Mother’s Day remembrances have a way of stirring tender and also sometimes painful memories in hearts.
I recall a friend who years ago shared a story about a family member, a young girl, who was a lovely child and very sweet. She was also a child who, like myself, was sturdily built. She often endured bullying from other children. But more sad and unfortunate, was that she experienced some of the same from her own grandmother. The child’s grandmother was slim and attractive. Unfortunately, she often made references to the child’s weight, size, and her eating habits in front of and to the child that caused her to feel shame and humiliation and the child’s mother to feel anger toward the grandmother. Today such conduct is referred to as “body shaming” and many take a strong position against such conduct, just as the child’s mother did at the time.
Another woman had shared a similar story that occurred in her childhood, but which, by the grace of God found a sweet resolution many years later with her mother who had been experiencing reduced cognitive and communication function for several years. She writes:
Mama visited yesterday. I gave her a Mother’s Day gift early. She’s like a little kid. We had a good long visit, had a fudgesicle and drank hot peach tea. All of a sudden she got very lucid…..and said….”Do you remember that time I bought you a container of strawberry ice cream and I made you eat it till you got sick?” “Yes, Mom, I remember. It hurt me very much,” I said. She then said, “That was very stupid. It hurt you.” “Yes, Mom it did but I forgave you,” I said. But, honestly, I teared up. It’s not a good memory. She then said, “I’m sorry, Honey.” Bless her. So I changed the subject. A few minutes later in her crazy voice she said, “Don’t remind me of that again!!!!” Ummm, Mom, I didn’t remind you. You brought it up. That’s life caring for an elderly, impaired parent!
This woman-child who shared this story is such a gracious and loving individual who mothers her own and God’s own with a great love.
When she shared this story, I felt a sudden mix of compassion and joy that led me to tell her that this was God speaking his love to her through this person, her mother, who hadn’t known she was being used by the devil back then, those many years ago. But now, in that sudden moment of lucid clarity and strong voice, she was also being used to speak God’s heart to this woman-child at this season of life. “God loves you. Mom loves you, and I love you,” I said to her.
She told a family member about that healing moment between her and her mother and the family member said that she should have just lied about it and told her mother that it was no big deal.
The woman-child said, “ So I should’ve lied to her? Umm, nope. I needed the apology honestly. It was heartfelt. That moment changed me. Anyway, I appreciated her honesty even if she then forgot later. It’s all good.”
I agreed. Minimizing one’s own pain and lying in an attempt to give the perpetrator of pain peace is not helpful. And, I suspect that most people in that situation would suspect the lie and be left with the continued burden of guilt for having hurt someone she loved. If God has wrought conviction, repentance, and apology in a heart, we should receive it and give the peace of Christ to the repentant sinner by acknowledging the pain and receiving the apology and granting forgiveness. Truth, painful as it may be at times, is a powerful healing force for the forgiver and the forgiven.
God has an exquisite sense of timing and a sense of humor. Sometimes in spite of painful hurts, God will bring healing and reconciliation in moments when such work is least expected.
And, the devil is defeated again.
As we talked further about that sudden, unexpected moment of truth and intimate connection with her Mother, I said to her, “I guarantee you that your experience of that with your mother as a child made you a kinder mother in some ways because of the pain you felt.” She agreed, “Yes it did. I never wanted them to feel that way…. Ever! Make no mistake, I messed up in other ways but not in that way.”
I reminded her, “And God has rewarded your faithful submission to pruning through the years by redeeming that incident with your own Mother with a very personal touch of his love.”
For some that moment of reconciling the pain of a past hurt will not come face- to- face and through a clear, heartfelt voice of repentance. Perpetrators of the pain may be deceased or hearts may have hardened to the point that the relationships have long since moved on beyond intimate, loving conversations. But God can and will still do the work of granting a forgiving spirit and healing the pain in us. We simply have to be honest with him, acknowledge our pain and ask him to be the Good Parent to us, the one that understands and speaks words of affirmation and love over us. God never inflicts the pain. However, God does not always prevent it either. When God does allows it, he will always make a way to strengthen and refine us through it when we give it to him.
This Mother’s Day I spoke at a church in Alabama. I spoke about Jesus’ intercession in prayer on behalf of his disciples…… the prayer in John 17. It was a prayer not only for those close friends, his disciples who had journeyed alongside him for three years and whom he was about to leave in the physical sense of “abiding” with one another. It was a prayer for each of us, too, as believers who would come to know him generations later through their witness and work. Jesus prayed for unity with God and one another through belief in him, joy, protection from evil, sanctifying righteousness, embracing and witnessing to the Truth, and that we would know God’s love for us and be able to love others as He loves us.
One of the most loving things we can do is accept a sincere acknowledgement of wrong from another and forgive them, just like God does.