Confessions of a Grown-Up Momma’s Boy

Mothers are mind-blowing people if you stop to look at them.

In their body, they can carry, feed, protect, and eventually deliver a child — a human being, like you or me. They often set aside personal gifts and aspirations for the sake of the family. They very often are the ones to confront and conquer the warzone of the home — a world of overwhelming, ever-changing, and ever-undone demands. When life allows, they’re often the more present and available parent as boys and girls very quickly become young men and young women. And through adoption, many of them welcome sons and daughters into their home and heart whom they didn’t get to welcome into the world through birth.

We simply do not — and cannot — celebrate these women enough.

The Making of Men and Women

My mom quite literally might have been the most precious gift my dad ever gave me — that is, her freedom to be with me at home during the formative years of my life. He worked, and worked hard, to provide so that she could be more active in making my brothers and me into men — men of love, men of discipline, courage, and learning, men of sympathy and sensitivity, especially toward women, most of all, men after God’s heart.

It’s the kind of work we can’t afford to outsource. Boys become men — strong men of integrity — and girls become women — wise and beautiful women — through consistent care and attention, bold and grace-filled instruction, and real-life modeling. This requires lots and lots of time with our parents. Both mom and dad absolutely have a role to play in this progress, but God has placed this priority on the mother in an unusual way. And it sure seems like the extraordinary reality of motherhood has too often and too easily become the victim of other things, whether tragically through death, disability, or divorce, or more subtly through good things like ambition, education, and career advancement.

For sure, something hard, uniquely Christ-like, and therefore beautiful, happens in single mothering. Some mothers just don’t have a choice to be home more. They must work and work long hours, and they should be commended and celebrated for their sacrifices and burden-bearing. They lean more heavily on the community in raising their children, and we’re certainly glad when they do.

But among the rest of us, I wonder whether we’ve lost our awe and appreciation for the glory of the work of the home, the work of making men and women, building them — year by year, hour by hour, meal by meal, mundane moment by mundane moment.

Advice for Teenage Me (and Today Me)

For all who’ve known me, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been an undeniable and unashamed momma’s boy. But my naïve, undying love for Mom has not always been enough to help me make the most of her mothering. I have needed a heart and wisdom that only comes over time from above, from the Maker of mothers.

At twenty-eight, I believe I’ll still learn a lot more about being a son, but here are four things I wish I could say to fifteen-year-old me (and even twenty-seven-year-old me). I hope they can be a means of celebrating the miracle of every mom and the world-changing work they do.

1. Listen to her more intently.

Your mother’s mouth is a hidden well of wisdom, and you have access to it like no one else on earth. Her deep, unconditional, instinctive love leaves you a secret door open to her — her heart and history and mind and perspective. There are things — unique God-given, weighty, helpful things — she has that are available to her children and no one else.

They might be answers to difficult questions or timely messages for a random Monday or simply lessons passed on in passing. Take advantage. Learn your God, your world, and yourself through her love. Your pride and attention span will try and steal this from you, but be ever listening for and listening to your mother.

2. Watch her more carefully.

If the Bible is true and there is a God, and this God made the saving work of his Son the highest expression of who he is and how he loves, we ought to study, celebrate, and imitate love like that. Mothers make the daily, extravagant, often unnoticed, and probably more often unappreciated sacrifices that preserve health and growth in the home. They very tangibly die to themselves and live for the interests of others, especially others that are too young and immature to grasp what’s being given them.

We ought to marvel at motherly love like this, and worship the God who loves us that way and therefore fills up the love of mothers with tremendous and eternal meaning. When she’s not looking, be looking. Learn to follow Christ by watching carefully how your mother lives and works and feeds and cleans and dies for you.

3. Thank her more regularly.

One of Paul’s favorite ways to worship God was through thanks. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4). In at least eight other letters, Paul expresses this same kind of affection and appreciation. There’s something about a grateful heart that brings great glory to our God.

We ought to be the most constant, most passionate, most outspoken thank-ers on the planet because our thanks in all things makes much of God, from whom comes every good thing, especially our mothers. Don’t make light of his provision by neglecting to make much of her. Notice her work, thank her for it, and as often as your remember, thank your God for giving you her and everything she does for you. Your gratitude was meant to highlight a mother’s ministry from God. Help her and others see that by calling it out, even in the forgettable, repeatable responsibilities of today.

4. Share with her more openly.

The ones who know and love us most are most worthy of our honesty. More than that, we are desperately in need of their knowing us. God made us to depend on others, so he gave us these strong, wise, mature women to live with us, especially when we’re learning and changing the most. As I reflect on my high school years in particular, I can see now how much was happening in me — my faith and thinking and feelings and relationships — and I can see how crazy I was to keep so much from her.

There’s this unwritten, unwise code among teenagers that privacy is the great treasure and parents the great threat. Well it’s unwritten for a reason. There’s probably no one on this earth more steadfastly, more compassionately, even more ruthlessly committed to your well-being than your parents. Your mom is a woman who’s been with you until death do you part from the moment you knew her — even while she was still a blur in your baby eyes. Let her love you by welcoming her further into yourself. If she loves the Lord and you, you never need to fear her rejection or denial or condemnation. So go ahead and share it all, and let her help shape your heart and decision-making inside the security of her grace and care.

Honor Your Mother

I’m twenty-eight and still not-yet-married, which means I have a single’s mom, who also happens to be happily married. She’s been the closest, sweetest, most reliable, most forgiving woman in my life thus far. And she’s the woman most responsible — under God — for making me the man I am. In the next twenty-eight years and more, I aspire to love and appreciate her and her mothering better.

May we all treasure and honor our mothers more today and everyday — listening, watching, thanking, and sharing — and in doing so, making much of the God who made her, loves her, and speaks through her and her life.