Your gentleness has made me great. Psalm 18:35
King David’s reference to God in this way has always intrigued me. This last phrase of the verse reveals a side of God’s nature we often overlook. Gentleness is typically more an attribute associated with a mother than a father. In contrast, the front half of the verse refers more to God as the traditional strong protective father and warrior. “You have also given me the shield of your salvation: and your right hand has held me up.”
Yesterday I applied for a renewal of my passport to beat the fee increase coming up next Tuesday. The application form required providing my mother’s full name, place of birth and birth date. I had to dig around in my family records and finally found her death certificate that had all that information on it. It gave me pause as I sat looking at it realizing her passing was nearly 23 years ago.
It started me thinking about the unique role my mother played in making me the person I am today. As I thought about this and the verse above I realized that mothers may actually make a bigger contribution to developing our greatness than fathers.
Real “greatness” in my estimation is the maximized development of who God has created us to be. Greatness is realized most readily when people believe in us, affirm us and advocate opportunities for us to realize the full greatness of our potential. A case in point is Mrs. Zebedee, mother of James and John, who zealously advocated on behalf of her sons to Jesus. (Matthew 20:20-22)
I watched the controversial LeBron James special on ESPN last night. LeBron made the big announcement of his free agency choice to join the Miami Heat basketball team. (Cleveland, I can feel your pain. Minnesotans had to grieve the departure of the Big Ticket Kevin Garnett to the Celtics.) It interested me that James said as many pro athletes do, that his mother played a major role in the decision. He said she is the person he always looks to for guidance, and that her support of his choice Thursday morning is what settled it for him.
He said his mother told him “you have to do what’s best for you and what’s going to make you happy at the end of the day.” Now I know that is what most mother’s want for their children and yes, I know that doing what makes us happy is not the key to true greatness. But the principle here is that whatever true greatness LeBron James has attained both on and off the court is in large part attributable to his mom.
Whatever greatness I have attained is also attributable of God’s gentleness expressed to me through my mom. The best gauge of true greatness is what we have in our relationship with God. My mother modeled that in a very dynamic way for me. She was the spiritual one in our family, a devout Catholic woman who sat down every Saturday night to make out the tithe check for Sunday worship.
When I went off to college on a track scholarship as a high jumper she made a point of sending with me a painting she had done. It was a large oil of a cross in front of a bright orange sun with a high jump cross bar running across the canvas. It was her reminder to me to keep my faith in right perspective in my life.
Although David’s mother is not mentioned in the Bible, Jewish rabbinical tradition identifies her as Nitzevet. She is characterized in the Talmud as a person who was David’s biggest advocate and a mother who passionately loved her youngest son. Could she be the representation of God David was referring to as the “gentle” one who made him great?
I offer this as a tribute to mothers everywhere. Thank you Lord for a mother’s gentleness that makes us great.
How has your mom made you “great”?