This next part of my journey to freedom involves my relationship with my mom. In all my previous blog-posts when my story directly involves someone else, I’ve asked them to read what I’ve written before it is posted so I can edit anything they are not comfortable with before it goes public. Unfortunately, I can’t do that this time. Mom is alive, but she’s had a number of strokes which have affected her mind. So in lieu of my mom, I asked my sister to read it. She thought I should post it.
Still I hesitate… I guess I need you to know a few things from the beginning:
- I really admire my mom. I’ve admired her from about 4 years into my marriage. If I’d been in her shoes I know I wouldn’t have done any better, and I truly believe I would have done even worse by a long shot. Honestly.
- Mom has a lot a regrets over her “child rearing” years. She has verbalized on several occasions that many of those years were “terrible,” and she wishes it had been different.
- I believe that if Mom were well enough to read and make sense of these next two posts she would have some measure of regret, but would ultimately be glad if they could be helpful for others to avoid the pitfalls she found herself in.
With these things in mind, I continue …
Perhaps it was the brightness of real living in so many facets of life that another tenacious shadow became strikingly visible. My mom and I have never been particularly close – OK, we’re good for about 3 or 4 hours in the same room before I have to start talking myself down. That’s not enjoyable; but the real kicker for me came when I read in Proverbs, "There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers." I didn’t want to be lumped in with that group. I was kind to my mom, polite, hospitable, even enjoyed some time with her, but bless her??? Nope, that wasn’t something I could do.
You may remember I was molested for years as a child. Mostly I wanted to be away from home because mom was angry… a lot. From my perspective as a child, I was certain I wasn’t wanted or loved. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t believe that was actually true, but because that was what I believed as a child, and because it seemed to be confirmed in so many words, actions and behaviors at home, it became my reality as I grew up. I knew dad loved me, but he was rarely home. I’m the youngest of five children by a 5 and a half year gap, so mom and I spent a lot of time at home alone together. Believe me when I say the message was loud and clear: I was in the way, I frustrated her, I made her angry, it would have been better if I were anywhere but here.
In February of 2008 I wrote “Yikes” beside the verse [“There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers”] in my Bible study book. 'Yikes' because I knew God didn’t want this to be the attitude of my heart, and 'yikes' because there was no on/off switch in my heart to simply make it change. As you know from my previous blogs, my Bible reading continued on, I discovered freedom in life, freedom to tell others the good news of the gospel, unparalleled freedom in my marriage and in February of 2009 I came to the same verse again and had the same reaction: “Yikes”. This time though, I said, “OK Father. This is clearly not anything healthy in my heart. Will you show me what you’re asking me to do and then in your grace enable me to ‘bless my mom’?”
The next morning found me at the computer, coffee at the side, doing my own study on the subject. I began by simply looking up the word “mother” in the Bible and reading what those verses said, looking at the meaning of the words and talking all the while with my Heavenly Father, asking for His help to break free from this dark attitude in my heart. The following is taken from my journal on that first morning of study dated Feb. 26, 2009…
Proverbs 1:8 “Listen, my son, to your father's instruction [which means discipline, chastening, correction] and do not forsake your mother's teaching [which is the word ‘towrah’ in Hebrew].”
This verse speaks of parents teaching, correcting, and guiding their children even with chastening if it’s required. And so I prayed,
“Father, what did Mom teach me? She didn’t teach me about trusting You, or obeying You. She didn’t teach me to be in love with my husband; she taught me to stay married, though. She taught me to work hard, and to make do with what I have. She taught me to spend my money carefully.”
Then I needed to find out what “towrah” is. I discovered it means law, direction, instruction, custom, manner, the Mosaic Law1, and so I prayed:
“This looks like the same word as “torah” and I can see it’s used in other places of God’s law. Mom didn’t teach me this, except that You existed… I’m pretty sure that was it. She taught me to have some measure of respect for You, and I knew the words to “Jesus Loves Me” – I suppose those are good things to have learned.”
I moved on to the next verse - Proverbs 15:20 “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises [which means to hold in contempt, disdains (which means to be vile, worthless)] his mother.”
This verse stopped me cold. “Oh Father, this is beginning to hit hard. Please help me not to despise my mom. All the seeds are there, so I know that even if I don’t despise her now, I could very easily; and maybe I do already. Help me to see her value and to have reason to value her …”
At this point I wracked my mind to think of anything and everything I could honestly value her for. “She is the one who gave birth to me; that has value to me now. She kept me alive as a child; that has value to me now. She gave me space of my own, she made sure I went to school, she arranged for me to have piano lessons – even changing to a new teacher; I’m glad for that. She bought me a new, really good piano – that’s huge…
Father, I’m not sure if there is more or not, but I pray that You’ll help even these to be enough. If there are more, will You remind me of them – help me to see them, but most importantly, help me to value my Mom – value who she is, value the fact that she is my mother. She’s here, she’s alive and I can know who she is – that is valuable too…”
Perhaps a psychologist could tell me why my mom’s approval is so important to me. I just know I would love to hear her say, “I really like you.” “I admire you.” “You’ve done well.” “I love you.” Yet God isn’t about me setting my mom straight. He simply asks that I bless her; that I value her; that I not despise her. And in choosing to be willing to obey, a softening began that I had not known before. Instead of a solid wall, the bricks of ‘not caring’ began to loosen and crumble; I wasn’t blessing her yet, but I began to see some change in the attitude of my heart and I knew that was a good thing. The next day would see more changes yet.