This journey to my 60th birthday includes a ton of reflection about my relationship with my mother. I have always felt deep down that I got on her nerves. We were so opposite. She was all classy and appropriate. I was talkative and brash. The only daughter in the family of four children, I wrestled with my brothers and our dog.
I played tackle football with boys in the neighborhood, and I tried hard to fit in with my brothers and boy cousins.
I ran on the boys’ cross-country team my freshman year in high school (to be fair, there was no girls team).
I didn’t notice what my mother was doing: Working hard to give us a good childhood and lovely home. Paying for piano lessons and track cleats. Making breakfast and dinner every day even though she worked full time my entire life. Taking us to church and leading the choir. That I do remember. She always took us to church even though our dad never went. Mom was steady in my life like air, and I know her faith sustained and strengthened her. I had zero appreciation for it.
In my teen years, I began to notice her, and I wanted to be noticed by her. We were the only females in the family, so I felt we ought to be close. I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents’ marriage was under its greatest strain while I was a teen. With no other conclusion to draw, I chalked it up to not being lovable enough. I certainly didn’t start out as a very comely child!
And so, this lack of clarity about how my mom truly felt about me has nagged me since she died in 1987. As I wrote in my prior post, there is nothing quite like a mother’s love. There is also nothing quite like the need for it, nor few things worse than the uncertainty of it. For me anyway, it has cast a shadow upon my sense of worth and okay-ness.
This morning I decided to say it’s true. For the sake of settling the matter before I turn 60, let’s say it was a struggle for my mom to love me. Lots of kids get on their parents’ last nerves. Let’s say I was legit annoying as hell.
Even if it’s true, it doesn’t change the delight of God in me. He made me this way, and he delights in what he made. Talkative and brash is just dirt on the surface of leadership and courage. The annoying things get purged over time. I’m not a girl anymore. I can shift into classy and appropriate mode when required.
If my mom were here, I think all my doubts about her love would have been put to rest long ago. She was so kind and gentle and generous. I can envision the healing conversations we could be having now if she were here at age 88. We would be enjoying these photos, especially this one of the two of us arm in arm in front of the home she lovingly tended.
But she’s not here.
And the loneliness of this is unbearable at times. On the other hand, I realize that it is normal, and good, and intentional. Only God can fill certain places, heal certain wounds, and offer the love we long to feel deep within. I can’t burden others with being my all in all. No human – not even a mother – can do that.
And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’ love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
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