When I was six I wanted to be a ballerina, so my mother enrolled me in dance classes. A few years later when I developed an interest in music, my mother drove me and my heavy bassoon case to every band practice and lesson. Discovering I had a gift for writing, she prompted me to apply to the best journalism school available. New motherhood became an adventure with the gentle guidance of my baby’s loving grandmother. She was terminally ill when she came to hear me give my first public talk. Her face was already gray and gaunt, yet her warm brown eyes shone with love, emboldening me to confidently address the audience. My mother was my most avid cheerleader, always encouraging me with her steadfast support.
The Bible’s King Ahaziah, was not so privileged. His mother, Athaliah, did encourage him, but not in a positive way. “Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother’s name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri. He too walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong.” ( 2 Chronicles 21:2-3 NIV)
Athaliah had selfish motives for encouraging her son, King Ahaziah, in wicked ways. She held contempt for the faith of her husband’s country, so now that he was dead she exerted all her evil influence on her young son. During his short reign “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done.” (vs.4)
The Lord brought judgment on Ahaziah for his wrongdoing and had him killed. His mother’s wicked counsel brought about his destruction. After his death, desire for power drove her to kill her own grandsons so she could usurp Judah’s throne. The Lord spared one of her grandsons, who was kept hidden from her. Upon his coronation, she was put to death.
The story of Athaliah and her son Ahaziah gives insight into how much influence a mother has, whether for good or evil. Children respond better to positive encouragement than to negative dissuasion. A mother is in a prime position to see the potential in her children and foster their talents and gifts. When a child knows someone who cares for them is cheering them on in their endeavors they gain confidence and strive to do well.
A Christian mother’s desire is to see her children personally embrace faith in Jesus Christ and grow to spiritual maturity. Her influence during their impressionable early years has a big impact on their faith as adults in years to come. Encouraging a child in their faith can come in many forms. Deuteronomy 11 says to teach spiritual truths to children by talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. In other words, faith is imparted in all aspects of life. Children are inspired to pursue their faith through the example of those closest to them. When a mother maintains a vibrant relationship with Christ, her children will be encouraged to grow by seeing the fruits of her faith.
My mother was the opposite of King Ahaziah’s mother. Her desire was to see me be the best person I could be, and she never ran out of ways to encourage and support me. When she came to faith in Christ in later years, her encouragement broadened into our shared belief. What joy it gave us to know we were fellow believers in Christ as well as mother and daughter. Though she is gone now, I often remember her heartening words and her faith in my ability to accomplish whatever I set out to do. If I can be such an encourager to my children, her legacy will live on.
(from our church bulletin archives, written May 2008. Photo of my mother and I, circa 1996)