Faith Stories: A Letter to Mama
St. John’s UMC member Saroj Welch’s son sent her this letter for Mother’s Day this year, and she graciously shared it with us as a powerful faith story.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
I saw a huge billboard advertising a mother’s bracelet yesterday. I wondered how much it cost, so I looked it up online. For $30, I could get you one. Then there’s the cost of individual charms that go on it. Without the charms, it looks just like a shiny piece of thick wire, that’s all. You’d need four charms, one for each of your children, all of us alive and married today.
You’d need five more charms for each of your grandchildren, and another two for your great-grandchildren. Total cost: about $250. I could get that for you instead of flowers this year. I could put it on a credit card, and pay installments. But you taught me otherwise.
I began thinking of what you would say about it. First of all, you would say that it cost too much for what it’s worth. That’s true. Then you would point out that the mine workers who worked the silver mines wouldn’t get but a fraction of a dollar. So I talked myself out of buying that charm bracelet and decided instead to write you a letter. There are many charm bracelets, but the personal letters I write nowadays are very rare. Usually I send emails, or I phone you a couple of times a week, just to hear your voice.
What shall I write this year, for Mother’s Day? Acts 2:42 says that the early believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. I thought I’d reflect on our relationship in light of this verse.
I remember how you taught me faith matters. When I was little, you made sure I went to Sunday School, VBS and church. I loved to ride in the back of the College Bus, and when we hit a pothole I would bounce clear off the seat. When my attention wandered in church during the boring sermons aimed at adults, you would fold your handkerchief into a mouse. Chuha was a frequent companion, a distraction from my misbehaving in church. You probably don’t remember how I used to flip the little toggle thingies on the back of the pew in front of me, and it wasn’t until I had grown old enough to learn history that I was told they were to hold soldiers’ guns upright during worship.
I also remember how we sat out in the warm sun one cool day, and you taught me, line by line, the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm and the Apostles’ Creed. I recall that you told me to stay out there until I could recite them by heart. Jesus has been close to my heart ever since, even when I turned away during college years and couldn’t feel him anymore.
Mama, you taught me the meaning of Christian fellowship. When I grew up and became independent, left the home to come to Ohio all alone, not knowing a soul in this far-away state, I discovered these beautiful creatures called “girls.” When my heart was broken, you advised me to wait because my faith wasn’t. When my desires got the better of me, remembering you made me put the brakes on hormones and think of what Jesus would do if he were in my shoes. Even away from you, I was able to make decisions on my own that reflected the lessons I learned at your knees. And when I made mistakes and suffered the consequences, I know you bent the knees of your heart, praying and waiting for me to come around and to come back to Christ.
When I finally met the woman who finally made me think and act like a man, you were there to gently nudge us into a commitment. You got out your calendar, suggested a date for our engagement and then asked us to come to your home and church for the wedding. You knew me well, that I would be content to go on the way I was, but that I would be happier if Peg and I were married. But more, you were communicating without words, that as far as you were concerned I could stop looking. I had found the mate God had provided. And so Peg and I fell in love, and you arranged the marriage! Children, home, job changes followed, sometimes bringing us close to you and other times far, but we kept in touch: letters, telegrams, and finally reliable phone service and now internet. Your family has grown, and so you are blessed.
Early on, you and many others knew that I would make a good pastor someday. But I had to learn that for myself. I chose to do many other things, to fly a plane, to weld and fix broken machines, to work with people with disabilities. I remember the day I phoned you from the US to Bangalore, India, to tell you I was considering ministry. I remember your joy, but it was nothing compared to the joy we shared when I was finally able, after a long road of study, preparation and testing, to look at you and serve you a piece of bread and a cup of Welch’s grape juice in Iberia, Ohio. Despite the miles and years, you taught me that in Christ we are connected beyond the boundaries of time and space, connected heart to heart by the heart of God.
You also taught me early that the world isn’t always a safe place. You taught me that people aren’t always loving and kind. You taught me that there can be much tragedy, much pain, but that with prayer and faith we can overcome every adversity with Jesus by my side. The storms still come, and sometimes I may feel like I’m drowning, but my lifeguard walks on water, to quote a fellow pilgrim.
Mama, you taught me that there are many people who don’t have mothers like you. And you took them into your home. You helped them heal. You gave them as much love as you gave me, and there was still enough for me. You helped re-parent those young men and women with broken minds, loving them into wholeness and health. You taught me to never take for granted the life I have, so I would become callous and apathetic toward the poor, the least and the lost. You taught me that each human is worthy of dignity and worth of God’s grace and salvation. Often you were the one who showed them the path to Christ and to eternal life when they were headed for a cliff of destruction.
All my life you have been a shepherdess, guiding when I need it, leading by example, protecting when I was young and supporting even until today. You have modeled Christ, the good Shepherd, and I have known in your voice the voice of Jesus calling me to follow him. I thank God for you, and I thank you for giving me Jesus.
Your eldest son,