This article was first published August 31, 2013 and has been updated.
Shawna Phillips tells us her faith building experience of shunning her 80-year-old mother. We can all gain strength from her example of loyalty to Jehovah. We asked Sister Phillips what it was like growing up with her mother.
She was a wonderful mother and faithful sister. My father died young, and she was left with four children to care for. Things were rough. My mother worked two jobs and still found time to study with us for every meeting. We almost never missed one.
Sometimes there wasn’t enough food, and my mother would go hungry just to make sure us kids ate. She never thought of herself first. We were all in the Theocratic Ministry School as soon as we could read, and she’d help us prepare our talks. But she also made room for fun things too. No matter how tired she was, she’d always try to find an inexpensive family activity we could do, even if it was just popping some popcorn and watching a movie.
When I was around eight, I started to get sick. My mom would sit up with me all night while I cried. Then she’d have a sister watch me and go to work in the morning. It turned out that my kidneys were bad, and eventually, in my teens, I needed dialysis.
This is a sad turn of events, but you look healthy now.
I am healthy, thanks to my mother. I needed a kidney transplant and she was a match. So she gave me a kidney. The Friends were wonderful at this time and did what they could to help my mother through her recovery. They made sure the other three children were cared for.
Well it certainly sounds like she started out as a very faithful servant of Jehovah!
She was. She leaned so heavily on Jehovah for those years, and she taught us children to do so too. We were all baptized and married in the Truth. My brother is an elder and my two sisters pioneer. I pioneered for a while, but then I had two children of my own. My second child was born prematurely. That’s common in women with kidney transplants. My mother was right there tirelessly taking care of my toddler and supporting me.
So what went wrong?
Well, some years ago my mother read an apostate lie that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society had joined the United Nations as a non-governmental organization. An NGO. She believed it. I was appalled. How could she believe such slander? The Watchtower always taught us that the United Nations was the scarlet colored wild beast and in direct opposition to Jehovah’s kingdom. They would never do such a thing.
Instead of just dismissing these false accusations, she kept reading. Sadly, she concluded that the Watchtower did not have the Truth, and she left the organization. My siblings and my children all shun her. She has never met my grandchildren. It’s hard, you know? She’s my mother, but she’s a corrupting influence. Her heart is just bankrupt, and that’s very difficult to accept.
That’s such a betrayal! It kind of makes everything she ever did for you not really mean anything.
Exactly. It’s all washed away like dust in the wind.
So how are you dealing with the day-to-day responsibility to shun?
I rely on Jehovah. I pray to stay firm and loyal. It’s not always easy. My mother is in a nursing home now. I fulfill my Christian obligation to make sure her physical needs are met, but I don’t visit her. The children don’t visit her. Sometimes that causes a problem with the staff at the nursing home.
In what way?
Well, last week they called me to ask if I would come in to visit my mother. I told them absolutely not. They then said she had been crying for her children and grandchildren, and she wasn’t doing so well. They had a difficult time understanding, worldly people often do, but I remained adamant. I said I was sorry that my mother was lonely and crying and that I didn’t wish her any extra pain, but I had to remain loyal to Jehovah. She would just have to work it through herself.
Do you ever feel tempted to give in?
I do at times. I think about the sacrifices she made for us kids. I think about the kidney she gave me. She never said a mean word to any of us. I did feel like my resolve was going to crumble for a while, but then I went to the district convention this summer and I was up-built. The brother reminded us that Jehovah wants our loyalty, and that may mean shunning those who have done the most for us. It wasn’t my choice to shun my mother but her choice to leave Jehovah. I’m committed to remaining steadfast to Jehovah.
That is truly an encouraging story! Your example is proof that we can remain loyal even if it means letting our mothers die alone in a nursing home. May Jehovah continue to bless your efforts.
Friends, when your loyalty is put to the test, will you be like Sister Phillips’s mother, or will you be like Sister Phillips? May we all remain strong in these last days and continue to show our loyalty by shunning those we love.