The Best Mothers' Day Gift

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Caveat: This article addresses the relationship most of us had with our mothers. It doesn't get into abusive or criminally neglectful situations which should be addressed by a qualified counselor.

It's said that while our fathers give us a sense of our identity, our mothers give us an idea of our worth. From conception through at least the teenage years, what she does gives us clues (subtle and obvious) as to our value. Are we worth sacrificing for? Are we worth being protected? Taught? Cared for?*

The problem is, of course, that every mother is a woman and no woman is perfect. Not even close. External circumstances like the death of a husband or unemployment or war have direct bearings on our security that she can't completely make up for. Internal issues like post-partum depression or addiction her from giving us what we need (or think we need in our immature worldview). We feel the lack, even if we can't name it. As we grow older, we recognize specific moments when she hurt us or fell short. We get resentful and often angry, sometimes lashing out in that delightful self-righteous adolescent way.

Then we reach our 20s. We meet other mothers. We see the world slightly more clearly. And suddenly (particularly for daughters), we feel the urgent, fierce need to make sure our mother un.der.stands exactly how she hurt us or failed us or didn't We need her to know. We need her to admit what she did. We need her to validate our hurt.


Perhaps because in our formative years it was our moms who validated our hurts. Who interpreted the world for us, put ice on the bee sting, listened to us complain about our best friend, or protected us from our brother's noogies? In most cases, it was mom — dad was more likely to tell us to shake it off. It was mom who leapt into action when we cut ourselves with scissors we weren't supposed to have. It was she who said, "Come here, baby," and cradled us after we bit it on our bike and tore up our knee or failed a test or got dumped. Like every child who falls but waits until she knows she has an audience before she cries, we knew it was mom who measured and affirmed and validated our pain.

So when we're scared and confused and angry because of what she did, where do we go? We go to the one person who can validate our pain and interpret how this happened and what it means.

But it ain't yo mama.

It's God.

As we grow up, our relationship with our mothers needs to change. To become more even. We no longer need her to validate our worth or our wounds. God may still use her to express His love and validation, but she should not be the primary source of either. And we cannot love her and honor her like we should if she is. We can't love and honor her properly as an adult child if we are still emotionally and spiritually subservient to her when our authority should only and ever be God. Initially, God uses our mothers to be the primary manifestation of His love, but there comes a time when we need to go to Him directly.

In light of this, here are gifts your mom needs on this and every Mother's Day:

Understanding that she gets it wrong. That she doesn't know it all and she won't get it all right. Not only in those places of your life that you didn't share with her, but also in the world. Maybe it's politics or relationships or how to use a front-loading washer. Maybe it's in responding to your doubt or your depression. There are going to be some things she doesn't get right, but that doesn't mean you have to try to force her to understand.

Understanding that she's wounded. She didn't get all she needed, either. She didn't understand when she was a child. Maybe she suffered abuse. Maybe she wasn't validated, herself, and that led to unhealthy self-soothing behavior. And that behavior probably affected you — maybe she held you at arm's length or maybe she was too clingy. But it's a cycle, and only by understanding her can you stop from passing it on.

Understanding that you have to separate from your mother. Even if she doesn't want it. You are your own person in Christ. God created you as an image-bearer individually, not as the child of your mother. It is scary to stand on your own and choose to adult, but it is necessary. It's even scarier if you realize you need to set boundaries with your mother. But it may make for a healthier relationship in the long run.

Understanding that what you're going through is universal. Although she has failed you and wounded you, so has every mother on the planet with their children. Nearly every 20-something has looked back and wanted their mom to understand what they did. Which suggests it's a stage of growing up, not a catastrophic issue.

Understanding that your hurt doesn't need her approval. The pain that her imperfections caused does not require her understanding or acknowledgement in order for it to be legitimate. God knows more about your childhood than you do. He cares that your heart hurts. He validates that hurt and wants to heal it through a relationship with Him. Insisting that your mom acknowledge your pain is more about vengeance than healing.

So what is the best Mother's Day gift you can give your mother? Unilateral forgiveness. Release from the burden of having to make amends. Recognition that God doesn't expect her to be perfect, so you shouldn't either. Freedom from your anger and resentment. Freedom from the role of chief validator of your emotional life. Freedom to be a woman who is complicated and wounded and fascinating — someone who would do you good to get to know.

If you have an obviously-ordained opportunity to go over things from your childhood with your mother, that's great. Go in with gentleness, humility, and a forgiving heart. Ask her for her perspective — it may be very different than what you remember. Invite God in to interpret what's being said and even show you where He was working to fill your need at that time. Be thankful that you have this chance to turn forgiveness into a degree of reconciliation.

If you don't have that opportunity, don't worry about it. God will fill every need — even retroactively — if you let Him. You need to let Him help you get to the place where you can take on your new role: one who's responsible for your mother's physical well-being, as far as you're able.

And, you know what? You're going to mess that up, too. Because you're not perfect. But hopefully she'll forgive you.

* For more, see the talk by Stasi Eldredge.

Image Credit: ngocdai86; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsCelebrating-Holidays  | Christian-Life  | Family-Life  | God-Father  | Hardships  | Personal-Relationships

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Published 5-4-16