“What Did Your Mama Say?”
(The following is based on an actual event from a retired pastor’s ministry.)
The young clergyman hesitated a moment, then said a brief prayer before peering into the hospital room where a patient lay dying. In his younger days John had been a womanizer and a gambler, turning his back on his family and his church. Now that he was old he had neither, for his relatives had given up on him and he had long since given up on God. The pastor had received a call from a sister who had no desire to see John, and would not have been welcome if she had tried to visit. But would the pastor go? Perhaps he could do something.
A ghastly sight greeted the visitor’s eyes when he entered. John’s yellow skin and sunken eyes told a tale of decades of self-abuse, for after his youth and vigor had left him the bottle had been his only close companion. It was amazing that his body had held out until old age, but the liquor had finally caught up with John, and now the final stages of liver disease wracked the old man’s frame. He appeared to be delusional as he rambled in disjointed German, his mother tongue.
“Johann!” the visitor said, also in German. “I’m the pastor — do you know me?” The sallow man looked blearily into the clergyman’s eyes and a flicker of recognition flashed across his face, but then he looked away and merely muttered. “Johann! You haven’t got much time! What do you believe?” With a snarl the sickly man tried to take a swipe at his questioner, but could manage only a feeble wave of his arm.
“It’s a hopeless case; there’s no more use trying to talk to this one,” the pastor thought. But then suddenly, with a flash of insight, he took the dying man’s hand, pulled his chin forward in order to look at him directly, and nearly shouted “Johann! As a boy you learned about Jesus . . . Johann! WHAT DID YOUR MAMA SAY?”
At this the old man fell silent for a time. He looked down, then up into the pastor’s eyes, but he wasn’t looking at the man. He was looking beyond him, far into the past, and soon his hands began to shake and his jaded eyes welled up with tears. With the pastor’s gentle reminders, the words that his mother had spoken to him so long ago came tumbling out, from the Bible, catechism, and hymnal: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son . . . He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins and death . . . Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.” Within a short time, sorrowful tears of a long- forgotten memory had become tears of joy. That shell of a man who had been broken by his own life of sin was made whole — by remembering what Mama had said about Jesus.
John was dead within days, and the pastor knew that people would scoff when he told them how this prodigal son had returned to the heavenly Father. Too many known scoundrels had been eulogized at funerals in the past for this to be a credible story. But what did it matter? The only important thing was that, in the case of this formerly lost soul, the Scripture passage had rung true: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
It has been said that the world’s most fruitful mission field is found on a godly mother’s knee. No doubt this is true. When mothers are honored at this time of year for all that they do, let us thank the Lord for these missionaries to the little lambs, and encourage them to take up this special work with diligence. We may well be surprised to find out just how many will be standing in the glorious company of the saints on the Last Day because of “what Mama said” about Jesus!
— Pastor Bruce Naumann