Boys thrive under the love and leadership of an attentive father. Boys need their dads to model godliness and masculinity, to display patterns of love and respect within marriage, to teach skills necessary to grow into mature manhood. Much has been written to encourage fathers to embrace these responsibilities, to be the example their sons need.
Well and good. But with all the attention given to a father and his son, I fear that too little has been given to a mother and her son, for this relationship, too, is uniquely precious and important. Sadly, we often look upon it with suspicion, as if closeness between a boy and his mother is a warning sign indicating femininity or perhaps even latent homosexuality. We have names for boys who are close or too close to their moms—they are mama’s boys. They are sissies, or pansies, or worse. A boy who is close to his mother is a boy we believe to be weak, not strong.
It may surprise us, though, to learn how many of our Christian heroes were shaped by the attentiveness and godliness of their mothers. Even though they may have had fathers who were present, involved, and godly, still they would insist that their primary spiritual influencer had been their mother. One of history’s greatest preachers would say with affection, “I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother,” while one of its most committed evangelists would say, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” An eminent theologian would state, “To our mother, my brother and myself, under God, owe absolutely everything.” A great defender of the faith would write about an overwhelming moment of doubt, then relate how he found deliverance: “My mother [spoke to me] in those dark hours when the lamp burned dim, when I thought that faith was gone and shipwreck had been made of my soul. ‘Christ,’ she used to say, ‘keeps firmer hold on us than we keep on him’.”
History tells of women whose love for the Bible shaped its earliest and most prominent teachers, and women whose unceasing prayers led to the long-awaited salvation of their wayward sons. It tells of women who were great theologians in their own right, yet whose only students were their own children, whose only classroom the kitchen. It tells of women who laid an early foundation in the lives of their sons that, despite their best efforts, they could never undermine. It tells, time and again, of Christian men who owe so much to their godly mothers.
Over a number of Saturdays, we will take a brief look at some of them. We will look to the church’s earliest days to find a man who owed his salvation to the careful biblical instruction he received on the lap of his mother. We will zoom forward a few centuries to a woman whose constant prayers were at last rewarded when her son came to faith and went on to become one of history’s most influential theologians. We will advance to recent centuries to see how the prayers, teaching, and example of godly mothers has shaped evangelists, preachers, and stalwart defenders of the faith. We will learn together of Christian men and their godly moms. We will celebrate mothers who were used to shape the men who changed the world.
Do you know of a prominent, godly man whose primary spiritual influence for at least one part of his life was his mother? If so, please let me know. To this point I plan to discuss Timothy, Saint Augustine, John & Charles Wesley, John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, and J. Gresham Machen. I’d love to learn of others I can explore.