George A. Bowers Sr.: What we didn’t find at mom’s
Many weeks ago I wrote about how when my siblings and I were cleaning up things at our mom’s home and preparing for the sale, we found various scraps of paper all over her house with either memory verses or prayer requests written on them. She kept these in her line of sight so that she could pray regularly for specific needs and learn particular passages of Scripture by memory, even at 84 years of age. It was a powerful testimony to a lady who was striving to be a faithful disciple of Jesus right up to her very earthly end.
What is equally powerful, however, is what we did not find. When going through Mom and Dad’s things and even their hidden compartments, we found not one secret bottle of liquor. We didn’t find any special pills stashed for a bad day or any pornographic magazines. We never came across any hate-filled letters, hidden debts or concealed gambling winnings. No shady business deals or under the table transactions, and no Ashley Madison website records. Everything we found in private matched what we knew of them in public.
We did find some notes and cards that had passed between mom and dad that we had never seen. Instead of revealing some secret affair, however, we discovered yet more evidence of a deep love and devotion to each other that should exist between every husband and wife. We found pressed arbutus blossoms that Dad had given to mom long ago and dried roses that he gave her when Dale was born.
Somehow, we never worried about finding something that would shock us. After living with them all our lives, we learned to trust and believe them. What they lived in life was borne out in their deaths. One of the older, almost outdated words for this is integrity. It comes from the same root as “integer” which is the term for any whole number. An integer cannot be divided into smaller parts without affecting the whole and a person of integrity is someone of undivided character. They are who they are in private as well as in public and such folks are becoming increasingly rare in these days of moral expediency.
Mom and Dad, like many in their generation, were not expedient. They didn’t do what was convenient just because it was profitable at the time. They did what was right. They didn’t act one way in church on Sunday morning and another way somewhere else on Saturday night. They didn’t teach one set of values in Sunday School and live a different set at home or in their business. They, like all the rest of us, weren’t perfect, but they strove to be consistent in their lives and testimonies for Jesus and were what many today would call, “The Real Deal.”
Another word for this is transparency. In this era when shocking revelations and double lives steal the headlines, it’s refreshing to know real people who are true blue day in and day out. Since Mom and Dad are no longer here, we must rise up and take their places. Which is exactly what they raised us to do. They didn’t teach us how to cheat the other man, cover our tracks, or live a double life. Unfortunately, we seem to learn such things on our own and we need the help of the Holy Spirit, and the influence, example and encouragement of other believers to not go down those pathways.
What’s missing in our lives says as much or more about us as what’s present. What entertainment we don’t watch or listen to, what substances we don’t consume, and what habits we don’t practice. When our children go through our things after we’re gone, should the Lord tarry, what will they find? A stash here or a hidden bottle there? Some secret that might reveal a double life or divided character, or a private life that was consistent with our public one? May the Holy Spirit help each of us live lives of integrity that will be a testimony to Jesus’ redeeming work in us.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at email@example.com.