May 8, 2016
The Reading for today
Proverbs 31: 10-31 — The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him as he began his search for a queen. Massa was a kingdom in northwest Arabia.
A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine and linen and purple. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
We were driving to Anchorage, Alaska. My father had been transferred there with the United States Air Force at the height of the Cold War. Mom had grown tired of waiting for him to have us moved, so she packed our personal belongings into the car, hers, mine, my baby brother’s; and we drove away from our home in Texas.
I remember driving through mountains, the sharp rise of wall to our right, the sheer drop on the left. Then there was the other car, the one that kept crowding us to the wall. I sat between her and baby Gary in his car seat and saw her hands gripping the steering wheel, trying to keep us on the road. Suddenly, she hit the brakes as the other car pulled in front of us and stopped, blocking our way. The man opened his door and walked towards us. Mother looked straight ahead as she reached across me to the glove compartment, pressed the button, and released the door. She removed a gun, rested it in her lap and waited.
By now, the man had reached mother’s side of the car. He pulled a knife from his coat and smiling, began scraping it across the glass. Mother lifted the gun to the window, pointing it directly at his head. The smile vanished. He raised his hands, the knife dangling helplessly. He backed away, then ran to his car and drove away. There was silence; then Mother put the gun back into the glove compartment. We got back on the road and headed north.
When we arrived in Alaska, we moved into a trailer park where other couples like my parents lived, military and civil service personnel. Before long, my mother was managing the park and we moved out of our trailer into a house, a real house with a front door, and a mud room with its own door that opened into the kitchen. There was a bedroom for mom and dad. Gary and I slept on army cots, one on each side of a wood burning stove off the kitchen.
It was night and I heard a sound. I rolled over to see Mother between Gary and me. She stood in front of the wood burning stove, looking through the kitchen to the front door. She was holding the gun with both hands, pointing it straight ahead.
Someone had broken through the front and was rattling the door to the kitchen. Mother was still, the gun steady in her hands. She waited. I don’t know what caused the intruder to change his mind. Maybe he saw the glint of the gun through the window in the door. Maybe Mom had cocked the trigger, and he heard the potentially deadly outcome of this foolish venture. Whatever it was, he stopped. We heard him leave. Mother put down her gun and secured the house. I returned to sleep.
I learned a lot in those childhood moments with my mother. I learned that when she was there, we were safe. She was like one of those powerful women we read about in the last chapter of Proverbs, a woman who girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong; a woman who could and would kill to protect her vineyards, livestock and children. And as the words of King Lemuel’s mother predicted, my mother’s children have indeed risen up to call her blessed, a woman far more precious that fine jewels. All of that is true.
I gotta tell you though. I was not thinking about blessings and jewels on that mountain road or in the tiny cabin in an Alaskan wilderness. I was thinking about the woman with a gun and I got the message, one that I would never forget. What I was learning, was that my mother was one scary lady, and I better be good! She turns 90 in June and she still carries a gun and a big stick. You better be good, too!
Happy Mother’s Day to all women who mother, and have mothered children, ~ mothers, sisters, nieces, aunts, next door neighbors, babysitters, nannies, teachers, pastors, coaches, friends, doctors, nurses, therapists, . . .
May God bless each and every one of you. We thank you.