When I was four years old, I got my left ring finger stuck in a belt sander. It sanded off my finger nail, and much of the skin beneath it. My mom made woodcrafts, and I'd been "helping" her while she sanded something down, cleaning off the sawdust from the table, the floor, and in a not-so-brilliant move, the powered-on sander. The cloth I was using to dust got stuck in the rotating belt, and my finger quickly followed. My mom turned it off as quickly as she could, and as tears rolled down my eyes, her soft, strong arms carried me from the basement up to the living room. We sat in the big pink chair in our living room for what felt like an eternity, my mom rocking me back and forth, holding a cloth to my hand, me crying, and eventually, her crying as well.
That's the kind of mom she was, and still is. She felt my pain so deeply, it caused her pain as well. I'll never forget that day, and the intense love I felt as my mom wept over me. I remember thinking that I'd never felt safer.
I've grown up, and my finger (and its nail) are fine now. But as childhood faded away and I moved into the Big 10 years—the decade from adolescence to young adulthood—there have been new hurts and wounds, both for me and my mom.
I got my driver's license, went to college, broke some hearts, got my heart broken, changed my major, forgot to call my mom on her birthday, graduated, came home, moved out, dated more, changed jobs, moved, and watched my mom go from mother of three girls to grandmother of five (all my sisters' kids). The past 10 years have provided ample opportunities for disputes and relational damage. We've worked through a lot, and God has healed each of our hurts in many ways.
But still, sometimes there's still that…tension. You know?
I was talking to my sister about all of this the other day, and I asked her if she ever thought Mom and I would have a completely normal relationship.
She looked at me and shook her head. "Do you know any females who have a 'normal' relationship with their mothers? Moms and daughters have conflict. They have since the beginning of time. It's part of being a family. As a matter of fact, your relationship is normal. It's probably better than normal."
I sat for a moment and let her words soak in, realizing that these were words I'd needed to hear for years.
You see, I've spent more time than I'd like to admit clinging to envy and hopelessness, subtly comparing my relationship with my mother to what I thought it should be, thinking about the ways I've disappointed her. But my constant disappointment in anything less than a sitcom-level of relational "perfection" has done nothing but cause more hurt. It's been life-killing and void of the grace God gives me each day. Plus, it turns out that real moms sometimes fight for their children in a way that we can't always appreciate in the moment.
Moms deserve our respect. They also need grace like the rest of us—and they probably deserve it even more. A mom's job is a constant one. I did the math the other day and realized I've been the cause of thousands of hours of lost sleep for my mother for the last 26 years. When I was a baby, I had colic. I cried through the night. A lot. In elementary school I went through a span of several years where my mom didn't make it to morning without me coming into my parents' room, scared of monsters and darkness, begging to sleep in her warm bed. And I spent the majority of my teen years staying out later than she would have liked. For my mom, there's no such thing as restful sleep when she knows I'm not in my bed yet.
And that's just the beginning of the ways that mothers make sacrifices for their daughters.
Yet, in all of this, I've had the audacity to spend the majority of my time forgetting about those kinds of sacrifices, and instead, using my brain space to keep a laundry list of the times when things didn't go as I wanted.
I'm putting an end to this.
- I'm going to make a list of all the events from my past that I've resented, and the arguments I've selfishly dwelled on in my heart.
- I'm going to stop seeing myself as a martyr.
- I'm going to pray for God to forgive me for the ways I've refused to let things go in the past.
- And then, I'm going to throw that list in the trash.
My mom is a beautiful woman. She's artistic, she's caring, she's absolutely brilliant (she has three master's degrees—count them—three). She led me to Christ when I was four years old. In college when I needed my wisdom teeth out, she and my dad drove 16 hours roundtrip to come up on a Saturday and drive me home.
Without my mom, I wouldn't love Johnny Cash, Vincent Van Gogh, or old Matlock reruns. She lifts me up in prayer constantly, and when I ask her to pray for something, she does it right there and then—either in person or over the phone. And she's got this song that she sings when I've accomplished something I'm happy about. It goes, "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you, I hope that you're proud of you, too…" She sings it to me over the phone all the time, and she usually drags my dad onto the other line to add a verse or two. It's a horrible song, but the last few times she's sang it to me, I've felt tears in my eyes, realizing I won't hear that song at the other end of the receiver forever.
It's time to recall the moments where my mother wept over my pain. And it's time to let the other stuff go. Completely.
I can't be the only one who has, in the past, gone into Mother's Day with anxiety or bitterness in tow. But loved ones, you only get one mother. And she happens to be the mother God hand-chose for you. He knit you together in her womb for a blessed purpose, and that purpose is deterred every time we let ourselves dig in our heels and focus on the imperfections of our relationships.
To you who can identify, I ask you to join me. Humble yourself enough to give your mom the gift of grace this Mother's Day. Still struggling? Figure out how much sleep you've cost her.
Make a list. Throw it out.
And then go buy her flowers.
Happy Mother's Day, Mama. I love you.
This Mother's Day, Make a List of Things You Resent about Your Mother
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