14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. ~ Acts 1:14 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash
I wanted to write once more to finish up what I’ve been saying in my previous two letters about the nature of adolescent faith. Did you know that your mother worried about your faith when YOU were in middle school? She wanted you to go to some kind of youth meeting on a Saturday morning, and you weren’t having any part of it. So she called me (the local seminarian/youth minister) and told me to come early to the house and wake you up to make you go. She later told me that you said, “That was wrong, Mom. You trapped me into going into the youth rally. You knew I wouldn’t tell John I wasn’t going to go.”
So you see, Anne, over the years, not much has changed with middle-schoolers or moms. And it’s not just that mothers are concerned about the spiritual condition of the children. Mothers exert a tremendous amount of influence on their offspring. I think sometimes they might exert the most powerful human influence of all.
Anne, you know I’m a sucker for a good story out of Christian history. I’ve found that they’re epic lessons for the Christians of today, if you tell them realistically and not spiritualized like the church lady from SNL would tell them. One of my favorite stories is about the boy who grew up to be Saint Augustine (about A.D. 400). You can look up the details for yourself, but Saint Augustine is considered to be one of the most important theologians in all of the Church. What’s amazing is that when he was young, he wasn’t much different than so many of the kids I meet today.
And (as I tell it) the story goes like this: Once there was a Christian woman named Monica. She had a son named Augustine, and Monica wanted Augustine to love the Lord Jesus as much as she did. Unfortunately, Augustine had his mind on the things of this world. He was arrogant and flippant. He once stole fruit—not because he wanted to eat it but to waste it and to throw it to the pigs.
Augustine loved to mock holy things. And when he was a teenager, he took up with a girlfriend that his parents didn’t approve of and he got her pregnant. The guilt of her son’s illicit union broke his mother’s heart, but Monica began to pray that her son might be converted. Night and day, with many tears, Monica prayed.
Augustine had a friend who was very dear to him.They loved to laugh and make jokes—especially jokes that ridiculed Christians and the Church. (Meanwhile, Monica continued to pray.) One day Augustine’s friend became ill with a terrible fever. His family feared that he was near the point of death, so they called their pastor to baptize the young man on his deathbed.
And, you guessed it. Monica continued to pray.
Sometime later, Augustine’s friend began to recover from his sickness. Augustine teased his friend about how ridiculous it was that his parents had him baptized when they feared he was dying. Augustine thought his friend would join in with his coarse jesting (as he always had in past).
But instead he rebuked Augustine and told him that baptism was nothing to joke about. He said God was to be praised and that He had worked a remarkable work in his life. He told Augustine that, if he continued to joke about these holy things, he did not wish to ever speak to him again!
And meanwhile, Monica continued to pray….
Augustine was shocked and puzzled at his friend’s admonition. A few days later (before the two could discuss the situation again), Augustine’s friend was stricken again with the fever. And then the young man died.
Augustine was inconsolable at the loss of his friend, and his friend’s dying words made him aware of his own wretched spiritual peril. Augustine turned to the Saviour. He served Him faithfully all the days of his life. Monica’s prayers had been answered.
Dearest Anne, at one time or another, parenthood is the most worry-inducing job in the universe. But it’s a comfort to know that so many of the stories in Christian history have happy endings. So don’t ever give up—because God never gives up on any of us. Just keep on being the great mom that you are.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to be a Monica.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher had to cancel a trip to a meeting this week because the roads iced over.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).