In Memoriam: Why I Am A Christian

CW mom and dad.jpg
My mother’s memorial service helped me realize just how much she and my father shaped my perception regarding what it means to be Christian. This should not surprise me because our faith is embodied and learned incarnationally, not theoretically.

At my mom’s remarkable memorial service (Tuesday) people reflected on the glow of her face and smile and I heard Psalm 34:5. “Those who look to Him [the Lord] are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

Many talked about her being their “mother” in the faith, a tribute to her spiritual parentage of literally thousands of people. Ruth Brown remembered what it was like to be a young woman who could always phone Esther and ask her what to do.

One woman wrote that she was afraid to teach Sunday School because she was a new Christian and shy, and my mom encouraged her that God uses us as we are with our unique gifts and talents. (This of course has been a huge theme of my own teaching. Wonder where I discovered it?)

Her wonderful quick wit was revealed. Dave Clark was once lost in the dark at camp and out of nowhere came my mother with a flashlight. He quipped, “there she is Mother Superior,” to which my mother replied immediately, “David you are right! I AM a mother and I AM superior!”

Mom was strong and competent, but understood her need of a partner. She considered going to the mission field unmarried, but said she decided against it because she realized she would have been like an “unguided” missile.

Her willingness to play support roles was especially true as an accompanist. She was wonderfully sensitive and talented as a musician, but any soloist she worked with understands what one musician said at the memorial, “with Esther at the keyboard, I knew I could sing the song backwards and Esther would have covered my error, following me, complimenting my flawed rendition and making it beautiful. (I think that is called grace!).

Tommy Martin, (my brother-in-law), shared how mom pursued God, valued people over things, (really valued things ONLY as a reminder of the people who they were connected to), and epitomized love. She became all this, not because her life was easy, but because she chose to look up, especially when circumstances were difficult.

Jimmy Sellers, a lifelong friend, remarked that at one time we actually thought our family’s were normal, and only later in life realized the stewardship responsibility we felt because our parent’s are SO EXTRAORDINARY!

AS a son, I can say my parents gave us kids perhaps the most wonderful gift of all in their demonstrable love for each other. There was never any instability or uncertainty in our home regarding whether my parents would stay with it or survive, because we knew so long as they had God and each other, they could handle the heartaches of this fallen world even when it was displayed in each other (they weren’t perfect)

My mother’s final gift of love was in her warm and joyful spirit that shone even through her Alzheimer’s. She knew my father’s face until the very end. Just days before she died she told one of her care givers, “my husband Dick is wonderful.”

I know that she waited to die until my father was ready to let her go, and I know he only let her go because he loved her and it was in her interest and the loving thing to do.

People ask me why I am a Christian today, how I’ve overcome intellectual doubts and nagging questions. Sooner or later it comes back to this. I have seen Jesus. He lived at my house in the person of Dick and Esther. Given this cloud of witnesses, the cloud of unknowing parted enough for me to see God, and whatever radiance I possess is but a dim reflection of my northern star, my mother and father, who themselves are aglow because they have seen the face of God.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub
PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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