Mamas and Their Children

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In this illustration, Anna Milo Upjohn portrays a big sister helping with the care of a younger brother or sister. I like how Upjohn has drawn the baby so realistically with its tousled hair, pretty eyes, chubby fingers, and little crossed feet in knee socks.

The drawing of the big sister is well-proportioned and her braids look very real. The bow on her right braid shows that someone has cared about her enough to tie it there. Still something about the girl leaves me feeling unsettled. What do you think? Is she enjoying this precious opportunity to help with the care of her younger sibling or is she enduring it one more time?

I hope I can express with compassion and sympathy what is in my heart about this scene. I believe in older siblings helping with younger siblings. God wants all of us to serve other people. Childhood is the right time to begin learning how to do that. It is the right time to begin to develop a love for others and a servant heart. Helping with younger siblings is one of the good ways to teach children to serve.

Childhood is also the right time—and the only time—to experience the loving mother/little child relationship. We can—and should—have a close mother/child relationship with our mother or child as long as we both live. However, childhood is the only time for nursing and rocking and nursery rhymes and board books and things like that. No matter how many children God gives us, each one from the first baby to the youngest baby deserves those things. Considering again the drawing above, the baby needs his or her mother in particular ways and the big sister needs her mother in particular ways.

It is very hard to balance the needs of each person who is in our lives—husband, older children, younger children, adult children, grandchildren, friends, those in our church fellowship—but we owe it to them to do our best to meet the specific needs in their lives that God wants us to do. It is a challenge to balance all this, but it is also a great blessing. How very precious a gift it is to be needed. I believe that when God commanded us to serve others, He was not only meeting the needs of those other people. He was also meeting our need to have purpose in our lives.

Let’s look again at Upjohn’s drawing. We could think of many backstories. Perhaps their mother is ill or perhaps she is taking care of another sibling who is ill. Even under those very difficult circumstances, the mother can still meet the needs of these children—with her words, with her expressions, with her encouragement, with her attitude, with her gratitude. God uses all sorts of life situations to train His children—of all ages.

I fear that this message may feel burdensome to some of you. I pray that it doesn’t. My purpose today is simply to remind you and me to be for others what they need us to be to the best of our ability within our particular circumstances.

One of God’s messages of hope for Jerusalem in the book of Isaiah includes this comparison:

For this is what the Lord says:
“Behold, I extend peace to her like a river,
And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip
and rocked back and forth on the knees.
As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;
And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 66:12-13


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