“One look at you and anyone can tell you are your father’s daughter. But you are a tough cookie just like me. I raised tough children,” my mother likes to say with pride.
We get a lot of things from our mums.
It goes beyond the superficial things. Cooking skills. Compassion. Maybe an inexplicable love for sour plums.
But we also get the less pretty things. Her temperament. Her insecurities. The worldview she’s carried from her youth and spilled into the way she brought you up. The things she said to you, over and over again. Painful things, which leave deep wounds. They most likely came from a good, loving heart – but, when filtered through the broken beliefs built into her over the years, have come out less than perfect.
A big part of us are the sum of the things our mothers have woven into our very beings. You’ve got a gift for writing. You are such a scatterbrain. You need to slim down those thighs. You need to talk to God often and read the Bible every day.
How she continued to mother us way into our 20s. I think you’re not serious enough about marriage. Mummy just doesn’t want you to be lonely when you are older.
What I did know, as clear as day, was that my mother loved me every moment of my life.
I used to wonder if my mother ever felt weird because her daughter looked nothing like her and had a mind and voice of her own from a very young age. She admitted years later that her distance from her mother left her struggling to relate to me as I grew up, a child who did not fit the form or shape or demeanour – or purpose – she imagined a daughter would.
I think I felt the effects of this dissonance more than I could process it in earlier days. Those were hard days.
But what I did know, as clear as day, was that my mother has loved me every moment of my life. She loved me even though I may not have been her graceful princess (beyond the age of 12), her wonderful helper around the house, her successful businesswoman or mother of her grandchildren by 27.
In fact, I worked hard to rebel against these very images just to show her. I openly defied her wishes. I made her the bad guy in the narrative of my life. I was far from faultless.
But despite any trouble she was having learning to be a mother to the woman who no longer resembled her little girl, she made it clear in her hugs and words that I was her precious child and she would love and support me – quirks and failures and infuriating non-conformity – always.
Of course, this was easier said than done. It always is.
When I was going through a season of spiritual awakening and healing, a mentor asked me: Is an older woman walking you through this? She was referring to my 15-year struggle with severe body image issues, many of which had taken root from comments made by other people – my mother included – as I was growing up.
You should, the mentor went on to say as I told her there was none. You can’t walk out of this on your own.
I went home and thought about it. I didn’t know many older Christian women well enough to ask for such a big favour. But you do know one, I felt the Spirit stir within me suddenly. Why don’t you ask your mum?
My mum? The woman I consciously blamed for a bulk of the pains of my young adult years? You did this to me, I could see myself saying in teary-eyed anger. I hate myself because you could never really be happy with me the way I am.
But as I’d walked with Christ and experienced His reality in my life through the dark years, I’d earlier found an other-worldly forgiveness for the grievances locked away in my heart.
Now was the time I found this forgiveness for my mother … and myself. This was also the person who sheltered me in her own body and possessed a spiritual authority over my life like no other. She had given up her career two decades ago to take up the heavenly mantle to ensure I was well loved, nurtured and protected.
An incident from my childhood springs to mind. My parents were shopping for a computer and had left me to wander the store, occupied by a bag of McDonald’s french fries. One of the staff sees me standing near the computer display and starts berating me for soiling the keyboard even though I hadn’t touched anything. I was close to tears trying to defend my innocence.
Your mother and father probably didn’t wake up every day thinking of new ways to ruin your life. If they had known a better way to raise you, they would have done it in a heartbeat.
Suddenly, my mother stepped between me and the shop assistant and loudly declared: Don’t you dare bully my daughter for something she did not do. Pick on someone your own size.
The Holy Spirit was right. There was no one better to do the job.
My life changed the day I said these four difficult words: Pray for me, Mum. Because she did. With the same motherly fearlessness I’d known as a child, my mum stood over me and interceded for her baby girl’s life.
She could have recoiled in bitterness and shame at my audacious request. She could have angrily denied any responsibility for the way things turned out.
But instead she chose to pray. And as we made our peace with each other for the wrongs of yesteryears, I’ve experienced an inner redemption that can barely be described in words.
A wise man once told me, “Your mother and father probably didn’t wake up every day thinking of new ways to ruin your life. If they had known a better way to raise you, they would have done it in a heartbeat. They chose the best out of all the options available to them.
“Acknowledge their mistakes and let it go.”
Not all of us have mothers who can pray for us, but there’s a little something we all can do. This Mother’s Day, start with a simple decision to forgive your mother for the old hurts you’ve held onto for so long. And perhaps ask for forgiveness yourself. Healing awaits on the other side.
Then take a deep breath. And let it go.