Mamma Said

“Mamma said there’d be days like this,”  I probably first heard that phrase when The Shirelles released the song in 1961 but I don’t remember hearing it till 1976.  It was March and I was in the mountains of New Mexico on a Ranger training exercise.  We had on what were called jungle fatigues.  They were super lightweight.  Very suitable for jungles not at all for mountains.  It dropped to 25 degrees.  Rangers don’t carry tents or sleeping bags.  We were in groups of four “spooning” on top of a nylon poncho with another covering us.  With my teeth chattering so much I couldn’t stop them, I hear Bob Mayer say with a sigh, “Mamma told me there’d be days like this.”

Now I’m quite sure Bob didn’t mean that his mother had told him someday he’d find himself spooning with 3 other soldiers on a miserable March night in the mountains of New Mexico, but that phrase itself conveys a lot of comfort.  Forewarned is in some sense forearmed, and Mama spoke of trial in terms of limited duration.  There’d be “days” not week, months, or years like this.

Jesus forearms the apostles, and us too.  He tells them of the bad things to come, and points out that this is so they wouldn’t be surprised when they happen.  He too says they’re “days” i.e. they won’t last, they will in fact be shortened for the sake of elect (Matthew 24:22).  Paul tells Timothy “all that live godly in this life will suffer” (2 Timothy 3:12).  Jesus tells us if the world hated Me it will hate you (John 15:18-19).

Jesus told me there’d be days like this.  This goes not just for those “blue” days, but the downright black ones.  He tells us in John 16:2 “a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.”  We are fooling ourselves if we ever thought we’d be taken to heaven “on flowery beds of ease” (TLH 445:2).  No, the Lord not only didn’t promise us a rose garden.  He promised us thorns, veritable messengers from Satan to buffet us as St. Paul said of his thorn.  Why?  Because of the surpassing glories that have been revealed to us by the Crucified One crowned with thorns.

The reading of this post can be enhanced by listening to the Shirelles here .  But if you’re going to do that you also have to listen to John Lennon’s “Nobody Told Me” here .  It was released posthumously in 1984, but I think it was written in 1980.  So whether it was 19 or 23 years later, nobody told  John Lennon, not even his Momma (listen to the song), that there would be days like these.

Your momma, Holy Mother Church, your Father, and your Lord and Savior have told you.  That’s the difference between the tones of the two songs.  The Shirelles have been told and so being unsurprised can be upbeat.  Poor John wasn’t told and so is surprised and melancholy.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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