Friday, August 5, 2016

Remembering My Mother

On Monday, August 8, we will gather to remember my mother’s life.  Esther Silvius died, August 4, at the age of 94.  When we gather there in Sugarcreek, Ohio, all will recognize one thing that no one can escape – death!  As the Bible implies in 1 Corinthians 15: 56, death has a painful “sting.” And today, as I write this, the sting hurts.

Esther M. Silvius (1922-2016)
But on Monday, I hope the focus will be upon LIFE—Eternal Life which is a gift to all who put their trust in Christ.  My sister Margie, my brother Dan, and I have lots of memories of our mom—some are joyful; and some, not so much. 

My mother not only gave Margie, Dan, and I our physical LIFE.  She gave us each something else--something she never had–siblings.  Many have said that growing up as an only child can be hard—both as a child and during one’s adult life.  But Dan and I each had the blessing of both a sister and a brother.  Margie was stuck between two brothers!

I am thankful for my mom for three reasons.   First, she gave me life which began when I was conceived, in August, 1946.  That was exactly 7 decades ago this month!

But mom gave me a second gift:  As a boy, she and my dad, Bert Silvius, gave me a love for learning. Mom’s love for wildflowers and trees was contagious and, as a little boy, she led me on my first “field trips.” Sometimes, she had to carry me, especially when we encountered a thick patch of Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) in the woods.  I was afraid because I couldn’t see what lie under the thick stands of umbrella-like leaves.  Nevertheless, my growing love of plants resulted in a career in science teaching and research spanning 50 good years.

But the third gift I received from mom and dad is the most valuable and enduring. From the farm, the natural landscape, and science—I learned about the wisdom and provision of God through His “natural revelation.”  But, because mom and dad took us to church faithfully, I also learned about God’s “special revelation”—His Word of truth in the Bible.

As a growing boy, I was anything but a saint.  I “lived” in the Old Testament, tried to keep the 10 Commandments—and failed every day.  I was the Prodigal Son--the one who stayed home and tried to be good--and failed!  Case in point: My mom had a tradition when my birthday rolled around each May.  She would mail in a request to radio station WJER the week before my birthday to have it announced on the air, on May 9.  Then, on my birthday she would call me to the radio around noon to hear my name announced.

One year, when I was romping in the yard with my cousins, mom called me in to listen.
She had made the request, and had looked forward to our tradition.  But this time, I said,
“I’m busy, I don’t want to hear it this year.”
I don’t remember her reaction, but my independent spirit must have hurt her.  When I became a man, I apologized for my insensitivity.  There was a reason for this-- My heart, my values and my character were changing.   As a young man, I came to realize another invitation to “come in and listen.”  It was from God Himself Who had created the world that I had learned to love all around me. 
With my parents, Bert and Esther Silvius (~1963)
He said, “Listen, I am your Creator, and I have prepared an invitation to you at great cost--
The cost of my only Son, Jesus Christ, Who paid the ultimate price by dying on a Roman cross to buy you from the slave market of sin as manifested in your pride, selfishness, and self-righteousness (Romans 5: 8; Ephesians 2: 1-8).

I had hurt my mom by rejecting her invitation to come and listen.  Now, I realized that I had been doing the same thing to God every day, rejecting His even greater invitation.  Jesus invites us all:

Come unto me, all of you who are weary and heavy laden.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me (pull together with Me in my yoke), for I am gentle and humble in heart; And, you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  – Matthew 11: 28-30.

I’ve borne some heavy yokes in my life because of my stubborn pride and self-righteousness. 
I am prone to take up other heavy yokes, and I need to practice daily the spiritual disciplines of prayer and reading/study of God’s Word in the Bible. 

Today, multitudes of people bear heavy yokes – socially, financially, and medically.  Many have turned to substance abuse to help lighten their load.  In fact, so many are on drugs today that employers are struggling to fill positions with drug-free applicants.
How about you?  Are you bearing a heavy yoke?  Jesus offers us an easier yoke with Him, because He has already born the ugly yoke of a Roman cross.

With Mom (2003)
For God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son, that whoever believes in Him [recognizes their “poverty of spirit” and comes humbly to the Cross] should not perish [be separated from God forever], but have everlasting life. – John 3: 16

I have felt sting in my mother’s deterioration and death.  But, I am thankful for the comfort from friends and from God’s Word that speaks through His Spirit so that we don’t have to grieve as do the rest who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4: 13).  Comfort and hope are part of the blessed gift of salvation, possible only when we surrender our pride, confess our need of forgiveness of sin, and trust in Christ Who will wrap His arms around us, enveloping us in His Eternal Life.

Faith in God through Christ can take the fear and the sting out of death.  Thank You, God for my mom.  And, thank you mom for pointing me to God.