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"Many times they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me" (Ps 129:2).
She never said no. Not once. Counselors deem the word never as unfair within the context of human relationships. It can’t possibly be true. You never listen. You never take the trash out. But no is not a word I heard growing up. The rules were there were no rules. I take that back. She had one rule. “Smoke your pot in the garage.” My brother and I respectfully obeyed.
I came and went as I pleased—oftentimes through my bedroom window.
I don’t recall wondering why she never said no. I was a teenager—it worked. You follow? It wasn’t until I had teenagers of my own that I realized how vital it is to a functional adulthood. So one day I asked, “Mom, why didn’t you say no when we were kids?”
“Well . . . my mother was very strict. Too strict. Mean. And I hated her for it. I didn’t want my kids to hate me. So, I let you do what you wanted.”
Just like that, the tedious distance between feeling unloved—and believing in some small way I was—closed up. Out of love for me, she never said no. It’s twisted, I realize. But it makes sense out of something that doesn’t make sense otherwise. The irony is, while growing up, I hated her. Hebrews 12: 14–15 warns that a root of bitterness can cause trouble and have negative effects on many.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord; looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (emphasis added).
I’ve yet to meet a woman who intentionally bestowed upon her children the unintended consequences of the refusal to reconcile a painful past in Christ. But I’ve done it. Mine was a childhood filled with abuse. Emotional. Sexual. My biggest aspiration back then was adulthood. Adults had control. I wanted some for myself. My mother says when I was eight or nine I searched for gainful employment at a local restaurant. Eventually, I got a job cleaning the offices of a trucking company where my stepfather worked. Cash. I couldn’t buy a ticket out of childhood, so I bought a lot of candy.
The eighteenth year of my life had arrived, right on schedule. Just two weeks after graduation, my mother moved to New York to share her life with a man she’d met at a friend’s house. We lived in Texas. Now I would live in Texas alone. I’d been dreaming of life on my own since the third grade. I got a job. I got an apartment. I got involved with my former high school algebra teacher. I got pregnant. Three months after the birth of our son, I got married. I’d arrived. Adulthood.
Little did I know, I carried my wounds with me. Childhood wounds are hopelessly reactionary. They scream. They cry. They pout. They’re jealous, insecure, unstable, and self-serving—cleverly disguised as selfless. They mean well. Somewhere inside my mother, a childhood wound convinced her that I would hate her if she told me no.
I, too, hurt my children when I didn’t mean to hurt my children. My sons needed emotionally stable parents in order to become emotionally stable people. But they were almost out of high school before they witnessed stable. The odd thing about me is that I read to them regularly, and they always had home-cooked meals—two things I didn’t have growing up. That was my way of smoothing out the days’ jagged edges.
Through Christ, I’ve sowed more good seeds than bad. But we reap what we sow; for a while, both types of plants grew together. This reminds me of a parable in the book of Matthew. A man sowed good seed in his field, but as he slept, his enemy came and sowed tares (weeds) among the wheat. Later, when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, the weeds also appeared. The servants asked the owner of the field, “How can this be? Shall we gather the weeds?” But he answered no. He knew that gathering the weeds would uproot the wheat. Instead, he instructed them to allow both to grow together until harvest time. At that point the weeds could easily be separated from the wheat.
Before Christ, I was asleep. As I slept, the enemy sowed weeds in my family through my choices. It’s been a long road of good slowly outgrowing bad. The enemy whispers hypocrite as you walk along. “Good” Christians point and judge. I’ve watched my children suffer from my brokenness, but I’ve also witnessed amazing breakthroughs through my willingness to do what it takes to be “made well.”
Don’t give up. When you feel discouraged, read Matthew 13:24–30. Ask God to open your eyes to the tiny sprouts growing from the good you’ve planted, and then nurture them. The weeds won’t stand forever.
Just a suggestion: Why not call to memory any dysfunctional/harmful behavior(s) of your own mother. Make a short list. Review that list in light of compassion and ask God: Did my mother suffer childhood wounds that caused her to behave in this manner? Think of these bitter roots as common threads.
Now go one step further. Ask God to reveal how your childhood wounds furthur dysfunction in the lives of your children/relationships today. Ask Him if you've believed a lie and now perpetuate it unknowlingly. Listen for His compassionate voice. God is not condemning. It is always His desire to free us from any roots of bitterness, "lest they cause trouble and by this, defile many."
You are not alone.
Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 @ 4:46 PM CDT
“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”
—Jeremiah 6:14 NIV
A man in prison ministry once told me that in addition to the physical bars inmates live behind, most are bound by bitterness and his heart's desire is to help them forgive. He recounted a visitation with a young man who’d been horribly abused leading up to his arrest and incarceration.
"I prayed over the young man and ensured him of God's love regardless of what he'd done. Then I read from the Bible. I wanted him to know that God commands us to forgive. But he didn't wanna hear it. He scooted his chair back and yelled, 'But you don't know what I've been through!'
I told him right then and there, 'It doesn't matter what you've been through, you have to forgive!'"
In an instant, a heart that'd opened for prayer and encouragement, closed. And a just man returned home, baffled as to why his sincere effort to enlighten the young man had not been better received. After hearing his story, I thought to myself, Dude, responses like that don’t inspire the hurting to reach for the Healer.
Don’t get me wrong—victims are not exempt from forgiving others their trespasses. But because deeply wounded people have a tendency to wound people deeply, I find the best outcomes arise when we well-meaning Christians administer first-aid before mandating a call to action. Of course, no one gets this better than Jesus.
Unpacking Something Familiar
If you’re anything like me, you have keepsakes stored in a box. You know the whereabouts of the box. You know its contents are valuable. But true sentiment lies dormant until once again you hold near what is dear. The same is true for familiar Bible verses. We know where they are. We know they are meaningful. But until we “take them out of the box,” we forget their sovereignty. So, today, we hold a keepsake up to the light and appreciate anew the brilliance of its promise and power.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to those who are bound. (Isaiah 61:1)
Consider the four facets of this priceless jewel:
- Salvation—God sent His Son to give us something we don’t have to work for—eternal life through the shed blood of Christ. (Good tidings.)
- Healing—Christ’s agenda after He secures our eternal salvation is to heal our broken hearts.
- Confession—Under no condemnation, we are free to confess our sins (and sinful reactions), and receive forgiveness and liberty from the emotions that hold us captive.
- Forgiveness—Christ opens the prison doors of “those who are bound” and empowers victims to forgive from their hearts.
As surely as the Word commands us to forgive, He assures us that He is intent on healing our broken hearts. Do you know what this means? It means that what happened to you matters. But take it from a girl who came by this the hard way. Refusing to talk to God about what you’re going through only delays the receiving of this priceless truth.
Also, I should tell you I didn't always feel comfortable talking to God. In the early days, I wrote Him letters. Still, when the ache in my heart supercedes my ability to tell Him how I feel, I make an effort to journal even if all I can write is:
Dear God, I hate the way I feel. I'm grateful for your unfailing love. And I'm going to watch 30 ROCK now. I know it's twisted, but it makes me laugh and I'm tired of crying. Amen.
What about you? Have you given any thought to how God must feel when well-meaning people minimize your pain? Consider Jeremiah 6:14.
If your heart is broken. How it was broken matters because you matter. And since He promised, I can promise: Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear (Isaiah 59:1 NIV).
Please tell Him how you feel today. It matters!
Published on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 9:57 AM CDT