This blog continues my reflections on the piety of my mother, Johanna Beeke (d. July 23, 2012).
2. Lover of Scripture. Mother loved to read the Bible. That became all the more apparent in her declining years. Near the end, she would sleep twenty hours a day; her four hours awake were entirely devoted to eating and reading the Bible. What a witness she was to all who took care of her! Once I was thinking, “Why does the Lord still keep her alive?” Then, I heard one of the great-grandchildren said, “Grandma is such a witness to me. All she does is read her Bible.”
About a month before she passed on to her Savior and Lord, I said to her, “Mother, can you understand what you are reading?” “Oh yes, dear,” she said, with a knowing smile. “Do you still profit from it—does it still help you to read the Bible?” “Oh yes, dear,” she said with another knowing smile.
That same night, I read Revelation 21:1–9 to her. When I arrived at verse 6, I said to her, “Mother, do you know what Jesus means when He says, ‘I am Alpha and Omega’?” As soon as I asked this, I thought, “How foolish to ask her a question you know she can’t answer because of her memory loss,” but she responded immediately. “Doesn’t that mean,” she said, “that Jesus is both the first and the last in our lives?” “Yes, Mother; yes, that’s it—that’s everything!” I said.
Mother could not talk to us as freely as Dad could about the work of the Holy Spirit in her soul. But her love for the Word and her godly walk of life made that unnecessary. We all learned about experiential theology from Dad and about practical theology from Mother. Not until I was in the ministry did I realize what an extraordinary combination this was and what special parents we were blessed with.
Because Mother couldn’t talk as freely with us as Dad could, she would read Bible-based literature—especially Christ-exalting stories to us, every Sunday afternoon. Sometimes she would break down as she read these wonderful stories about how God exalts His own name in the hearts of sinners. Someone at the visiting hours yesterday told me that his oldest memory of Mother is when his family came from Ontario to stay with our family when he was six years old. “All I remember,” he said, “is that she read Christian stories to us so sincerely on Sunday afternoon.”
Mother’s love for the Word was also evident in her conscientious church attendance. We were raised with the understanding that hearing God’s Word in the house of God was life’s top priority. No matter how much homework we had, we never thought about asking if we could stay home when Rev. W. C. Lamain, pastor of the Grand Rapids NRC, would come to preach for us every Wednesday evening. When God’s Word was being expounded, we were there. Our parents believed that we were not only responsible for what we heard in God’s house, but if we chose to absent ourselves, we were also responsible for what we could have heard but chose not to hear.
Let us thank God that by His grace, He gave us a mother who loved the Word.