“Talk to me about your mother.”
Such ominous words.
But talk to you about her, I will. And it's not gonna be pretty.
You see, my mother isn't perfect. Her love may be perfect, but she's not and like everyone else on the planet she has hurt the ones she loves the most in the very act of trying to love them.
It's Mother's Day this Sunday and we'll honor our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, spouses, grandmothers and, and, and...We'll honor women and men who have mothered us. And we should.
It's not easy work and Lord knows that Freud has helped us pathologize motherhood. In turn we have idolized motherhood and mothers. Neither approach works. Not really. So I would like to propose a via media for Mother's Day.
Every Sunday as I'm driving to the church I serve I call my mother to check in. She lives by herself and I worry. I'm her son. I can't help myself.
One recent Sunday she called me. I panicked. “Hey! Everything okay?” I'm fumbling with my hands-free device as I'm talking too her. (The only thing more dangerous than cell phones in a car is the hands-free device.)
“I'm fine. I have a question for you, though. I'm watching [regional televangelist] and he's talking about Satan like Satan is real or something. Do you believe that Satan is real?”
“Good morning, mother. It's good to hear from you, too.”
We spent much of my 50-minute commute talking about talking about Lucifer, monotheism, Hell, John Chrysostom's famous Easter homily and what Holy Saturday is really all about and why some people need to anthropomorphize the worst about humanity. It was a great conversation.
My mother likes to laugh and I like to make her laugh. We laughed a lot. Basically we decided that evil is complicated and Satan or not we wrestle with it every day.We wrestle with the Devil.
We hung up. I stopped for the Sunday Latte (yes, it's deserving of capital letters) and was met by a man and his family. The man spoke of the beauty of the day and the importance of goodness. I thought it connected pretty well with my mother's questions.
Then, and this is where it got beautiful and weird all at once (holy companions: beauty and weirdness), I turned on the radio to the Rolling Stones singing “You Can Lean On Me.”
We all need someone we can lean on...
My brain was spinning the rest of the morning until I sat down with the children of our church to share with them my thoughts for the day. I let my prepared sermon fall to the side and told them about my mother and this guy at the coffee shop and Mick Jagger's prophetic witness.
I talked about how we wrestle with one another, even our mothers, and how challenging it can all be. But in the end what we're looking for is goodness in this world, the beautiful, the things that hold us up, the people, places, and experiences that we can lean on.
We all need one another. We all need someone we can lean on.
So, this week I honor my televangelist-watching mother. She's not perfect. No one is. I love her the more for it. I love her laughter and her questions. And I'm honored that she trusts her son enough to ask his help to look for an answer.
We all truly do need someone we can lean on.
I just want her to know that she can always lean on me. Always.
Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" atAngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.