If you’re like me, you salivate every time a superhero movie comes out. Maybe you even read the comics because, hey, it’s cool to be a nerd now-a-days. I love superhero stories because I can see so many pieces of God’s story– our story– in them. I love watching Iron Man overcome his personal demons in order to overcome the enemy. I love watching Thor humble himself in order to advance his father’s kingdom. I love seeing Captain America turn his own weaknesses into strength and lay his life down for others. These stories draw my heart closer to Jesus, the ultimate hero. But the problem with super hero stories is that they can sometimes make it easier to overlook the real heroes in our lives. The ones who can’t fly, or lift a megaton hammer, or chuck an indestructible shield. That’s why I’ve decided to spend a little bit of time on this blog honoring the real-life heroes I’ve known all my life. I will title these posts “Heroes: _______” and will try to write a new one every week or so. As I write these, I can’t help but think what a perfect time it is to do this. Emily and I are about to embark upon an incredibly new journey in India, and it’s good to stop for a moment and look back on where we’ve come from and the people who have been the hands and feet of Jesus to us thus far. And the obvious first choice is…
Sherry Amberg (Or as I like to call her, Mom)
My mom was born in Hickman, a tiny town in the westernmost tip of Kentucky. What I love most about her is her drive. She is always trying to be the best at whatever she sets her mind to. I imagine that drive must’ve started early in life because in high school, she was the head cheerleader and she dated (you guessed it) the quarterback. And she didn’t just date him, she married him. Jack Amberg. (Or as he was known, Little Jack the Quarterback!) One of my favorite stories about her growing up is about her stubborn-in-a-good-way drive to succeed. I don’t quite remember it perfectly but, as my most faithful reader, I’m sure she’ll comment on this post and correct any mistakes. I believe she was in college at the time, and there was some discussion between her and her dad about how to get the money to fix her car. At some point it, my grandpa said to her something about not being able to do the construction work that he had done because a girl like her could never handle all that labor. Far be it from my mom to take a challenge sitting down, she went straight to that work site, got the job and worked it until her car situation was settled. I’m sure she also threw the occasional good-natured “told you so” my grandpa’s way.
As you can imagine, a woman with so much perseverance and drive would eventually face a incredibly hard decision when she had kids. It might have been one of the toughest choices she’s ever had to make, and I know so because she still talks about it to this day: Stay home or go back to work? Now that’s a hard decision because it’s a gray area. It’s not as simple as black-or-white, right-or-wrong. The right choice in that case is different for everyone, and I believe it’s not the choice you make, but how you follow through on the choice you made that is what counts. That’s what makes me so proud of my mom. She eventually chose to go back to work and that was the right choice for her, and for us, not because it was innately better than staying at home, but because of how she lived out that choice. My mom lived a grueling life for quite sometime because she strove to be the best mom she could as well as the best employee she could. For her it wasn’t a 50% mom and 50% employee sort of thing. It was a 100% mom and 100% employee sort of thing. And when you live your life that way, it requires major sacrifice. She lived in the constant tension of how many hours to put in, so she could go home to her kids. She wore herself out at work and then got home and somehow mustered up the resilience to give it her all as a mom too. We never saw her tired. She never took a well-deserved break after work. She got home and jumped right into being a mom. I don’t know many ladies who could ever do that, and because of that I got to not just learn a lesson from her that lots of kids don’t: work-ethic. You see not only did my mom teach me about a work-ethic like most moms do, she also showed it to me. I was privileged (especially as I got older) to overhear her stories about picking up other peoples’ slack at work, or going above and beyond what was required of her. I confess, I wish I had payed attention and gotten down the lesson of a good work-ethic earlier in life, but when I finally began to develop a work-ethic for myself, I had a mountain of second-hand experience to base it on, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.
John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this; that a man” (or woman, in my mom’s case!) “lay down his life for his friends.” That’s what I learned from my mom: At the end of the day, work-ethic doesn’t mean you work hard to be entitled to some reward; it’s an act of love. Because you if you work hard for a reward–promotion, payraise, etc– you may never actually get it. In my mom’s case, being a woman in a male-dominated industry sometimes meant that she received less pay than the men who brought less to the company than she did. But she didn’t do it for the salary or the prestige of a high-level position. She did it for us. So now, when that alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning, I have something to get me out of bed. I think to myself how I want to love Emily and my future kids as well as my mom loved me. I think about how Christ laid down His life for me, and I can understand that concept so much better because I was blessed with a mom who laid her life down for me. She’s retired these days, by the way. And I’m so happy she gets the opportunity to enjoy a slower-paced life than she used to, although I suspect she’s not slowing down at all these days. She fills her time with projects like remodeling the house, or growing a garden. I don’t suppose she will ever slow down but that’s what I love about my mom. How boring it would be if she just decided to sit around and do nothing with her time. But I’m thankful she gets to apply that same drive to things that please her. She deserves it… Just be careful not to tell her she can’t do something; She just might end up doing it!