Knocking: A tribute to motherhood

by | May 12, 2024

Happy Mother’s Day to every person answering to the call of motherhood. I’m not an insider on this topic. But I had a mother who modeled for me what it means and how it feels to have a wonderful mother.

I have no conscious memory of my life as an infant, but I watched my mom nurture my younger brother.

My mom was perhaps best known by neighbors and church folk as the “plant lady.” A person who had a sort of mysterious gift for nursing plants back to life.

She could assess whether the plant was in good soil, had too much or not enough water, was a victim of hungry insects or had some other ailment. And that’s when the mystery began. After receiving whatever remedy it needed, seemingly dead plants showed fresh growth, with renewed life and promise.

On the other hand, I barely remember my mom fussing with plants while I still lived at home. But I remember the meals, clean clothes, encouraging words and some terse words whenever I violated a boundary.

So what makes an exemplary mother? Again, as an outside observer, I sought expert advice. Peg Streep has written extensively about relationships between mothers and daughters. In her article, “What Makes a Good Mother Anyway?,” Streep offers an antidote for her observations she shared in her book, Mean Mothers.

Steep shares her own insecurities about raising a child since her firsthand experience with her mother was extremely negative. Research confirms that negative experiences are more impactful, negatively, than pleasant experiences. One lesson is good mothers worry a little less about perfection and a little more about avoiding potentially harmful experiences for their children.

Steep knew some things to avoid from her childhood experiences.

According to an article provided by Family Development Resources, titled “Myths and Facts About Spoiling Your Children,” spanking is one of those negative experiences children are more likely to remember. “Spanking is a type of hitting; hitting is a type of hurting touch; hurting touch is a type of abuse,” according to their article.

I grew up in a Christian household. Spanking was, mistakenly, confused with biblical teaching. After all, Proverbs warns us that “Whoever spares the rod hates their children” (Proverbs 13:24).

However, in a letter published in the Chicago Tribune titled, “`Spare the rod, spoil the child’ isn’t biblical,” an unnamed social worker defends the decision of a mother who withdrew her child from a Christian School who ordered her to “spank her child or else.” She reminds us the word translated as “rod” likely references a shepherd’s staff, used to guide and rescue sheep, not beat them.

Childish behavior continuing into adulthood seems to be a recurring news item as the November presidential election draws near. This past week, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s failed attempt at removing the House Speaker was called a childish tantrum by colleagues. A similar phrase is often credited to the former president’s outbursts. Many psychologists blame their parents for their childish behavior. Did their parents spare the rod?

Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7

What is clearly found in the Bible is God’s credentials as an exemplary mother. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us to ask God for our basic needs. After all, Jesus tells us, if human parents, who are far from perfect, give good things to children, how much more likely God will give better things?

Richard Rohr, in our companion book for this series, writes, “We can’t build on fear or anger. We can’t build on the negative. We only can build on faith, on freedom, on truth.”

We don’t spoil our children by loving them. And good mothers shower their children with love continuously.

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Pastor Tommy


Parts of our series was inspired by Fr. Richard Rohr. JesusAlternative Plan. Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2022.

Peg Streep. Reviewed by Matt Huston. “What Makes a Good Mother Anyway?.” © Peg Streep, October 16, 2013. Published by: Psychology Today.. Retrieved from: link

Nurturing Parenting Programs. “Myths and Facts About Spoiling Your Children.” © Family Development Resources, Inc., 2021. Retrieved from: link

Unknown. “`Spare the rod, spoil the child’ isn’t biblical.” © Chicago Tribune, August 22, 2021. Retrieved from: link

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