Today is celebrated as Mother’s Day in the United States, a day for remembering and honoring mothers both living and dead. It seems clear that God approves, since the command to honor one’s parents premiered as Number Five on his list of Top Ten Commandments (original Tablet edition). The Bible’s wisdom literature repeatedly urges readers to honor one’s mother and to make her proud by doing what is right (Prov. 1:8-9; 30:17; 31:1).

When God wanted to explain his tender feelings and care for Israel, he illustrated it with that of a mother for her child (Isaiah 66:13). So, for that matter, did the apostle Paul, not known as of the touchy-feely sort, when expressing his care for the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:7). Jesus used the metaphor of the mother hen, gathering her chicks under her wing for protection (Matt. 23:37). The Bible furthers the ideal iconic image of mothers as fountains of tender love, calming influence, and wise instruction (Psalm 131:2).

Paul’s protégé Timothy owed his spiritual training to a godly mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5). This strong feminine influence resonates with our own broken culture where many children are physically abandoned by their fathers and are raised by mothers and grandmothers, who teach and lead and discipline to keep little feet on the good and godly path.

Mothering is not limited to biological technicality. It is a way of the heart that nurtures children, whether biological, fostered, adopted, by marriage, or simply “honorary.” Paul concludes Romans, that great theological tome, with warm personal greetings that include “Rufus and his mother,” whom Paul designates as his mother also (Rom 16:13).

So here’s to mothers throughout history, living and departed, rich and poor, young and old. There are sad exceptions, to be sure, but the general rule in any time of distress is to wish or call for mother. This is true of young children with scraped knees, vulnerable teens with bruised feelings, hard-charging adults with disappointments in life, or aged residents of nursing homes, who still remember their mothers as a source of comfort and peace.

To these generalities, I must add my personal tribute to the following mothers in my family, all strong, intelligent, and loyal women whom I respectfully salute and for whom I give humble thanks.

SYBIL, my mother, 93 and still serving God and others. Her virtues exceed the power of words to express, and her faithful encouragement and prayers are beyond description.

CELIA, my mother-in-law, now departed. Her 97 years were filled with sweetness, sacrifice, and service and she will forever remind us to strive for the best.

SARA FAYE, my dear wife. She nurtures, encourages and loves our own children, models faith and hospitality, and shares music and sports. She is gradually teaching me that mothering doesn’t stop when the kids are grown.

MELANIE, my daughter, and KRISTY, my daughter-in-law. Mothers of our precious grandchildren, they demonstrate the variety of mothering styles. One is a teacher, one a stay-at-home mom, but both are nurturing and loving, living out exemplary lives of godliness and goodness.