Mother’s Day is not always filled with Hallmark moments. My experience growing up would have never made an endearing copy. There were frequent outbursts of “I HATE YOU”! – spewing from my mouth on a regular basis. I recall first shouting those words when I was five, after having been beaten. My mother’s response followed, “I know you do! Now go to your room!”
Mothers are supposed to protect their children, teach them how to love by their example, and be evidence of God’s tender care. God lends children to their parents and wants them back as the same person he created. Instead, I grew in fear, anger, emptiness, and distrust. I never recall my mother (or father, for that matter) holding me, telling me they loved me or showing any semblance of nurturing. (A few years ago, my great-aunt confirmed that she never witnessed any affection in my family.)
I don’t recall thinking about Mother’s Day as a child. I doubt there was a card on the market that would have expressed my true feelings:
When I was older, my pain and sorrow overwhelmed me every Mother’s Day. I would go to the Hallmark store, stand at the card rack, and cry. I tried to hide my tears at the sight of the words on those beautiful cards: My Dearest Mother, Love, Thank You, Fond Memories, Laughter, Hugs. Words I never experienced or expressed.
That emptiness stayed with me for much of my life. After divorcing my first husband, my daughter and I lived with my parents. They had to know, when I was in my twenties, that I partied and drank to excess. Did they not ever see me leave for work some mornings still drunk? They had to sense there was something wrong. At the age of twenty-two, when I tried to kill myself, no one seemed to notice. We were all just surviving – and barely doing that. There we were: mom, dad, daughter, granddaughter, and the 800-pound gorilla making messes everywhere.
Until the day my mother died, I longed for her to tell me she loved me, “Please, just once” – and to say she was sorry. It never happened. My older sister suffered more abuse than me or my brother, and she needed healing as well. So, I decided that perhaps I could help her.
Seven years before my mother died, my parents moved to Arizona. One evening, before they left, I managed to initiate a conversation concerning my mom and my sister. As gently as possible, I told my mother that one day one of them was going to die (okay, I know that doesn’t sound so gentle!) and leave the other one to suffer memories of a relationship that desperately needed healing. Could she find it in her heart to talk to my sister and mend that relationship, tell her she loved her and that she was sorry? I recognized the empty expression staring back at me. “No” – that’s all she said. After they left, I cried because I knew that I would never hear those words either.
My sister is still waiting; still unable to get beyond the pain. But by the grace of God, my life has changed because I did not want to continue carrying the hatred and bitterness that was consuming me. As my heart began to mend, I could see things differently. The false self I presented for so many years has been gradually taking a back seat to the true self God created. I have had to do a lot of forgiving, and a lot of soul-searching to accept my own faults and to seek forgiveness to help mend the hearts of those I have not loved well.
You see, it is only in experiencing God’s forgiveness, as we admit our own failings, that we can freely forgive others. It is only by standing broken at the foot of the cross, that I could now see my mother as someone who did the best she could. She failed to be the mother I needed her to be because of her own brokenness, not because I was unworthy of her love. I have forgiven her, and I am sure God has too. Can I get an Alleluia!?
My mother has been gone for over thirty years. I believe it’s time for me to send her that Mother’s Day card I always longed to send:
The only perfect mother was Mary, and I am certain Jesus never had a problem choosing a card for her on Mother’s Day! And Father’s Day probably was a delight for him too! As for the rest of us: “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Not some – ALL! – every last one of us. And it’s just stinkin’ thinkin’ to imagine otherwise.
So, this Mother’s Day, what do you say? Go to that card shop and pick out the most beautiful card there. Give it to your imperfect mother, hug her, and tell her you love her. And if, like me, your mother is no longer with you, buy it anyway, write what you would say if she were here, and tuck it away somewhere.
If you are the mom not sure of receiving that loving card, this may be the time to ask for forgiveness. Even if your kids are a total mess, let the healing begin with you. It’s not about laying blame; it’s about laying a new foundation for your relationship. If you’re still breathing – it’s not too late.
Here’s a grace-filled moment for you: Recently, I was thinking about my mom and wondered if things would be different today because I’m different. I am in a place now where I could show her a love she probably has never known, and we could possibly heal our relationship. Even though my mother is gone, that thought took me to the realization that when I struggle in relationship with one of my kids (even though they’re adults, it happens!), I am still here! I can initiate the healing. As long as I am willing to seek forgiveness, please God, they will never be left, as I was, with open wounds in their hearts.
Is taking that first step to reconciliation with your child too hard? Then try this. Go to the card shop and pick out the card you would most want your child to give you for Mother’s Day. Take it home and pray over it. Pray that God will make you the mother deserving of that card (because God says you are), and see what happens!