Language has its own process, reinterpreting, getting “butchered” and changed by dialect and region. For example, there is a whole book called Pittsburghese—the way people in my hometown talk. Here are a few samples:
Jeet jet? (Did you eat yet?)
A sammich. Jou? (Yeah, I ate a sandwich. You?)
Gowan t’ jine iggle. (I’m going to Giant Eagle [supermarket])
Gimme a gum band. (Give me a rubber band.)
Airyago. (There you go.)
And some others: jaggerbush (thorn bush), lickin’ (spanking), Jumbo (bologna), and scootch (move over).
Language is a fluid thing. Just look at a few words whose meanings have changed over recent years (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Awful – Originally meant “inspiring wonder (or fear)”. It is a combination of the words “awe” and “full”, used originally as a shortening for “full of awe.” In contemporary usage the word has taken on an entirely negative meaning.
Egregious – Originally described something that was remarkably good. Now it means something that is remarkably bad or flagrant.
Gay – Originally meant feelings of being “carefree”, “happy”, or “bright and showy”; it had also come to acquire some connotations of “immorality” as early as 1637. The term later began to be used in reference to homosexuality.
There is another word that has changed meaning due to common usage in parts of the culture. That is the word “mother.” Unfortunately, in some of the baser parts of the culture this word, this reference to a most revered part of the human family has been paired with an obscenity so often that just using the word itself can be understood as an obscenity. Originally: You are a mother! (Congratulations, you now have a child!) I won’t explain what it means when used the other way.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I was thinking about the meaning of “mother” and its related terms: mommy, momma, mom, etc. What connotations do those words have for you ? I know what I think of, and I thought it might be interesting to explore what the Bible says about “motherhood.”
Motherhood is something to be desired and cherished: Psalm 113:9: “He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.”
Mother should be honored and respected: Proverbs 31:28 “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Exod. 20:12 – “Honor your father and mother.”
I have counseled with men and women who have struggled with this disparity: they want to love and honor their mothers, but find themselves unable to do so, angry and resentful because of the mistakes and or bad choices made by their parents. The Bible does not ignore, however, that women, like everyone else, are prone to the same human faults and failures. We all fail; Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Our study on grace reveals that it, too, has different meanings in different parts of the culture. For example, in a class on dance or deportment “grace” could mean “seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion” or “a characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.” However, when we speak of “grace” with relationship to God, we are talking about “a favor rendered by someone who does not need to do so” or divine love bestowed freely, unmerited favor.
When grace, or mercy, is extended to us, it is given without strings or requirements; it is God’s sovereign choice to bless and restore fallen people to relationship with Him. This very act changes us, helps us see the possibilities in our own nature, as we become more like God. Unfortunately, we often take that grace, the unmerited favor, and keep it for ourselves, failing to share it with others. We don’t forgive or extend a hand to those who have wronged us or who have failed us somehow in our lives.
Most of you have or had a wonderful relationship with your mother. You were able to see past her idiosyncrasies and faults to know the woman beneath, and you do honor her. But for those of us who have not been able to do so, I want to ask you to think about what you have received from God. The Bible teaches that no one is righteous before God, that we were all sinners and separated from God before Jesus’ sacrifice. Having received that grace, however, we now must pass it on to those in our lives who need it.
Perhaps your mother was someone unable , for one reason or another, to give you the attention and affection you needed and deserved. Maybe she was preoccupied or unable to be the mother you wanted to have, either because of illness (mental or physical), depression, other responsibilities, or even addiction of one kind or another. As children we cannot understand what our parents are struggling with or going through, and we interpret what we see and hear in our own way. It isn’t until we are grown and get the whole story that we can see the true picture of what happened. Even then, by God’s grace, we are called to forgive.
And if your mother was inattentive and did not care for you, the Bible even talks about that situation. The Lord speaking through Isaiah asks, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! “ (49:15). You are not left alone without compassion, without care. God can be the mother you longed for, the One who cherishes and cares for you. God will fill the “love gap” you may be experiencing. But consider this, when you receive that love and compassion, when you are loved by God, you are also called to share that love with others.
I’m reminded of the movie “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” A young woman is brought home to try to mend the relationship with her mother. She is angry because of her mother’s absence and emotional distance in her childhood, and it is only through discussions with her mom’s friends, her father, and her own mother, that she realizes mom suffered from depression and mental illness. It is only then that she realizes that her mother, as well, was a victim and needed love and forgiveness.
This Mother’s Day, if you still have her, give your mother the gift of love, the gift of grace and mercy. Honor her for all she did for you, and also show her grace for what you, in your ultimate wisdom, felt was inadequate. Even if there was no good reason for her lack of “mothering,” be Christ to her—share some of that unmerited favor you have received from God, grace given because of love.
One more note: We all have individuals, men and women, who have been “mother” to us (in a positive sense!). Don’t forget them this Sunday. Let them know how much you appreciate their nurture and love. It will mean the world to them.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church