Family 5 minutes to read

After counseling for years and also dealing with my own feelings toward my mom, I realize rehearsing early childhood memories, for many, can be painful. As an adult, I remember spending what seemed like hours trying to pick out the right card annually for my mom as Mother’s Day rolled around.

Like many I counsel, I did not feel emotionally close to Mom. Most Mother’s Day cards speak of warmth, love, closeness, hugs, and kisses which were, for the most part, rare or absent in my relationship with Mom. 

We are social bonding beings and my greatest longing was for emotional connection to my mom. She provided safety and financial support growing up; but there was a deep lack of emotional attachment. Often, we falsely assume that if we weren’t abused in our family of origin, we had a great childhood. Few of us take into consideration that a lack of attachment and closeness in early childhood can greatly affect our relationships for the rest of our lives.

For years, like many Christians, I tried the “spiritual bypass” approach to avoid the pain of dealing with my relationship with my mom by rationalizing and quoting such scriptures as 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV): 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

The truth is, our spirit is born again when we say “yes” to Christ, but God doesn’t pull out our brain and give us a new one. Instead, He says He will partner with us in renewing our mind and help us deal with loss and the grieving of past relationships (Romans 12:2).

Another scripture Christians use to avoid their past wounds is Exodus 20:12 (NKJV):

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long…

What does honor mean? Honoring our parents is recognizing the incredible role our parents played in communicating patterns of behavior, both good and bad.

As a child it is impossible to discern healthy patterns. But as Christian adults we have tools, resources, and the power of the Holy Spirit who can help us reparent those areas that are lacking and unhealthy.

Let me be clear, I am NOT saying we should bash our parents; chances are they did the best they could with what they were given. Rather, when we face and process our pain, we are renouncing a generational curse and reclaiming what hell has stolen from us, our parents, and the generations before them.

Out of my own feelings of lack, I vowed to not be like my mom and in some ways I wasn’t. I loved and connected strongly with my own children; but at the same time, found myself struggling with perfectionism and being critical just like my mom. The struggle of this unwanted kind of behavior is laid out in Romans 7:19 (NIV):

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

The underlying unresolved source that keeps us stuck in Romans 7:19 usually falls within one or more of these categories: abuse, neglect, and/or toxic shame from childhood. In order for me to get unstuck, I had to grieve the neglect and identify the toxic shame messages I experienced growing up. This included:

  • You shouldn’t feel that way. (Don’t feel)
  • If you want something to cry about, I’ll give you something to cry about.
  • My value is defined by my performance. (Perfectionism)
  • People will love and accept me if I am perfect.
  • Whatever I do won’t be enough. (Judged and criticized)
  • I can change by myself. I don’t need anyone else. (Isolation)

All these messages became vows that were survival driven. Not only did I have to renounce these vows, I had to replace them with the truth. At  one point, I told God I was trying hard not to be critical and judgmental like my mom. He clearly spoke to me saying, “Diane, I don’t give you power to not be something, but I do give you power to become who I have called you to be.”  

After asking God who He called me to be, I sensed Him leading me to Galatians 5:22-23 which lists the fruit of the Spirit. The word kindness jumped out and I heard God say, “Diane, I have called you to be a kind, gracious woman of God.” 

I argued with Him; stating the fact that I never had a mom who modeled graciousness and didn’t have a clue as to how to walk in graciousness.

Over the years, I have experienced the Holy Spirit’s faithfulness to be my guide and my help. I realized that as I listened to the Holy Spirit when I came to a fork in the road where I could choose criticism or graciousness, He was faithful to give me a nudge in the direction of learning how to become a gracious woman of God. 

This is what I truly believe God meant in Scripture when He challenges us to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. Walking in the Spirit requires a partnership with the Holy Spirit to take a different path than our human nature is programmed to do and what our family of origin modeled for us.

I wish I could report that I chose the path of walking as a gracious woman every time. Unfortunately I didn’t. But guess what I discovered? It takes new experiences and practice in listening to the Holy Spirit to change patterns that were ingrained in my brain from early childhood.  

I can report there was change in me and, I believe, in the generations to come because of my decision to face my pain and process my mother wounds.

For years, my daughter has given me many loving Mother’s Day cards. Here is a sample of a recent card she gave me. It reads:

A loving mother

Is a gift from God

You treasure even more

As time goes by

My daughter then wrote: “Mom, Thank you for being that woman in Proverbs 31 that has sown so much Love, Grace, Wisdom, and Character into my life. You have been such an example to me in building a strong foundation in my kids. Thank you for the sacrifices you made and still make today. I Love You! Happy Mother’s Day!”

Tears came to my eyes because I always wished this was true of my mom and that I could have written these words.

At the same time, there was joy in my heart—knowing that every one of my Mother’s Days, and those of the next generations of mothers in the Roberts clan, have the opportunity to experience a warm and loving Mother’s Day Hallmark Card.