By:Adalia Gutierrez Lee
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The basic needs of a human being go so unnoticed that sometimes we ignore them, or we do not even think about them as what they are—essential needs: eating, sleeping, having someone to take care of us, to love us, and educate us as children. Those first five years of life, the ones we remember the least, are the years that most form our personality and character. These are years that create the trust that will nurture and sustain us the rest of our lives.
This month when we honor our mothers, has been different for me. I decided to spend it focusing on the memories that remind me to thank God for the mom I had. I no longer have my mom with me. However, her love and influence transcend her physical presence.
My mom was an incredible human being that emanated sweetness and security. The simple fact of knowing that she was always looking out for me, no matter how far I was from her, gave me peace of mind. I knew that everything was going to work out because she was looking out for me. Whether it was with my studies, sports, church, or friendships, wherever or with whomever I was, my mom was a constant who inspired me and helped me to give the best of myself.
My mom was a prudent woman. She knew how to listen and when to speak. She always told us there are things that we may think, but should not always say. You have to speak to build people up. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves, we need to respect them and give them their space. We don’t have to force them and make them uncomfortable. I have to confess that this last piece of advice has always been hard for me to follow because I’m much more curious than she was!
Her words of affirmation were always followed by a tender caress, or an act of love. Sometimes she would wait at the front door of the house worried because one of her children had not returned home, thus reminding us that expressions of affection transcend logic and rationality. Was looking at the street going to speed up the process of our arrival? She didn’t care about the “absurdity” of love, she just showed us, with deeds and words, that her love was constant and unconditional.
Recently I spoke in a chapel service about God’s love as our parent. I shared that for me seeing God as Father or Mother when I was a child was not so critical, because I had in my parents an exceptional mother and father. Now as an adult, I understand Jesus’ insistence on relating to God in this most intimate way. Knowing that the love of God transcends all logic, and as Paul corroborates in his letter to the Ephesians, “it is greater than we can understand” (Ephesians 3:19).
We do not have to understand nor explain God’s love in order to experience it. The presence of God is a constant in our lives that allows us to live, sleep, play, study and interact with confidence.
While it is true that my mom was a great leader, and that I learned many leadership lessons from her, I think what I treasure the most is how to relate to God every day. That prayer that she taught me and repeated with me every night next to my bed is the same one that sustains me now in my adult life: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O God, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). This experience and prayer inspire me today in all the areas of my life.
Being leaders at home and outside the home is a great responsibility. In fact, sometimes it is more challenging to be a good leader inside the house where we are most deeply known. My mom was a leader* who inspired me and my siblings in the intimate world of our home, as well as many women and men around the world.
As I reflect on the life of my mom, my prayer is that I may be the kind of leader that she was both at home and in the world. If I am able to be just half of whom she was, it will make me feel really happy, satisfied, and accomplished.
As we honor our mothers this month, I want to invite you to think about motherhood in a broader sense: biological, adoptive, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual. Who are the mothers that you can honor in your life? In which ways can you inspire and encourage other people as only a mother can do?
*Editor’s note: Adalia’s mother, Edna Lee de Gutiérrez, was a well-known and accomplished leader among Baptists worldwide. To learn more about her life, please click here.
Adalia Gutiérrez Lee serves as the International Ministries Area Director for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, American Baptist Churches, and is a member of the CLLI Board.