Let me tell you something about mothers and daughters. I don't have a daughter-- I've always wanted one but the Lord's chosen to bless me immensely with sons. But I do have a mother, and I am a daughter. Sometimes mother-daughters are mirror images of one another, and sometimes the tension between them seems like an impossible distance from where once they were tethered in the womb.
Sometimes we forget that our mothers were daughters once, young brides, and exhausted parents. Sometimes we forget that they might have experienced the effects of a childhood chipped away by hurt, neglect, abuse, or insecurity. Or that, despite the smiling pictures of her with you, as a young child, there were years of tears, fear, and anger behind those perfectly posed snapshots. And somewhere in the journey of becoming a woman, you find your mother's words chaffing, her attitudes scathing, and her choices debilitating. And the tether feels like a heavy chain.
And as an adult daughter of an adult mother, there may have been seasons when you resent being tethered to her because what holds you together seems so frustrating, unclear, and easily broken.
We live in a world that hardly believes that there can be real healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation in families; we settle for tolerating one another, not knitting ourselves to those we find difficult to love.
That's where I'd be too...if not for the Gospel.
People don't ever really change...except where Grace is at work.
People can't ever really forgive...except when forgiveness is really received through the Cross.
People don't truly love unselfishly and without manipulation...except when brokenness and conviction roots out pride and self-absorption.
People can't see past the horrors done TO them...until they experience what Christ has done FOR them.
For some, to be tethered to one's mother can be a burden...unless it becomes an opportunity.
And, in recent years, this opportunity in my life has been a showcase for God's grand purpose--not to simply give us happy families--but to glorify himself through redeemed lives and redeemed relationships.
My mom was here last week, graciously offering herself to care for my six boys for five days as Troy and I attended our school's parent training-- so important because our parents teach from home every other day of the week. She blessed each of us. For Troy and I to have time as we prepared for our various roles of leadership during the week, for the boys as they learned Chinese, played games, and spent hours upon hours talking to her about anything and everything. And because she knows what it is to be devalued and un-nurtured, she listens-- really listens-- to the boys.
You may have seen me post pics on FB and IG this last week, of treating my mom to a haircut, some re-styling, and general makeover fun. I'm thrilled to style her and help her update her wardrobe, as she rarely spends her resources on herself, but sacrificially gives to bless others. But what blessed me the most, had nothing to do with nice haircuts or pretty accessories; it blessed me to see her growing in grace from the inside out. There's nothing more beautiful on a woman than a joyful smile. And, understanding more and more of my mom's story...I now know why it has taken so long for this smile to be genuine, why real peace has been so elusive for so many years.
My mom is a work in progress-- as are all of us. There is nothing perfect about her, about me, or about our relationship; our imperfections only draw attention to how gracious our perfect Master is. And he is at work...renewing the bond and breaking down the barriers. The tethering is growing ever stronger, not because we found a point of conversation, an activity we like to do together, or because we've learned to avoid all areas of tension. We've tried all that, and failed miserably.
Instead, the tethering has only strengthened on account of being broken, first, of our expectations, idols, and self-righteousness in light of being mother and daughter. Perhaps, for the first time, I'm discovering that the tether between my mom and me is not merely flesh and blood, is not emotional, is not need-based. It is because we are both forgiven in Christ, and were chosen to love one another, to bear with one another, and chosen to be a part of the tapestry of Grace in the other's life. It's not a chain of burden, but a thread of freedom. We are growing in our FREEDOM to love one another, in spite of history, in spite of differences, in spite of ourselves...in the Spirit of Christ.
"We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19