Lessons from Mama

My Mama was a school teacher. Just in April, she retired from Graham Middle School in Graham, North Carolina. But when I was a kid, she taught at Hallsboro High School, which was a junior/senior high school that housed all of the seventh through twelfth graders in the Hallsboro and Lake Waccamaw area.

In a town as small as that, everybody knew everybody, pretty much. When I started school, even the teachers that didn’t attend our church had met my Mama. And so there was no getting away with anything, because I knew if I didn’t behave myself, there was no way I was going to be able to hide it. As a result, in 13 years of school, the only time I spent in the office was the year I was a student assistant for the guidance counselors.

Yeah. Teachers’ pet.

From pretty early on, Mama taught us respect. And two of the things she was sticklers on were being on time and looking folks in the eye. To Mama, those were marks of respect. And the only time I ever heard Mama say a negative word about another teacher was when she went for a parent-teacher conference with my brother’s ninth grade French teacher and the lady wouldn’t look Mama in the eye. Mama walked away clucking her tongue and shaking her head and murmuring about having been disrespected.

I guess I learned that from my Mama because to this day, I’m a stickler for being on time and for looking people in the eye. I tend to run 15 minutes everywhere. And one of my biggest pet peeves about former bosses is when I would have a conversation with them and they wouldn’t stop what they were doing to look at me. (My current boss looks at me, I’m happy to say.)

I thought about Mama a lot while I was reading this week’s chapter of AW Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. He said, “It is summed up for us in the Hebrew epistle when we are instructed to run life’s race ‘looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.’ From all this we learn that faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze on the heart of the Triune God.” (Tozer, 50, emphasis mine)

A lot of us get real caught up with looking over our shoulders at the past. Even as we try to walk through each present day, we’re constantly looking back at how things used to be, or how we were hurt in the past, to try to figure out what to do today…

Or we keep trying to look ahead—down the road and around the bends—to try to guess what’s going to happen so that we can figure out how to prepare or protect ourselves…

But Tozer says—and more importantly, the Bible says—to keep our eyes on God, who created it all and will keep it all together until the very end.

Now, I have to admit, I’m not the best at letting go of the past. And I’m constantly trying to figure out what’s coming, so that I don’t get blindsided. But I’m also trying to live out what Mama taught me about giving God respect simply by looking at Him.

Good lesson, Mama!

This post is part of a weekly book discussion with my friend and co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen. If you have written a response to this chapter, feel free to post it below!


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  1. Barbara Capps says:

    My Mama taught me the same thing.. And mama always said too, to “watch” their eyes.. It tells volumes about them and what they are saying.. But as you say we have to give God respect by looking at Him.. I have seen so much that often I can see things going a certain way, because I have seen it in the past.. (especially with working with youth.. You could be 6 feet away and know what was going on.. . But more times than not, the Holy Spirit would prompt me about things over the years.. Because of all of that I look sometimes to the past, too. I still like what your mama and my mama said.. give God respect by looking to Him. Thanks Sista Sarah for a post that gave me memories of my mama too.

  2. I like that analogy- we need to look God in the eye. We can look over our shoulder at our past, or focus on what it is we’re praying for, but we need to be focusing in on Him to whom we’re praying. I know he gives us his full attention, it’s the least we could do to give him the same.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    Amen, Frank! If he’s going to give us His full attention (and He does!) then the least we can do is give Him the same!

  4. Great illustration there, Sarah. Jesus never leaves us or forsakes. He’s walking life’s journey alongside us (unless we run away from Him), so why would we disrespect Him and not look Him in the eye? It’s that simple! Thanks Sarah.

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