The other day, as nostalgia reared its sweet head, I popped in a video of Sam’s first week at home. It never fails to make me cry to see the miracle he was, so fresh from God, so desperately wanted and waited for. As I watched the video, I was achingly aware that those first weeks after his birth were a treasure to us in large part because of my precious mom. She came the day of his birth and stayed for two and a half weeks.
Her commitment to us was an unparalleled gift. Mom did all of the cooking, shopping, laundry, errands, and housecleaning. She took over every task that would take me away from baby care. Mom encouraged me to take naps when Sam napped so I’d be rested. She sent me out for walks to get exercise. She taught us oh-so-many things about caring for an infant that come only with experience. We can still giggle when we remember the antics of Sam’s first bath.
In the middle of the night, at Sam’s first squeak, by the time I got up and walked the ten steps to his nursery, Mom was already there, changing him and handing him to me to nurse. When I was done, she came back in the room, took him from my arms and burped him, loved on him, and rocked him back to sleep so that I could go back to bed. She gave up sleep so I could have more sleep in those otherwise sleep-deprived first weeks.
Mom took on all of the work of running our household so that I could spend my days falling in love with my son. She did all the work to gift me with time. Eighteen days that I did nothing but cuddle, rock, kiss, nurse, read to (yeah, we started early), sing to, talk to, and dance with our newborn son.
On the day Dad came to pick her up, I didn't know how I was ever going to say goodbye to Mom. Through my tears, I tried to express to her our thanks, but words were inexpressible. I remember saying, “I could never repay you for what you have done for us, what you have given to us, the start you have given us on this parenting journey.”
Mom said, “I do not ever want repayment. It was my joy to do this for you. It was so special to spend these days with you and Sam. You can repay me by doing the same for Sam and his wife someday. Just pass it on. That’s my reward.”
Taking upon herself all the work so that I would have this cherished block of time with our son was a blessed and undeserved gift, to be sure. And all she wanted was for us to pay it forward.
While my mom did not suffer torture as she cared for our family, what she did for Dick and me had its roots in what Jesus has done for us all. He did suffer torture….He did all “the work” necessary to give us who choose to follow Him an unspeakable gift. Like my mom’s gift of time, Jesus’ gift was also a block of time. Eternal life. He endured pain, scourging, whipping, and unbearable feelings of abandonment and torment as He accepted His Father’s will that He be crucified. He did it for only one reason. To pay the price for our sins and our diseases. He shed His blood to make us righteous before God so that we would possess and treasure time in eternity with Him.
And what does God ask us in return? Pay it forward. Tell others about His gift of salvation. Feed the hungry. Tend the needy. Bring the lost to Christ. Spread the gospel with our words, our actions, our lives. He has never wanted us to pay Him back for His sacrifice and we couldn't if we wanted to. It is a free gift of grace to us unworthy sinners. All our Lord wants is for us to share the Good News with those who do not know Him.
As I reflect on Valentine's Day tomorrow, the day we celebrate "love," it seems to me that the definition of love has been watered down to chocolates and flowers and overused clichés. You don't hear much about sacrifice and selflessness on February 14th. You don't hear much about loving someone so much that all you ask of them is to accept your love and pay it forward.
In our quid pro quo culture of today, many acts of sacrifice are seen as a waste of time. In God’s economy, sacrifice and devotion to others are the real means to “wealth.” By that spiritual standard, my mom has always been a rich woman. And my Savior? Well, He is the whole bank.