April 04, 2013

Assertiveness – mom style


ou know that way moms have about them—that thing where they speak and just expect results? I remember my mom doing that regularly. And it used to really annoy me. Then... as I got older I wondered if maybe moms developed that trait when they were raising their children... some sort of maternal coercion instinct. But then I realized that it’s kind of the norm for all women. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be misogynistic, I’m just making observations here.

Well... it annoyed me as a kid, but I guess I got used to it over time.

My son, who is at that age that produces such frustration with authorities, says often, ”Jesus wouldn’t have to put up with this.” And I guess he’s right most of the time, because Jesus wouldn’t have done the boneheaded thing my son just did.

John 2:1-5

1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

But then again...

We don’t actually have to imagine how such a thing would play out. When mom says, “the trash can is full” or “this room isn’t in very good shape,” she just says it and expects the unspoken command to be heeded. She might throw in the “mom-look” for good measure, but it’s actually the expectation that the thing will be done that really gets you. Even if you are tempted to respond in a snippy way, you realize that it had better get done or else you will risk the Wrath of Mom.

So... we’re talking about Jesus here and I don’t think he responded in snippy ways, even if what he said might seem a bit snippy to our Western ears. Woman, what does this have to do with me? Sounds a bit snippy to me, but probably not.

But what I find interesting in this story of Jesus’ first miracle is how his mom handled her “request.”

The wedding party host had run out of wine for the celebrants. An adult Jesus was there with his disciples. Mom feels bad for the host, who was probably a friend. And she knows Jesus is divine... after all, his biological father was the Holy Spirit. That’s not something a mother is likely to forget. Virginity during childbirth was quite rare in those days... it still is. In fact, it has never been repeated. So I think she had always had a full understanding of Jesus’ abilities.

So Mom says to Jesus, “They’re out of wine.” A seemingly simple statement. And Jesus responds with, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Probably not snippy, but his answer does show that he knew full well that Mom wasn’t just being informative. It wasn’t as though she had just said, “These are such nice dishes. I wonder how they made that fondant stay in that shape. Oh... and they just ran out of wine.” No... she got right to the point and Jesus knew Mom was not simply being observant—she wanted him to do something about it. So he said, “Sorry, Mom, but it’s not time for me to show that kind of power just yet.”

My son (with his mom
reflected in his glasses)

And how did Mom respond? Well... just like any other mom. She had already indicated her wishes, which were... Jesus, get them some wine, and she expected Jesus to do it. She may have even given him the mom-look. But what she did next is what makes a mom a mom. She “said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

Now how is a child going to respond to that? That's that maternal coercion instinct and deep in the heart of every child is the little switch that turns on with a resounding, Yes, Mom.

It’s good to know that even Jesus had to deal with that. And it’s good to know that all moms have that ability. Without it, probably not very much would get done. At least for those of us who are not fathered by the Holy Spirit.


  1. Mothers who want things done will always get to the point. It is all the previous and ongoing relationship building which facilitates a positive response.

    Very good post, Rich.

  2. Thanks, Trish. I was concerned that people might think I was a bit irreverent on this post, but that's kind of the way I see this story. And I really do think moms have a special gift of motivation that works especially well on their own children.


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