It’s Mother’s Day.
The social media feeds are stock full of the smiling faces of my friends and their moms. There are endless sentiments of devotion, gratitude, and love. And I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t dream of denying that kind of immense joy to anyone. It’s pure, beautiful, sweet.
But it’s also a mixed bag for me.
Every year I am showered by homemade gifts and bear hugs from my own beautiful children. They are precious gifts, and I am blessed to be their mom. Yes, even on the excruciatingly hard days. I look at those two eternal lives that God has honored me to steward and feel overwhelmed by love for them.
But I also wonder… A single harrowing question haunts my soul—a question to my own mom that will never be answered.
“Mommy, did you ever love me at all?”
I was the chain that tied you to him; I know you always resented me for that.
I was just another burden on your exhausted shoulders; you reminded me often.
I was not the son that he wanted; I know he blamed you for that. I paid the price for it in bruises.
I remember the names you called me. I remember the resentment in your eyes. I remember the sharp sting of your hand across my cheek—a pain that didn’t even remotely compare to that of your harsh words.
I gaze at my own children and I don’t understand how a mother could not love her babies. Was there ever a moment, no matter how fleeting, that you looked at me with adoring eyes?
I wish I knew.
I always hoped that someday we could find peace. I never deceived myself into hoping for that unbreakable mother-daughter bond that others share, but a glimpse of something like understanding, perhaps.
Cancer, however, is a dream crusher. I shouldn’t have been sad; we were complete strangers after all. It had been nearly a decade since we last spoken a word. It shouldn’t have hurt because I have more scars than memories to mark our time together.
Yet, there was a part of me that mourned the relationship that never existed and the bond that could never be.
Death obliterated any remaining hope that lingered in the fragments of my shattered heart. You left me broken and wrestling with the demons of my youth.
For years I was angry.
I was angry with him, with you, with God. I owned my anger, and it owned me. I wielded it as both a shield and a weapon against any and everyone I met.
That’s where I met Jesus—or more accurately, where Jesus met me. He reached down into the deep, dark depths of my hatred and wrapped his arms around me. He still loved me when there was nothing much to love.
I would like to tell you that the healing was instantaneous, but it was not. Healing is slow, tedious, and oftentimes painful work.
With the gentle, loving hands of a healer He began to remove the chains that bound my soul and the bandages that strangled my heart. What was exposed beneath was battered, bloody, and raw.
Slowly, steadily He covered my gaping wounds with the healing salve of His love.
If I were being completely honest, sometimes the process hurt like hell. Actually, most of the time it hurt like hell.
In order to heal me, He first had to rebreak me. He had to cut deep into my flesh to remove the cancerous hatred that had wound its ugly tendrils around my heart, for indeed hatred is a deadly disease.
However, slowly but surely something beautiful began to emerge from the ashes of my past and my eyes began to see my mother clearly for the first time in my life—not through the lenses tarnished by sin and sorrow, but through the clarity of the love of Christ.
What I saw changed everything.
I finally saw the broken truth. I saw a woman who had endured her own lifetime of abuse, neglect, and pain. I saw a woman filled with fear, sadness, and regret. I saw a lonely woman without hope—someone who couldn’t express love because she had never experienced love herself.
And when I saw her—truly saw her—for the very first time, I no longer felt enveloped by anger or hatred. Rather, I was overcome with sadness and compassion for her.
And in that moment I finally understood what true forgiveness means. For the first time in my life I was completely free from the bondage of hatred that had consumed me my entire life.
That’s not to say that knowing Him changes the circumstances of my past; it doesn’t. But it does change the trajectory of my future. Without Him, today I could be her. Forgiveness certainly doesn’t excuse abuse; it frees the abused. Forgiveness is not about saying what you did to me was okay; it’s about saying I’m okay despite what you did to me.
It’s not to say that knowing Jesus erased all my scars; it didn’t. But He uses my scars as a great testimony to His faithfulness.
It’s not to say that brokenness won’t ever affect my life again; it will. But now I know that there is a hope far greater than anything this world can throw at me.
And it’s not to say that I know now if my own mother ever loved me; I don’t. But it gives me the ability to say this:
I don’t know if you ever loved me. I don’t know if you ever saw me through a mother’s eyes. I don’t know if there was ever a time when I was more than a burden or regret on your long list of life’s hard knocks. But I do know this. I’m sorry. I’m sorry you never knew true, unconditional love. I’m sorry no one ever told you how beautiful, unique, valued you were to God.
I know now that brokenness begets brokenness. You were a victim of a deadly cycle of abuse, a cycle that cannot be broken without the love and power of Jesus. It very nearly consumed me also, but I want you to know that the cycle has been broken in your daughter. I have found peace and joy in my life beyond all understanding or imagining.
I heard rumors, and I hope that you truly did find Jesus in those last years and that someday we will meet again under very different circumstances, our lives illuminated by the light of Christ. Perhaps we can even embrace as friends.
I want you to know that Jesus loved you. And I want you to know that I now understand that because He first loved us, through the immeasurable power of the Cross, I finally can say I love you too.
I want you to know that I’m okay and that I forgive you.
Happy Mother’s Day,