Monday, November 2, 2009
Australian born, Mardi (pronounced Maw-di) exchanged a career as a world-class soprano for motherhood. It was a conscious choice. For her, the dream of performing on the big stage came true. She traveled all over the world, recorded in studios with big orchestras, and finally landed major roles in metropolitan performing arts centers.
But home and family were more important to her than the bright lights. More than a decade ago, she declined that last offer to make the stage her life. Today she has, instead, a husband and three children.
So now she’s a mom. A worship leader, too. She didn’t identify which daughter, but as she drew the church into worship, she shared a brief parenting anecdote. “She will remain nameless,” she said. “Let’s just call her Precious.” It was in anticipation of a parenting Sunday with special speakers who brought a direct message to moms and dads.
One ordinary afternoon, one of their two girls had question. “Mom,” she asked, “what does it mean when you raise your middle finger in the air at someone?”
This generation of parents has learned that gasping in horror or breaking into uproarious laughter or changing the subject are all inappropriate responses to the innocent queries of their young, no matter how surprising. So Mardi, calm and sure, took a deep breath, gave the best on the spot impromptu response she could. She sat down on the couch.
“Precious,” she said, pulling the little girl up on her knee, “that hand signal represents a very bad word. It’s so bad, I don’t even want to tell you what it is. It is a word we don’t ever say. And that gesture is one we never use, either. Ever.” Mom was firm but gentle.
“Oh,” said Precious. “OK.” She seemed to understand. She jumped off her mom’s lap, ready to move on to something else. She ran off into the playroom. Mardi sighed in relief, glad that one was over.
Until a few days later when the phone rang. It was the Vice Principal. “Mrs. Cork, you need to know that today your little girl held up her middle finger in class, and the teacher sent her to my office for disciplinary action, which we are obligated to impose,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
This time, Mardi gasped, “Prescious?! My Prescious?” was all she could say.
By the time mother and daughter would meet again face to face, the little girl was in tears, awash in guilt and shame. Immediately, Mardi sensed that while a sharp reprimand may have been first on her list, it was not necessary. She quickly moved to console her little girl.
“Are you sorry, honey?” she asked.
“Uh huh,” she said between sobs.
“Did you tell your teacher you were sorry?”
“Did you pray, and ask God to forgive you?”
“OK, sweetheart. Come here.” And mom pulled her young daughter close and held her tight. “You are forgiven. It’s OK.” And Mardi explained the intricacies of forgiveness, how God doesn’t even remember our sins anymore. As far as the East is from the West, she added.
Precious nodded, signaling she understood. Mommy brushed away the tears and smiled at her little girl, kissing her wet cheek.
And all of us who heard the story thought how sweet Mommy’s touch can be. And about the times we all knew better, but did it anyway; and then needed forgiveness.
“Sing with me,” Mardi said. And the instruments started to play.Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me… – * * * *
And after the singing of that powerful hymn, the family life speaker bounded up to the microphone.
“Good morning!” he started with a cheerful tone. “You know, I think I saw Precious out there on the freeway this morning on the way over here… it was when I cut her off as I merged into the lane…”
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009