Mothers, as flawed and imperfect as we can be, still have some obligations, a calling to do things for our children that we might call “normal,” as in we so often take these things for granted, they are expected, they are viewed as a child’s birth right. Food, clothing, and shelter for example, but there are other things too, emotional support, love, some praise, admiration for who and what our kids are as people.
It took me a long time to realize how much I missed out on as a kid, how these things that we perceive as normal to mothers, really aren’t normal at all, they’re extraordinary. One of the hardest things for me was having my own kids and in each step of their development, suddenly looking back and seeing my own mother’s failures.
I don’t say that with mean intentions towards my mother, I really do honor her for who and what she is and for the challenges she’s faced. Stuff happens, none of us are perfect. She may well have done the best she could with what she had at the time, but she still left a huge deficit there, and she continues to leave a deficit in the lives of all those around her. It’s challenging, perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, to look at my mother realistically, honestly, and yet with forgiveness and love.
Muhahaha! But of gallows humor here, but I am not kidding about the difficulty level of this particular relationship or the amount of forgiveness required here….
So estrangement, distance, that was my life plan, to see to it that she was well cared for, but to keep my distance, to live my own life. I love that word “estranged,” as in “I am estranged from my family, thank God,” but God apparently has had other ideas. He’s made me mad a few times too, because “my plan” and “His plan” do not always mesh.
It’s kind of funny, but I’ve made some bargains with God, entered into a few covenants with Him….without really consulting with Him at all. Lord, this is the plan, thank you for agreeing with me. A few times He’s totally just pulled the rug out.
Today I can see how reasonable, how valid, but how wrong my plan really was. People today will speak of being alienated from their family, distanced, estranged, and I will sometimes feel a twinge of envy, oh how nice it would be to simply wash my hands of the past, a past I had nothing to do with. Distance, yes, peace, all the bad things forgotten and washed away.
Or perhaps just swept under the rug and avoided, those walls I put up now firmly established as strong holds….
Whether one reconciles with family or not, I think there is such profound growth and healing that can come from facing what was lost, seeing what was stolen, confronting how that impacted us as individuals. Once you understand what is missing, what was taken, you can open the door to Christ’s healing and allow Him to hand you beauty for ashes.
One of the a hardest things for me was accepting that my mother is not going to change, not ever, but that Jesus Christ was going to change me instead. Somehow in that process of acceptance I became untangled from her, set free in a way that distance could have never have delivered.
I think small, God thinks big. My idea of being free from my mother was more about simply living in another state. God’s idea of freedom was about slowly and methodically removing all those tentacles that had woven themselves around my soul and now threatened to suffocate me. It’s like weeding a garden or perhaps threshing wheat, or peeling the layers off an onion one by one. He came to set the captives free, but freedom isn’t always what we imagine it to be, sometimes it’s even better, even more authentic and true than we ever thought possible.
My mother is here today, perhaps only ten feet away from me, and yet I am so free, untangled, no longer vulnerable. She still blames me for everything, her disapointment is still palatable, her disapproval a very tangible thing, but she has no power over me anymore, these dark bits of hers, they are not mine anymore.
I never understood this passage from Matthew 19:29, I thought it was mean, I thought it was asking too much, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
Today I get it. Today I understand. Letting go and letting God, forsaking all others and placing Him first, that’s the key to everything.