FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Mama’s finest hour
Good day to all, and welcome to the “front porch.”
Today we pay a very special tribute to all the mothers who visit us here and share our musings and reflections on life regularly.
Thank you so much for that.
This week we want to recognize a special mother who never got the chance sit here with us on this front porch, although she would have loved to, I know.
We think of this Christian lady every day, though she’s been gone since Oct. 3, 1973.
I do believe Louise Bowen was one of those remarkable women made from a rare and precious cloth. Had she lived during Bible times, her name very well could have appeared up there with Esther, Ruth, Mary, and Rahab. The Lord might have pointed her out in a crowd and said, “I’ve not seen such faith, no, not in all of Israel.”
Although we may be a bit prejudiced – as all of us boys are toward our mothers – the inspired man of wisdom says that is the way it should be, that the children should “arise up, and call her blessed” – not only that, “her husband also... praises her” (Proverbs 31:28).
As it was with that virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, Mama worked hard all her life, most of it down at Callaway’s cotton mill in our little Georgia hometown.
Mainly she worked alone to support three boys and a girl because Daddy died in ’67 and had health problems many of the years before that.
I don’t think I ever went in that cotton mill, although I’ve passed by it a thousand times; but I can imagine the difficulty of a lady spinning her life along in such a profession.
But it seemed a small thing for Mama. I never heard her complain – her faith told her God would “supply all (her) need” (Philippians 4:19) – and she wasn’t envious of others who had much more.
I know that the beans and cornbread and stew she put on the table each night after a full day’s work were more than sufficient for the four of us. I always thought we were kind of rich, had everything we needed.
I didn’t know until I was grown that we a little poor. I don’t think Mama ever made more than $1.50 an hour, making it the more amazing that she could build such a house of gold on those feeble wages.
Of the four children, I was the youngest. But that’s not how Mama said it.
Whenever we’d meet somebody she knew, she’d say (with her face aglow), “And this is my baby.” That made me mad; and as soon as we walked away, I’d say, “Mama, I’m not a baby. I’m ten and a half going on eleven. I’m almost a man.”
And Mama would just smile and go about her business without a word.
Unfortunately, Mama never saw me become a man, but she almost did.
In her latter days – with a brain tumor issuing her both blind and lame at the young age of 42 – she’d have me come to her bedside to read the Bible to her.
The Lord preserved her most valuable sense – her mind – and she loved most of all to hear the reading of the Bible.
Not long before her death (ah, I can still see it clearly), on a night in early August, 1973, the day before I turned 17 – she asked me to sit by the bed and read to her.
I flipped through the pages and landed – providentially, no doubt – at the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. With a quivering voice, I read the story of Mama’s life right there in the words of the great apostle in that beautiful chapter of love. I read the life of a lady who worked in a cotton mill and came home to make stew and beans and hauled us to the Lord’s house three times or more a week and to the dentist fifty miles away once a year.
I came to that portion where Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things” (v. 11).
Mama gathered her strength, lifted a tired hand for me to pause and turned her dimmed eyes toward me.
“Son,” Mama said, in a tone that still gives me chills, “Are you goin’ to become a man tomorrow?”
I could offer that dear lady nothing of substance in return; but, after gathering myself for a time, I offered only a faint and graspy assurance that I would.
Somehow I was able to make out the blurry words that concluded the chapter, then sat for some time holding her hand that night and watched as she faded off to sleep.
Three months later – almost to the hour – the Lord sent the angels to take our Godly mother to a much-deserved reward; and we were left to weigh it all, and to try to become the men she wanted us to be.
As I look back, I realize that it wasn’t so hard for the young fella she called her “baby” to become a man.
The weaving and spinning of the decades take care of most of that for you.
The hard task, I’ve found, is becoming a man made of the same rare and precious fabric – as she.