My desk was top-heavy with research works on Paul the apostle and his century-one letter to the Philippians. Well-worn volumes, lexicon, dictionary, concordance, Greek New Testament, maps, charts, several versions of the Scriptures, pen, pencils, a couple of stacks of paper needed to be put away. I had just completed a manuscript and my heart was full of joy. Not only because I was through (isn’t that a wonderful word?) but because joy, the theme of the inspired letter I had spent weeks studying, had rubbed off. It was as if Paul and I had shared the same room and written at the same desk.
I was smiling and humming the little chorus “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!” as I inserted the books I had used back onto my library shelves. It was late in the evening. The sun had set and the shadows of dusk outside my study window would soon give way to night.
As I shoved the last volume in place, my eyes fell upon an old work by a British pastor of yesteryear, F. B. Meyer. It was his work on Philippians, but for some reason I had not consulted it throughout my months of study. Thinking there might be something to augment my now-finished manuscript, I decided to leaf through it before calling it a day. I leaned back in my old leather chair, propped my feet up, and opened Meyer’s book.
It was not his words that spoke to me that evening, however, but the words of my mother. For as I began looking through it, I realized the book had once been a part of her library; after her death in 1971 it had found its way into mine. Little did she realize that her words would become part of her legacy to me. In her inimitable handwriting, my mother had added her own observations, prayers, and related Scriptures in the margins throughout the book. Inside the back cover she had written: “Finishing reading this, May 8, 1958.”
When I saw that date . . . 1958 . . . memory carried me back to a tiny island in the South Pacific where I had spent many lonely months as a Marine. There, in May of ’58 I had reached a crossroad in my own spiritual pilgrimage. In fact, I had entered these words in my own journal at the time: “The Lord has convinced me that I am to be in His service. I need to begin my plans to prepare for a lifetime of ministry.”
Amazingly, it was the same month of that same year that my mother had finished Meyer’s book. As I scanned her words, I found one reference after another to her prayers for me as I was far, far away . . . her concern for my spiritual welfare . . . her desire for God’s best in my life.
And in that moment I thanked God anew for the touch of my mother’s love and the effectiveness of her prayers. I bowed my head and wept with gratitude.
As I slid Meyer’s book back on the shelf, I thought of the invaluable role my parents had played during the formative years of my life . . . and how the torch had been passed from them to Cynthia and me to do the same with our sons and daughters—and they, in turn, with theirs.
In the gathering dusk I smiled and said softly, “Thank you, Mother.” I could almost hear her voice answering, “Charles, I love you. I’m still praying for you, Son. Keep walking with God. Finish strong!”