I grew up as a church girl. So I was always in church and never wanted to miss a Sunday. Joe and I met at church and ever since, going to church has been a huge part of our lives.
Then we had our first baby, and I looked at Mother’s Day Sunday with the joy of being a mom, and celebrating this amazing new milestone in my life: I’m a mom!! We went to church together for several Mother’s Days- knowing it was a way for Joe to love me, wanting to celebrate with me and because that’s what you did.
But Joe had spent too many Mother’s Days pretending he was fine.
Several years later, we had grown closer, and we were becoming more vulnerable in our relationship to the point that Joe could come clean: I hate going to church on Mother’s Day. It wasn’t just church- but it was the whole awful day. He dreaded it. It was like pouring salt into an open wound.
He hesitated, knowing how this would affect me, me who found so much of my identity as a mom. But he asked me for one thing, could we not go to church on Mother’s Day. Could we make Mother’s Day less mothersday-sy-ish. He needed breathing space to help him get through it.
I wasn’t quite sure how to to take it at the time. Even though I knew about his past and the incredible hurt that his mother had caused him, I didn’t always see how much it still affected him. I had to ask God – help me understand this, how do I love him through this?
There was some air let out of my balloon – a bit of disappointment that “Mother’s Day church” and elaborate Mother’s Day celebrations may not be in the cards for me. I had to accept that that might be expecting way more than he could give. The pain was too great.
This would be a hard season more than a happy season.
This was new territory for me- from my experience, mothers were the caring superwomen who were always there for you, loving no matter what, all that good stuff. Joe had the opposite experience: neglect, abuse, abandonment. And I learned that experiencing that meant he would forever struggle with the feeling: something must have been very unlovable about me. Why else would she choose to hurt and reject me? As God opened my eyes to see his hurt, I could respond with compassion and grace. Be strong in reminding him of the truth.
Don’t get me wrong, Joe has always always valued me as a mother and supported me in every way. Every day of they year he reminds me what a phenomenal job I do. Always expects the kids to respect me and calls them on it every time if they don’t. But on that one weekend, when everywhere you look it’s a reminder of what went so wrong, all that was taken from him…. He needed some grace.
Taking the pressure off
So I took the pressure off and accomodated his request. We would not celebrate Mother’s Day Hallmark style, we didn’t have to go to church. Not a big deal, when I really thought about it. It is just a day.
We now choose to spend the day with just us and the kids, totally low key, usually going hiking or a dinner out. It’s a pleasurable day for me, and the day becomes doable for Joe. Still not his favorite, but we get through it together and that’s what important.
It was okay to not be okay.
Through our decision Joe also was able to take the pressure off himself: It was okay if he wasn’t as healed as he wanted to be. If he still struggled with conflicting feelings about his mom. And it was okay to stop worrying if those who abused him would be okay. Let that go. He didn’t have to compare himself to others and their journey. He could surrender his healing to God and trust Him to the timing.
So much of our story has been learning to trust God’s sovereignty in our lives even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it hurts and the healing isn’t as quick as we would want it to be. Is He still good? Does He still love us? Yes, and yes. Trusting in God’s goodness and love for us is what gives us strength and peace. As Timothy Keller recently said , “If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”
Is this time of year hard for you? We pray that you would find comfort in the unchangeable, unconditional love that God has for us. Even when people fail us, His love never fails!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5