Mama Bear’s Protection

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

"Honor your father and mother"

--which is the first commandment with a promise--

"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."

(Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV)

There’s a story about my mother that I heard so long ago, it’s almost become lore. Apparently as a young mother, my mom was washing my diapers at a Laundromat. Yes, I was born before Pampers, and if you’ve never seen a cloth diaper, imagine a small white towel folded and pinned to a baby’s bottom. When wet, the diaper gets heavy, and like a towel, can be quickly converted into an intensely effective weapon. I’m told that during one particular visit to wash my stinky diapers and other clothes, my mom witnessed a woman abusing her special needs child, apparently slapping the little boy so hard one could hear the force of the blow even through the churning washers and dryers thumping full of clothes. It was at that point, I guess, that my mother’s Mama Bear protection instincts kicked in, and I’m told, she marched across the Laundromat and landed one of my wet diapers across the abusive parent’s face. I’m told the woman, startled, stinging, and humiliated, never lifted another finger against the child again, but again remember it has become the stuff of lore for more than a half-century. What I do know is that my mom was, and even at 90, is to this very day, feisty. Some folks joke that is what’s kept her around so long. Perhaps it’s from being a single mother working double shifts at a factory for years to provide for her child. Perhaps it’s from defending that only child, whose flaming red hair and husky size corduroy pants made him an easy target for bullies. Perhaps, it’s because she’s suffered her own share of abuse and feelings of powerlessness over the years. Perhaps it’s just those Mama Bear instincts. All I know is that one of the things Mama Bear has passed down to her cub is anger against injustice and a special place in my heart for special kids.

Unfortunately, another commonality we have shared over the years is our struggle to manage our negative emotions, especially anger. For too many years we hurt each other (and in my case, others as well). As a rebellious teen I resisted, and she retaliated. When I left for college, neither of us was in a good place. It must have broken God’s heart to see my disobedience, dishonor, and disrespect. Little did I know that the tough love I would receive from God was one of the gifts He had given to my mother, and when I returned home like the prodigal son, she had learned less tough and more love. Together, we grew in our love for each other, but only because we were growing in our love for Christ - two very imperfect people slowly but surely rising with the Son and out of our darkness. The lesson I would share from my mistakes and regret is that we serve a God of second chances and He wants us to take a chance and love those who we don’t always feel like loving or forgiving (including ourselves).

Like many aging parents, the role of Mama Bear and baby bear has now reversed. Whereas once I depended on Mama Bear’s protection, I am now devoted to Mama Bear’s protection. From interacting with everyone from the clerks at Kroger’s to close friends and congregants at church, I take what I’m sure many would consider an overabundance of caution to protect myself, and thus protect Mama Bear from COVID-19, which more than likely would take her life, if she contracted the virus.

At the rehab and healthcare center across the street where our church has ministered for decades, almost 50 Mama Bears, Papa Bears, and even some people’s Baby Bears have lost their lives to COVID-19. For me, it’s personal, not political, and therefore, regardless of your personal preferences and position on protecting yourself, I would ask, plead actually, that you help me and others with protecting those old bears and cubs, who can’t protect themselves. God bless and Happy Mother’s Day.

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