OMEONE ONCE REPORTEDLY SAID, “I’VE GOT TWO WONDERFUL CHILDREN, and two out of five isn’t bad.”
Along with expressions of pride parents make regarding their adult children, negative comments also abound. Our children do not always “turn out” as we expect, and parents are tempted to speak of their disappointments and frustrations as they see their children make choices and behave in ways of which they don’t approve. In my case, however, I was blessed with a mother who gave me unconditional love and copious words of support and encouragement.
I was a rambunctious teenager with seldom a serious thought in my head. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, my single Norwegian mom worked very hard as a nurse—12 hours every day. She and I shared a home with my uncle and my two maternal grandparents. It was rather crowded.
I became a believer in God at a very young age both because my mother sent me to an Adventist school and because I came to know of God’s love through my mother’s great love for me. I never wanted to disappoint her. She believed in discipline but also in prayer. She and my grandmother prayed for me a lot.
I admit that my mother was sometimes a bit overprotective. For example, there was the day I parked my 1931 Model A Ford on an incline, and I neglected to properly set the brake. The car began rolling down the hill, gathering speed as it went. It flew past the Laundromat, the automotive garage, the power plant, and finally smashed into a parked car. When my mother heard about the accident, she said, “Well, [the person who owns that car] shouldn’t have parked it there.” This, of course, was going a little too far, but because of support like this, I never doubted her love for me.
Human love, even though misguided at times, helps us make it through difficult times. So does God’s love for us. In 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, the apostle Paul says that great talents, the gift of prophecy, and even sacrificial service are worthless without love. Love itself is the foundation of winsome behavior, and its influence never ends.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
More than once I recall Mother saying to others about me, “Now, I want all of you to remember to be kind to this poor, fatherless boy.” I wasn’t a model child, but there was still a lot of love swishing around our house.
Many years later, long after I became a minister of the gospel, one of our neighbors was talking to another pastor’s wife. She said, “If Dick Rentfro could become a pastor, then there’s hope for any mother!”
I surprised mostly everyone with my chosen vocation, but my mother always believed the best about me, and I responded to her confidence and loving support.
Even with grown children, parents need to continue a positive parenting role. When children no longer seek their parents’ advice, they still value their love and support. Let’s not neglect to supply them with this, because the need for a parent’s love never ends.
Dick Rentfro is a retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor and evangelist living in Washington state, U.S.A. This article was published March 25, 2010.