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Praise in the Gates

“The words of Lemuel king of Massa, which his mother taught him.”

Proverbs 31:1 (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

Another cigarette is calling Jim’s name. Is she asleep yet? Driving from Phoenix, Arizona, Jim is taking his Grandmother Salome back home to Illinois. While making this long, three-day road trip, he has desperately tried to hide his addiction. Jim glances over at his grandmother to see her shawl pulled up over her shoulders. Her breathing is slow and steady—another sign she has fallen asleep. A sigh of relief breaks loose from Jim as he rolls the window down, and smoke soon billows out of the car.

This goes on for the whole three days. Every time Grandmother Salome falls asleep, Jim rolls down the window to smoke. Because of his staunch, traditional Christian upbringing, Jim is afraid that if he gets caught, he will be read the riot act: “That’s not what we do, Jim! You better stop that!”

By the end of three days, Jim and Grandmother Salome finally arrive at her house in Illinois. As Jim drops his grandmother off, Salome looks at him with a thoughtful expression. “You know, Jim,” she says, “you don’t smoke very much. I bet you could quit.” It’s out in the open now! But the nagging, judgmental attitude Jim expects to see never comes. Only words of kindness and encouragement are offered.

Jim, my dad, never forgot the kindness of his Grandmother Salome, who has since passed on. I don’t know if she ever knew it, but her seed of faith enabled my dad to eventually quit smoking for good.

In the same way that my great-grandmother’s faith impacted my dad’s future, my mom’s faith has impacted mine. Mothers wield a unique power to shape the future with their words, and it’s because of my mom’s life—her knowledge of the Bible, her own personal relationship with God, and her willingness to take the time to teach me what she knows—that I love Jesus today.

And as a mother who knows how to wield her words, she’s in good company.

King Lemuel’s mom was another such lady. I can only imagine what she was like! What she taught her son is now the pinnacle of Christian femininity across the globe. One aspect she described of a virtuous woman and mother was that of having “the law of kindness” on her tongue (Prov. 31:26).

So, for all the mothers out there, take it from me and take it from my dad—your words of kindness go deeper than you know.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

Proverbs 31:31