As we celebrate Mothers’ Day, we asked two Christians to tell us about the faith impact their mums have had in their lives.
My mother passed away 10 years ago. She leant on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – talked about being joyful always, praying continually and giving thanks in all circumstances. I can’t remember hearing her complain. Even when things were really hard she was still joyful and kept giving thanks. That has stuck with me since then. If things are ever hard, or I’ve had hopes not met, I am still intentional in looking for things to give thanks for in that circumstance.
She taught us to enjoy life, to enjoy bushwalking and the beach and the outdoors. She always encouraged us to give things a go and get involved in sport, teaching Sunday school and Special Religious Education in schools. I remember learning from her that beauty is from within. She didn’t focus on outward appearances. She urged and encouraged all of us to do good works, even my Dad. She would encourage him to speak at different conferences, even when she was looking after us four kids. She put the gospel first.
Mum was great at mentoring other women. We often had younger single women that she was mentoring who were involved in our lives, too. One lady came for dinner every Monday night and became part of the family. We were flower girls at the weddings of others. The people she mentored she brought into our family. She and my dad showed us hospitality. The family isn’t just nuclear, but we need to be outward focused in life and family and caring for other people.
When I was living with a Christian housemate, we were both intentional in wanting to love our neighbours and getting to know them more. We would occasionally have them over for meals and meet up with them. I was involved with the Fellowship of Overseas Christian University Students at Wollongong Uni, and got to know lots of international friends at university and at my church, St Michael’s Cathedral. I guess I was influenced to do this by my parents, by their example and how they raised us to know and love Jesus. It’s affected how I live.
I remember my Mum once saying on the way to school when we were kids, “Life has been so good, and God has blessed us so much, but something could happen to us one day”. She was aware of the reality that life is fleeting. We saw that through her. When we saw her take her last breath, it reminded us that the last enemy to be defeated is death, and Jesus has defeated death. We’d been asking God to allow her to die in his perfect timing. She died on Easter Sunday. That was evidence to us that it wasn’t random how she died. The hope we have in Jesus, and the hope she had in Jesus, is so powerful and assuring.
My predominant memory of Mum is her faith shaped everything about her. My distinct memory of how that looked explicitly is, as a family, we read the Bible together every night after dinner – but it wasn’t Dad’s job or anyone’s job, it was Dad and Mum. It wasn’t Mum as a passenger or as an observer, it was Mum raising her kids spiritually with Dad, in partnership with Dad. Dad is the head of the home, but Mum spiritually taught and raised her children.
It got complicated when I became a teenager, as it does for lots of families. I wanted to stop going to church, and went through different stages of rebellion. It was interesting to watch Mum. It was complicated for her to relate to me during something that was deeply disappointing to her. And yet, she still managed to pull it off without me ever resenting Jesus.
If I said I didn’t want to go to youth group, that wasn’t ever an option. If I was under 18 living in her house, I went to church or youth group. It never felt legalistic. She did it in a way that I didn’t resent Jesus. I resented her, but it didn’t feel like she was saying, “You have to do this because I say so”. It was, “You have to do this because we love you and Jesus is the most important thing in the world, and that’s what we want for you more than anything. We love you, of course we love you, and this is what we are doing as a family, and our prayer is that you would keep doing this.” That was the key difference. She wanted me to do this because she loved Jesus and wanted me to love Jesus.
That was at the centre of everything – a deep faithfulness to Jesus and a desire for her children to follow Jesus. The spiritual disciplines in my own family are a copy and a paste of what I had as a child. We read the Bible after dinner, we pray after dinner, we all go to church every Sunday. We never miss church, not legalistically but because of the joy it is to gather. My wife and I converted as adults, so we know how bad life is without the church. Those are disciplines my parents did that we try and mimic.
I have memories of Mum reading the Bible on her own. Her example to us, and it was not ever for show, was her Bible next to her bed and notebooks with prayer points throughout. She would methodically, routinely, daily, read the Bible and pray for people. And we would pray for people as a family, for other families and people we didn’t know. Mum had a deep dedication to God’s word and prayer.
When I became a Christian at 28, I ran into people endlessly, usually with silver hair, who would say, “Oh, you’re David. Your mother spoke to me about you 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and we prayed for you”. I was in Scotland a few weeks ago, talking to a minister and he said, “You’re ‘the’ David Jensen. I remember praying for you with your parents in the early 2000s.” I hear that endlessly. Mum is a great pray-er for other people’s children, and she shared the spiritual parental load with other Christians. She partnered in spiritually caring for us with others, not in a way that we would know, but through the power of prayer.
The biggest influence was about salvation. My wife and I are utterly convinced that what our children need more than anything is to be saved through the gospel. We try to make decisions for our lives and the lives of our children that are driven by the priority of salvation. Mum and Dad exemplified that to us relentlessly. They are salvation people. That has captured me in a way that, until this reflection, I had never put together. Salvation is their priority, and it’s our priority, too.