Today is my mom’s birthday. One way I want to celebrate her is to write a blog about one of the best gifts a mom can give her child. My mom gave me this gift and I’d like to share it with you.
A few weeks ago a good friend of mine gave me a book to read called “Moms Who Changed the World.” The author (Lindsey O’Connor) takes several key figures in the Christian faith and in history and describes what kind of mother they had; how that mom impacted the world through their motherhood.
One that was especially personal to me was the story of Catherine Carmichael, mother of missionary Amy Carmichael. Amy lived in the late 1800’s and was the firstborn of seven children. She grew up in Millisle, Ireland and apparently had a somewhat affluent lifestyle. She had lots of books, toys, and even ponies. But she was taught from a young age to avoid class distinctions and her parents walked with Jesus and raised her to serve those in need. Amy had an intimate relationship with Christ. She recounts as a child sitting in her bed with the lights out, and before she went to sleep she would smooth out a place next to her and whisper to God “please come and sit with me.” Her personal intimacy with Christ paved the way to a life of missionary service and the world was impacted by the fact that she answered God’s call to go.
So what characterized Amy’s mother? Catherine Carmichael provided consistent discipline and gentle nurturing. She read her children Bible stories and taught them about prayer. When she would make soup for the sick or poor people, she would send her children to deliver it, often before they had eaten their own dinner. When Amy gathered neighborhood children in their home, Catherine would make tea for them. They had many guests in their home. But what characterized Catherine most as a mother was her willingness, after she had trained her children to walk with Christ, to let them go. She held them loosely.
In 1892 Amy felt God’s call to be a missionary. She heard God saying “go ye.” She wrote a letter to her mom to explain what was happening . . . she wrote “My Precious Mother, Have you given your child unreservedly to the Lord for whatever He wills? . . . O may He strengthen you to say YES to Him if He asks something which costs.” She listed all the practical reasons why she shouldn’t go, but even still told her mother that she felt sure of the call. She quoted “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Here is Catherine’s reply:
My own Precious Child, He who hath led will lead all through the wilderness, He who hath fed will surely feed . . . He who hath heard thy cry will never close His ear, He who hath marked thy faintest sigh will not forget thy tear. He loveth always, faileth never, So rest on Him today–forever.
Yes, dearest Amy, He has lent you to me all these years. He only knows what a strength, comfort and joy you have been to me. . . . So, darling, when He asks you now to go away from within my reach, can I say nay? No, no, Amy, He is yours–you are His–to take you where He pleases and to use you as He pleases. I can trust you to Him and I do . . . All day He has helped me, and my heart unfailingly says, Go ye.”
Tears are filling my eyes as I write these words. Catherine could have discouraged Amy, or passively manipulated her out of selfishness or fear. She could have warned her about the dangers of serving far away. But she didn’t. She put herself aside and trusted God, and gave her daughter the greatest blessing.
This is something I have personally experienced. I only aspire to have a faith and obedience like Amy Carmichael. . . but I can compare her mom to mine. My mom (and dad) have always raised my sister and I to follow where God leads, and given us their blessing when the time came. Most recently, my husband and I felt the call to move across the entire country with no promised salary to go on staff at a church plant. We live in California now, and have even had our first baby here.
Thank you mom for giving me this blessing. I know that it requires a lot of faith to hold your children loosely and trust them back to God. You are an example that I hope to follow as I raise my own baby girl to go with Jesus.