|Posted by John Suttles on July 16, 2012 at 9:15 PM|
Mothers, Talk to Your Sons!
The old adage, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” may be time-worn and faded; but the truth it contains was never more new. We find ourselves today in a culture that has managed to achieve an almost complete sexual amalgamation among our youth—indeed, to a level unparalleled in history.
Old men, like myself, can well remember that “oft replayed” newsreel of the Beatles when they landed on American soil for the first time—the so-called “second British invasion.” The clip showed them disembarking from their airplane and waving at the crowds.
Most Americans were shocked! “These boys look like girls!” was the nearly universal cry. Well, we’ve come a long way since that sad day in the 1960s—a long way down.
We’ve degenerated into a “culture” (or the absence thereof) in which gender distinction is almost illegal. It is, to say the least, socially distasteful.
God made Adam.
God made Eve.
God made male and female.
Since that day of Creation, indeed, because of that act, God has established the roles and responsibilities for all subsequent “Adam's” and “Eve's” time immortal. The pages of God’s Word delineate His purposes in both genders and their roles in the home, in the culture, in society.
While volumes could be written (and some already have) addressing the many facets of this crisis in American life, it is my intent to open only one component, namely, the relationship of mothers to their sons at one specific stage in their maturity—young manhood. It is especially at this stage that their further maturity demands a mother’s strength of character in ways never before needed.
Openness, honesty, and firmness are always virtues in a mother’s dealings with her sons; but that period of time in which the flower of youth begins to ripen into the fruit of manhood is a critical time in their relationship. This is not a time for the mush and fluff of Hollywood’s fantasies. This is the time for her to face the “little man” with all the strength, firmness, and force that godliness demands and faithfulness requires. Our modern lingo has furnished us with a term for what’s needed here—“tough love.” This is the hour for tough love in a son’s life. His need now is no longer the sweet coddling of an infant or the soft preening of a child; but the firm guiding of a youth.
Nothing teaches truth better than example; so it is that I turn now to a glorious example to illustrate my point.
The famous Baptist scholar Dr. Patrick Hues Mell was born in Liberty County, Georgia, in July 1814. In his lifetime he became the professor of Ancient Languages at Mercer University, pastored two churches simultaneously for over twenty-five years, served as a colonel in the Army for Southern Independence, served as chancellor of the University of Georgia, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention for many years until his death in 1888.
Early in life, his family had lost their fortune through certain financial reversals. Nevertheless, he had several opportunities for education. His mother’s influence on young Mell was profound. Long after her death, Dr. John Jones (an eminent Presbyterian minister of the day) described Mell’s mother in these words:
His mother (Cynthia Sumner) was a woman of marked individuality of character, intellectual, and a truly godly woman, brought up in the strictest mode of Congregationalism, and no doubt, perfectly familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism…Dr. Mell was all Sumner, a perfect reproduction of his mother, in form, in features, in character, and in mind, proving the old saying ‘that men of mark are chiefly indebted to their mothers for their superiority.' 1
It was later in his life, as a youth of fifteen, that Mrs. Mell found occasion to exercise the “tough love” her son so urgently needed in his life. Just before her death, his mother wrote to him while he was away at school at Sands Hill. In that letter she said:
It is high time that you and I should communicate frequently and confidentially. If this is not to be expected by the time you have arrived at fifteen, when is it to be looked for? On one account I have more anxiety, and even dread on your behalf than for any of my children. Earnestly as I wish a son of mine to be a minister, yet I tremble at the idea of educating and devoting a son to that sacred profession without…satisfactory evidence that his own soul was right with God…My heart burns to see you, in every sense of the word, a true Christian…I have loved you from your birth, and have watched over you until now with the tenderest affection, but feel my own deficiency in not communing more with you on the state of your mind. You should exercise a jealousy over yourself lest the trifles of this world should deaden your feelings about the grand question: What are the hopes of my salvation? What have I done—what must I do to be saved? Important questions. Other studies are very commendable and right, but let those which tend directly to religious subjects have the first place in your thoughts and affections. Let these pages, my dear boy, be a testimony before God and keep them as a sign between you and me, that I am in earnest. I have long been studying your character in respect to your common life and particularly in reference to this point: Remember, they that are Christ’s have crucified their lusts—crucify yours. 2
Strong words indeed! Strong and painful, no doubt, but words pouring out of a mother’s heart who had no time for trifles nor patience with neglect. Her burden was crystal clear, and her design unambiguous. So great was her burden for her son, and so determined her purpose to deliver it, that the very next day she sat down and wrote him again. Among other things she said:
I will not conceal from you any longer my anxiety for you to become a minister, yet I dare not decide on such a plan without much more clear evidence than I have yet seen that your actual state, feeling, conduct, temper and conversation, habitual and fixed thoughts, are such as will justify me in doing so. I say this with anxiety, and write with fear, but I say it with earnest prayer for the real conversion of your soul to God, and with some hope that He will hear the petition that I have endeavored to offer up for you many years back. I will repeat: I can never consent for you to study for the ministry until I have some satisfactory proof of your heart turned to God in holy consistency…of character. 3
Tough words! Tough love! Exactly what a son must hear from a mother whose aim is, above all else, the glory of God.
I am glad to report that God “put her tears in a bottle and recorded them in a book” (Psalm 56:6). Well after Mrs. Mell was dead, God sent out His Sheriff to arrest P. H. Mell. Hear him tell it in his own words in a letter to the Rev. Josiah Samuel Law dated February 1839:
The Lord has dealt mercifully with me and has been pleased to bring me from the most awful lengths of unbelief and to humiliate me at the foot of the Cross. And I think I can say that I have the firmest belief relying humbly upon His promises that He has for Christ’s sake pardoned all my sins. It is almost more than I can realize, and when I consider who I am and what I have been and how I have trifled with this subject, I am filled with astonishment that I can by possibility arrive at such a state of mind as to believe that I have passed from death unto life…and by steps that were imperceptible to me at the time and cannot be traced now, I was brought to relinquish all my doubts and to feel that even for me the subject had an interest…I would often retire to a private place and try to pray, and because I did not receive a miraculous manifestation of God’s presence in my heart, I would give up in despair and perhaps the next moment with a zeal that would astonish myself, would join with the thoughtless in throwing ridicule on the Bible and religion. But not to multiply words, in this awful state did I continue until about three weeks ago when God was pleased to bring me like a little child to the foot of the Cross, and I was led to pray Him to save me in His own way…Pray for me that I may not again deceive myself, but that I may build on the Rock Christ Jesus. 4
Oh, that more sons had this testimony that “Mama told me the truth—even when it hurt.” As Mrs. Mell’s grandson wrote in his biography of his father:
God answered her prayers by giving to the country a noble life, the influence of which was felt for more than fifty years through the length and breadth of this Southern land. 5
Maybe we, in the grace of God, may produce again a Dr. P. H. Mell. “He was all Sumner.”
Mothers, talk to your sons.
Dr. John Suttles
1 Mell, P.H., Jr. The Life of Patrick Hues Mell. Harrisonburg, Virginia: Gano Books, 1991. pg. 11.
2 Ibid., pg. 13.
3 Ibid., pg. 14.
4 Ibid., pg. 34, 38.
5 Ibid., pg. 15.