A couple of years ago a dear sister wrote to me about some horrible pain in her life. Five years before her 24-year old daughter in the midst of severe pain took her own life. Other believers distanced themselves from her, wanting to find comfort in the misguided view that if she had been a better parent, this would not have happened to her daughter. Somehow God led her to some of my books and CDs and she has let me in on the story of God’s work in her life. These are some of her own words over the last two years of an amazing process God has worked in her:
Yes, Christian leadership, programs, formulas, functions, and institutions failed, but that was when God began to teach me how He didn’t fail. You’re right; it’s a life-long learning experience and an incredible journey of experiencing for myself the love of God, in the life of God.
When Erin died, most of me died with her. I was acutely aware that a person could be alive and yet dead because I was. Conversely, for the first time I understood that I could be dead [unresponsive to God] and yet be alive. I said God, I know this is not your problem. You don’t produce spiritual birth defects. How did I miss the truth of knowing You? How did this happen to me? Why don’t I know you? I thought I was pursuing a relationship with You, but here I am, a child of God, walking in darkness and deep trouble, hemorrhaging life and dying. (I am) poised to walk the same pathway to death as Erin. Show me how to know you the way you intended for me to know you, not my way, God, your way. Please just start with Jesus loves me this I know and take it from there. God answered by saying, ‘You don’t even know that, but it’s a good place to start.’
I stayed with my burden of guilt (and) failure for six years. God never failed to offer His Way of coming into the Light during that time. He has provided His Way of healing and restoring the spirit, soul and body and I was hiding my pain. Come on! A good mother would know her 14-year old child took the screen off her window and crawled out to be drugged and raped, right? A good mother would certainly know what to do with the fragile spirit, soul and body of that child dumped like garbage in the yard, right?
I could go on but that voice has been silenced by God who is calling me to celebrate with Him how He and Erin are celebrating His eternal life today. When an adult child takes their life—for the mother of that adult Mother’s Day can be messy. This was my sixth sad, messy, awkward Mother’s Day and although emotionally prepared [I thought] I wasn’t prepared for how God would use my mess to heal another place in my soul.
Last year, God used Mother’s day to invite this sister into another level of freedom.
He said, ‘You can continue to carry a burden of guilt and your ‘good mother’ definition or let My Light, Truth, Grace, and Love shine on your twisted thinking.’ He didn’t say it’s time to move on, get over it or suck it up. He said every time I think of Erin I should use the word celebrate. He said,’Every day I’m celebrating with Erin and every day Erin is celebrating with Me. Guess who’s missing the party?’
God was asking me to change ‘how’ I think. He’s saying I may not be able to change what I think—thoughts come. He seemed to be saying I have a choice of “how” I will respond to painful thoughts. It took 4 days to work what the Holy Spirit said into my spirit, soul and body but on my sixth awkward Mother’s Day I am embracing God’s Way of healing for a damaged part of my soul. I wish I could explain how God does it. Without changing the original experience; God somehow disconnected the painful “good mother syndrome” memory hard-wired in my soul. The painful memory had a voice that mocked me. It hasn’t been an on/off switch but gradually when I think of Erin I respond to what the Holy Spirit said and I use the word ‘celebrate’ the painful memory and my wrong definition have been diffused [unwired?] and celebrating His Life in this situation is producing less painful and more appropriate responses to both my internal and external world.
So, how is she doing now? I wrote her earlier today when I was working on this blog to see if she was still growing in that celebration and to assure her that Sara and I would be celebrating with God, Erin, and her this Mother’s Day. Here’s what she wrote back a few moments ago:
How kind of you to remember about Mother’s Day. It’s fascinating really. Last year at this time I didn’t really understand the result would be a permanent healing in this area. I hope I never get over being amazed by God’s ability to resolve the unresolvable. Somehow God turned my mourning to dancing [celebrating]! There was no need to begin talking myself down a week in advance. The painful emotions
surrounding Mother’s Day are just gone. I’m the one with the surprised look on my face!
The latest podcast (at The God Journey) was a great discussion! I was walking the same pathway to death as [aka Shelly]. I pray she accepts the wise counsel and finds the Way of knowing Christ in a relationship that makes sense—knowing, seeing, hearing, believing, and responding to God in the midst of painful life circumstances that often don’t.
I think I’m an example [normal?] of what you expressed on the podcast. There is a Way to know Christ as Life on the other side of these painful life circumstances. A Way that impacts “how” I think, believe, feel, see, hear, speak and respond. Thank you Wayne for helping me to know God ‘like that.’
Isn’t Father amazing? There is no pain too great, no tragedy so profound that God cannot crawl into it with us and walk us out of our dark cave into the light of his gracious redemption. Pray that for all of you today, and especially for moms who hurt on this day. May God’s light shine into your pain and begin to rewire your thoughts so that you can think like him through it and be transformed by his life.
Added Note 2016: Two years ago I got to meet the woman in this story. I was traveling in her part of the world and we arranged to finally meet face to face. The freedom and healing continues. They say you never get over the death of a child, and I believe that… But you can get beyond it and find life and joy beyond the loss.