This blog post is part of Michelle DeRusha’s #MyFaithHeroine contest, in connection with the release of the book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Find out how to participate here.
I was a daydream-y type kid so sometimes I'd daydream I had a different sort of mama than the one God had given me. I'd daydream she was more like the young and perky housewife with the fashionable capri pants who lived next door, or like my friend's mama with the beauty shop hair and ever-present pearl earrings. I'd daydream she was the type of mama that I could confide all of my secrets to, a mama/best friend, like a friend had told me her mama was to her. I daydreamed that Mama was less no-nonsense, and more the type to fuss and fawn over me. But Mama wasn't fancy and she wasn't very emotionally expressive, Mama was hardworking, enduring and faithful. I know sometimes the death of a loved one can cause us to forget their faults and idealize them. I don't think I've done that with Mama. I still remember her shortcomings. What I do think about, still so often even four years after her death, is how much I miss her. Because Mama was one very important thing to me. Mama was always there. Mama was my home.
When Daddy left Mama and us kids that were still young enough to live at home, she was still recuperating, still being medicated, after a stay in the mental hospital due to depression. That was the only time Mama was ever gone from home for any extended length of time. When Daddy found somebody else and ended up leaving, Mama was left to figure out how to provide and take care of us. I don't know how she did it, how she got off the tranquilizers the doctors gave for depression in those days and got a good job. Her job was clear across town, a forty five minute drive, but she chose not to move closer to work so that us kids could stay in the house we grew up in and stay in the same schools.
On Sundays Mama and us kids started going to a little church in the town next to ours. Being divorced or from a broken home had a stigma in those days, but the people in that little church loved us well, they loved us into wholeness. A time or two Mama thought about going to a church closer to home, but ended up staying put for our sakes. I suppose that was Mama's litmus test for just about all of her decisions. She simply did her best to do what was best for us. For that same reason, Mama remained single. I've always appreciated that she gave us a fairly drama free life, a simple quiet life. There were no men friends coming in and out of our lives. We never wondered where Mama was or why she wasn't home. She worked hard at her job and when she was home she worked hard making good food for us, keeping up our home, sewing us clothes, being there for us.
In thinking over who my personal faith heroine is, I thought of many women who have invested in my life, who have mentored me, who have encouraged me. I thought of women much more vocal in their faith than Mama, much more skilled in Bible teaching, women who could express themselves more easily, who could pray more passionately. Yet, I still kept coming back to the fact that without Mama's steadfast presence, her faithfulness to do her best to do right for us, I don't think I would have had a firm foundation for those other women to build upon.
Mama's relationship with God was a lot like her relationship was with us. She wasn't great at expressing her feelings with her words. She wasn't very physically demonstrative. She did tell me about her salvation experience and it was very real, very sincere. We heard Mama praying over very meal, and saw her reading her Bible every night in bed and faithfully giving her tithe and offerings every Sunday, but Mama didn't talk all that much with us about Jesus, pray with us often, or disciple us. As I got older, she always asked me to pray for things, expressing feelings of inadequacy about her own prayer life. But, I suspect God paid more attention to Mama's prayers than Mama realized. The three of us kids that Mama continued to raise without Daddy all ended up to be passionate Jesus followers and all ended up in full time ministry.
That daydream-y kid who wanted a different kind of mama grew up to be a woman who's thankful for the Mama God gave me. She wasn't a saint, she wasn't outwardly exuberant and expressive about her faith, she wasn't gifted at spiritually mentoring or nurturing me, but Mama was always there. She endured deep brokenness but she didn't run, she stayed. She was always faithful. She was what I needed. She was my roots.
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