Influence is a virtue possessed by a rare few, but sought after by all of us. Distilled down to the simplest terms, having influence requires leadership. Being vocal does not result in influence. Either does being popular. Nor does ambition. There is more to the equation. It takes leadership to influence others because influence means taking people in a direction they wouldn’t otherwise be going. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a United States Senator or Fortune 500 CEO to have influence. In our current teaching series we are looking at the Beautiful Gifts that women possess. This week’s message was on influence.
I am reminded of an interview with artist Marc Chagall. The person doing the interview wanted to uncover the influences in Chagall’s life and thus his art. He asked what artists had the biggest impact on his life. Chagall listened intently to the interviewer’s questions and said, in the simplest way possible, that his greatest influence was his mother. That was not the answer the young interviewer was expecting. But, if he had sat down and thought about it, I don’t think he would be that surprised.
More than any statesman or teacher, more than any minister or physician, more than any film star, athlete, business person, author, scientist, civic leader, entertainer, or military hero, mom’s are the most influential person in their child’s life. Mothers love us no matter what and to grow up in this world, realizing every single day a bit more how far a mother’s love can go, will naturally create influence.
Mothers love us so devotedly and so deeply forever. She cannot restrain tears from trickling down her cheeks when she holds her baby for the first time in her arms. She shows up with milk stains on her clothes and diapers in her purse. She reads “Goodnight Moon” twice a night for a year, and then reads it again, “just one more time.” She teaches her child to tie his or her shoelaces and then hurriedly turns her heads when she hears the word “Mom”, even though she knows that her kids are nowhere around. She will stay awake all night with her sick toddler in her arms, constantly uttering those compassionate words, “It’s OK honey, Mommy’s here.”
Mom always seems to have time for you. Even when the dishes in the sink resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the washing machine gets choked and dies, or your room looks like a disaster area. Mom’s will sit and listen to their child scratch on an instrument that would turn a music teacher stark raving mad. And in between, mom cooks, cleans, and does laundry. As we grow into our teen years mom’s put up with endless hours of complaints and boyfriend and girlfriend problems, cares so much it annoys us, and are always always there for us through any major family issues, drama and arguments.
Mothers are comprised of a bundle of skills – love, patience and emotions that sometimes defy reason. It is no wonder that mom has influence in our lives.
There never would have been an Isaac without a Sarah, a Moses without a Jochebed, a Samuel without a Hannah, a John the Baptist without an Elizabeth, a Timothy without a Eunice, or a John Mark without a Mary. These men were the men they were, in great part, because of the mothers they had.
My mom has had a great influence on me. I am thankful for her support and encouragement that she and my father have given me through the years. I am thankful for her strength in adversity and her commitment to our family. I am thankful for her encouragement during the early days of our ministry at Northstar. And, I am thankful that she and my dad had a strong Christian faith that helped to influence me to put my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I still follow my mother’s example as best I can and I have passed and am passing her life gift to my children and eventually to my grandchildren not just in words, but in how to do by example: forgive, ask for forgiveness, promises kept, sacrifices made, love my family, love people more than things, love community and put career and money last in my hierarchy of values and — above all, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
And so mothers, don’t ever forget the permanence of your imprint. The kids may seem ungrateful, they may act irresponsible, they may even ignore your reminders and forget your advice on some days. But believe this: they cannot erase your influence.
And that is truly a beautiful gift.