So if you’re from The South, you’ve probably heard these words before:
“You Ain’t My Momma!”
Please imagine this being said with attitude. There might be a flip of the hair, a swivel of the head, or a snap of the fingers.
I have quite a few memories from grade school of belligerent children shouting this phrase at their friends, their enemies, and yes, sometimes their teachers (horrors!). The thought behind this statement is: unless you are my parent, you cannot 1) tell me what to do, or 2) tell me how to do it.
I do not encourage my own children to go around flinging grammatically incorrect, sassy sentences to the breeze. However, in relation to their peers, I have found myself asking them a legitimate question along these same lines. “Is so-and-so your Momma or Daddy?” (In case this needs clarifying, “So-and-so” is another way of saying “fill in the blank”. So-and-so is the brother to such-and-such. Such-and-such refers to something you do, while so-and-so may refer to the person who does the doing.)
You see, sometimes small children try to tell other small children what to do. Then the tell-y blames the tell-er for the misdeed that blooms from this encounter. It’s at about this time I would ask, “Is so-and-so your Momma or Daddy?” “No.*sniff*” “Then you can ignore them. You don’t have to do what they say.”
Another version of this scenario is when a small child calls another small child a name or title, such as “baby.” “She called me a BABY!” small child number one yells. At which point I would reply, “Are you a baby?” “No. *sniff*” “Is so-and-so your Mamma or Daddy?” “No. *sniff* “That’s right. I’m your Momma. And I’m telling you that you aren’t a baby.” Somehow that carries weight. I’m your Momma.
It works equally well when giving instructions. I am your Mother, and I am asking you to clean up. Now.
So what’s the deal with Momma?!
I think that really, it’s a parental thing. Children tend to be very attached to their moms, so “Momma” is the parent we most look up to and defend the most. (Don’t get caught talkin’ smack about someone’s momma!) For some folks, though, you could just as easily insert the word, “Daddy”. There are plenty of families where the daddy has been the caretaker and ultimate role model.
So what does any of this have to do with encouragement or the Bible? I thought you’d never ask.
As Christians, we realize that God is our Father. Talk about the ultimate role model…. We’ve got a Daddy who is perfect. And not only is he perfect, his Love is perfect, because, well, it’s coming from a perfect being and it couldn’t be anything else. Yay! So we know that when God tells us 1) what to do and 2) how to do it, his instructions are perfect.
We know that when a meany face co-worker calls us the adult equivalent of “baby” at the office, if God tells us we aren’t a “baby” then we can take that to the bank because it’s a perfect perspective.
Being the parent of a child with special health needs sometimes makes you feel like you have a sign on your back that says, “Please tell me what to do.” All sorts of people feel they can preach to you, lecture you, patronize you, suggest to you, and make you feel like an unfit parent. Everyone has an opinion on what you should be doing for your child. “Don’t use that medication! Do try this therapy! If you did this… If you wouldn’t do that….My cousin’s best friend once told me about her nephew that has autism and now I’m an expert on the subject.” Good advice is appreciated. But when it sounds more like it’s coming from a bossy 5 year old than a mature 35 year old, it can be hard to receive. Even if we don’t agree with what the person is saying, we can still find ourselves doubting and feeling down about our choices. Even if no names are called, we feel like we’ve been labeled, in the words of Beth Moore, “TP” for “terrible parent.”
Thank goodness we can think to ourselves, “You ain’t my momma!” (Unless of course, it is your momma- and I’m not going to help you there!) God made you who you are. He placed you where you live. He gave you the children you parent. We don’t have to listen to other people’s opinions of who we are and what we’re supposed to do. What we can do is read the Bible, talk to the Holy Spirit, and learn what God wants us to do. We can also search the scriptures and find a picture of who he says we are. Beloved. Desired. Unique. Adopted. Assigned works that were planned before the world began.
This is great, because it means we can ignore what the world is telling us about ourselves. Like small children telling each other what to do, our lost world is constantly trying to tell us what to do, and the world has just about as much perspective as a three year old. It’s also constantly trying to tell us who we are. And while I don’t advocate sassy-ness in general, sometimes the Prince of this World needs a little telling off.
Next time he tries to ensnare you or get you down, just snap your fingers, toss your hair, swivel your head and say, in your best trashy southern accent, “You ain’t my Daddy, and you cain’t tell me what to do!” Then go to your true authority. I can imagine God looking you in the eye and saying, “That’s right. I’m your Daddy, so you listen to me,” then winking as you both walk away and leave the Devil in the dust.