A few weeks ago I wrote in “Mufasa’s Boy” how a boy needs the approval of his father, to hear the words, “I’m proud of you, Son.” Since I grew up without a father playing an active role in my life, I think I may long for that approval more than others might. But then, fatherlessness is an epidemic many in my generation are dealing with still. We fatherless grew up without dads, and now in our 30’s many are struggling as fathers.
I’ve written before that I’ve been wonderfully influenced by men who loved Jesus and their wives and children, men who built into my life, primarily when I was younger. (I’m not sure when I wrote this, but do a search on my site if you’re interested in the specifics.) John Eldredge writes in Wild at Heart—and pretty much every other book, since they’re all kind of the same—about masculinity being passed on from man to boy, that women cannot do this and neither can the boy’s peers. This is essential for a boy to become a man, to have at least one older man in his life who will guide him along the journey, especially in the teen and early adult years.
However, I would in no way ever discount the effect older women have. And I don’t mean in a weird Mrs. Robinson way—a cougar before we called them that. Specifically, I’m thinking of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends of the family.
My Biggest Fan
For many years my mother was the only parent I knew. She worked a full-time, often thankless job but made the ends meet more often than not. She’d agree that God chipped in to make sure we four kids had what we needed, including a roof overhead, food, clothes, and even some nonessentials like endless cans of tennis balls. She tried to attend every sporting event, finding a spot on the hard bleachers, instead of the cushion of our couch she might have preferred after a long day. She drove me to all my concerts and recitals, including some in Phoenix and Tucson. She even took me when I was 17 to see Elton John at Desert Sky Pavilion, my first real concert.
Musically, I have no greater fan than my mother—except for maybe Jesus. Though Cindy likes my music, she offers critique in the way a wife should. Mom is unconditional in her appreciation, or at least doesn’t voice disapproval so candidly.
Whereas I’ve never actually heard my fathers* say “I’m proud of you,” Mom has made sure to tell me how proud she is of who her youngest (and favorite**) has become.
Running Away from Home
When I was moving into my new office about a year ago, I happened upon a card she sent me just a few months after we moved to Toledo. This was ten years ago, when I gathered up her youngest (at the time) grandchildren and my wife and moved 2,000 miles away, probably not concealing my excitement to begin a new adventure so far from home. In the card she wrote that she was certainly disappointed we moved away but that she was extremely proud that I’d responded to God’s will for us, that I’d become the kind of man who says yes to God. I’m not sure if she knows how much she has influenced me in this way.
What I’ve always admired about Mom is her faith—her trust in God. Those lean years she leaned hard on God. I didn’t realize then how strained we were financially, because she seldom let on, though it was clear we had what we needed because God provided it, the way a father normally would. Because I pay the bills now for my own family, I know now what it must have been like for her.
The Gift of Faith
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. —Psalm 127:2 ESV
I am never one to be anxious. I don’t lose a wink of sleep over any worry. I’m not quite sure how spiritual gifts work, but I know one of mine is the gift of faith. Though the gifts are given by God, I wonder if they aren’t also shaped by those around us. By her actions, Mom taught me about faith, that worry isn’t worth the effort.
Growing up, I wish I’d had an involved father the way Mom probably would have liked a godly husband. Her greatest pride in me is seeing me become to my children the father she’d always wanted for me as boy, and to Cindy the husband she’d always wanted for herself.
Though we’ve long cut the apron strings and my greatest devotion is to my wife, I think in my heart I’ll always be a mama’s boy.
*I had two fathers: one I never knew and the other whose role in my life was spotty.
**Have I mentioned my brothers don’t read my blog?