The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

5 Things a Mother Did that Helped Prepare Her Son for Ministry

Several weeks back, my mom was involved in a somewhat serious car accident. The accident, which very easily could have taken her life, resulted in a fractured pelvis and tibia. Over the past month or so, she has been institutionalized in a nursing home for rehab and healing. I had the privilege of traveling back to my hometown to visit Mom for her 75th birthday. As I walked into the nursing home, and realized what could have been, my heart was grateful for the influence that Mom has had upon my life.

Indeed, I would say my mother is the number one human reason I am in the ministry today. It is true that God calls men, but parents must place children in a position where that call can be heard. Like Hannah, moms must understand the necessity of turning their children over to the Lord. And so as we approach Mother’s Day this year, I want to highlight a few things that my mom did which were instrumental in preparing me for ministry.

She Was a Stickler for Detail

On more than one occasion, I can remember going to bed at night and feeling the comfort of warm blankets on a cold, winter night in Ohio only to hear my mother ask, “Jeffrey, did you brush your teeth?” If the answer was negative, there never was one instance when mom said, “Well, be sure to brush them in the morning.” Oh, no! It was mandated that I get out of bed immediately and brush my teeth. Mom fully believed that little foxes spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15).

On one occasion, I remember chewing a piece of caramel while wearing braces. The orthodontist said this was a no-no, and mom believed there were no exceptions to the rule. When she caught me, she ordered me to spit it out in the wastebasket. I went to the other room and proceeded to finish the caramel. With motherly intuition, she asked if I had spit it out. When I said that I had, she asked me to show her the discarded caramel in the wastebasket. That was a spanking I’ll never forget.

To be sure, there were times when I lamentably did not practice self-denial, but these occasions always occurred because I stepped over clearly demarcated lines drawn by my mother, not because no lines in the sand were drawn. Mom was a stickler for detail, and this meant that she was always minding the store.

She Encouraged Me to Take Risks

Many mothers today coddle their boys and make sissies of them. Boys are never allowed to grow into men because they are never allowed to take risks and exercise entrepreneurial exploits. Whether it was obtaining a job as a teenager, being involved in fine arts, or exercising leadership at church or in civic organizations, mom believed that boys should be given the opportunity to fail.

Even when my feet were being reconstructed due to a debilitating disease, mom never did for me things that I was able to do for myself. I remember when I was first asked to apply for the station manager’s position at my high school radio station. Mom really believed that I could do it and encouraged me to pursue it. Only eternity will reveal the leadership values that I gained from that motherly push out of the nest. Fearful people are not productive people (Ecclesiastes 11:4). If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. And I had a mom who encouraged those risks.

Quitting Was Never Allowed

There was a standard rule at our house. You are never allowed to quit, and if you do, it is an automatic spanking. Even if you are losing the ballgame, or the chess match, quitting is never an option. Even the most untalented people can be faithful. Winners never quit, and quitters never win.

Thus, it is understandable I have never considered quitting the ministry to sell car insurance. Nor did I ever quit a degree program before graduation or consider walking out on my marriage. Quitting is never an option to one raised in the home of Janet Amsbaugh. Men of God, “Hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:16).

Steward What You Have Been Given

Mom is a strong believer that you return something in better condition than what you received it. Thus, if you borrow a car, you wash it, vacuum it, and fill it with gas before returning it. My mom still uses the same ironing board that she used when I was a kid. We often joke because my mom has plastic covers over her car floor mats, and then rugs over the plastic covers—all of this to protect the cleanliness of the car.

Nothing that my mom owned was ever “rode hard and put away wet.” Every talent placed in her position was invested and returned with more value accumulated (Matthew 25:20). Hopefully, I have followed in my mother’s footsteps and left ministries in better condition than when I initially found them.

She Modeled Domestication

When I went looking for a wife, there was little doubt in my mind about what I wanted. I was not easily sidetracked by a girl who could bat her eyelashes but not boil water. When mom graduated from high school in 1960, she did so with a 4.0 in Latin. She was offered a full scholarship to college in order to study Latin, but she turned it down to marry my father. We have often said that mom turned down a Latin scholarship to study Art—Art Amsbaugh. Mom used her talents in the most effective arena; she was literally a homemaker.

I watched as mom nursed me back to health when I was an invalid. It is not surprising, therefore, that my wife was more than able to nurse our infant daughter through fifteen surgical procedures. I married someone like my mother. I feel very qualified to speak each Mother’s Day on the qualities that define a Proverbs 31 woman for I have spent over fifty years observing two of the best—Janet and Karen Amsbaugh. Indeed, my wife Karen has all the valuable and necessary qualities that I saw modeled by my mother.

As I visited my mom a few days ago, I did so with renewed appreciation for the woman who has made me the man I am today. My successes are attributable to her, and my failures are in spite of her, not because of her. Today, I rise up and call her blessed (Proverbs 31:28), for she certainly is of inestimable value (Proverbs 31:10).

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