I stopped Sunday afternoon at a Hallmark store to purchase a Mother’s Day card for Cindy. There was plenty of time to peruse them because I was between preaching, visiting a clergyperson in the hospital, and the last event of the day which was our District Pre-Annual Conference Orientation. After selecting an appropriate card I found myself looking at other items that might be an appropriate Mother’s Day gift for her.
Before it dawned on me that whatever I bought would just be another thing to pack for our upcoming move I noticed some rather odd items. The most unique and troubling gift was a mug with this phrase emblazoned on it: “If I were a Mormon fundamentalist I would want you as my sister wife.” I know that official Mormons have done away with the practice of having multiple wives, but I’ve seen too many ads for weird television shows about guys and their plural marriages to think that the phenomenon has disappeared.
It’s interesting that none of these shows are about women with multiple husbands, but that’s for sociologists to figure out. There’s a lot that I don’t know, but one thing for sure is that a mug with this “sister wife” stuff on it would NOT be a good idea for a Mother’s Day gift. As the saying goes, “My Mamma didn’t raise no fool!” and Cindy has been doing a pretty good job of shaping me ever since!
My mother was a great person. She taught me right from wrong, how to value every person no matter their faults, how to be accepting, and exhibit unconditional love. She wasn’t perfect. Who is? She came close, though. She was a spit-fire who didn’t mince words. She was fun and had the best laugh. She had wounds that she mostly kept hidden. She loved her family immensely. Her integrity was impeccable. What you saw is what you got and I am grateful for her constant and consistent example of being a Christ-follower.
Integrity is a powerful word and is sorely needed in our mixed up world. “Integrity” comes from French for “in touch,” literally meaning that a person with integrity has a solid core around which their entire lives revolve. They’re not two-faced. You can take what they say to the bank. They may have many spokes on the wheel of their life but there is a hub that is unshakeable.
Wow, am I thankful for a Mother with integrity! In this wishy-washy world of jello-like values, we need more people who know right from wrong and do what’s right. There’s part of the rub and takes me back to the weird mug at Hallmark. It’s hard to figure out what’s right and wrong nowadays. I think I would be better able to fend off the temptation to loosen my values if I asked whether my Mom would approve or not. I’m thinking that “W.W.J.D.?” and “W.W.M.D.?” (Jesus and Mother) are pretty synonymous for me.
I try to use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to help me discern right from wrong as well: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. The Bible is God’s inspired Word and definitely primary. Tradition is what the church has taught over the centuries. Experience is both personal and corporate in nature. Reason is self-explanatory though most of us have seen so-called logic used to prop up the irrational. Frankly, Scripture and Tradition are most reliable for me personally, and if making life choices was analogous to a train then the engine would be the Bible followed by Tradition with Experience and Reason following next. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that Experience ought to be the caboose and come dead last.
Elevating Experience over Scripture is an awful hermeneutic! Our culture puts Experience first. God help us if the Church does the same. When I use Experience as the highest bar of what’s acceptable and right it usually results in self-centered failure. Our culture’s promotion of Experience as the rule of behavior is like the excesses of the Roman Empire, and we know what happened to it. When I promote Experience over the other three of the Quadrilateral I know that I am not doing what my Mother would do.
So, this Mother’s Day I am grateful for a Mother with integrity whose values were on solid footing. Her train had the cars in order. The Bible was first. Christian Tradition was second through a good church and family. Reason was honed in the milieu of a good Methodist school. Experience was put in rightful perspective as the last arbiter of right from wrong. As we anticipate Mother’s Day let’s answer very carefully, “What Would Mother Do?”