a need to touch everything in antique shops, and I felt an urge to warn her from breaking things. She cried with a smile when she heard our son’s voice for the first time, and I stood stunned, speechless that we had a new family member. She teaches him new words, and I rehearse the ones he has learned.
She creates colorful entrées for her son’s breakfast, and he nibbles. She draws his favorite pictures in church services, so he will sit still. Frequently, I have guessed and probed and investigated what her deepest desires are. After 11 years, I know she just wants me, and her most delighted laughs arise when her son giggles after attempting to make a joke.
Mothers, I think, are very much like the Christian image for God. Mothers give from the beginning. They keep giving, even beyond perceived endings. We children take their giving with ingratitude. We expect their giving. We rage when their giving changes. We want them near, yet we push them away. We wish they wouldn’t interfere, though we depend on their love. All the while, we are unnecessary for their being, though they are necessary for ours.
I realize not all mothers are the same, like refractions of light. I know only two particularly well. And so, I speak of them. Perhaps what is true of them is also true of others.
Mothers are the most powerful people in the world. You mothers hold our souls in the palm of your hand. Make us what you will.
Sam Codington is pastor of West Haven Presbyterian Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He lives in Rocky Mount with his wife Esther and their 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Ezra. They can often be found running along the Tar River.