There is a place deep within that no mother wants to admit to herself, let alone to anyone else. It’s a shameful place, shrouded in secrecy, or perhaps more accurately, denial. It’s a place she tries to talk herself out of, and everyday she vows never to return. But, return she does, and she is rightly concerned about what her husband and friends might think if they knew, so she remains confused and isolated and conflicted, believing that she is The Only One who “knows” this painful, heart-breaking, unspeakable truth:

She does not like one of her children.

As those words begin to settle, there’s a soul chill in the air. With her own finger of accusation and expression of disgust, she doesn’t have to hear it from anyone other than herself–“How could any good mother feel that way?”. Over and over in her mind she is tried and convicted by a jury of her peers, the real “good mothers”, who knowingly find fault with her for missing something, for withholding from her son what he obviously needs, for ranking her children in order of affection.

And she tries. She really tries. In the still and quiet of the next day, she confesses her weakness and imagined unforgiveable sin before God, pleading for wisdom and strength. Patience and kindness. Mercy and grace. And a change in the foot-stomping, jaw jutting defiance that began from the time he could walk at ten months, her only thought that the “terrific twos” so many gushingly speak of is little more than five years of “terrible” for her.

But, try she does and so embraces the attitude of “today is a new day”, beginning his morning with cheek and belly kisses and cheerful encouragement and warm mother love, hoping that this day WILL be the turning point. Emotions follow behavior, right? If she acts like she likes him, than the accompanying feelings will come, if only she’s consistent. And she’s well on her way until the first challenge…and then the second…and then the third. Of course, all the while, the other children, although not without their own occasional challenge, are so easy to like. They’re agreeable and obedient and trainable and responsive.

He reserves his best worst behavior for her alone; Daddy sees some of it, but for the most part, he’s at work during waking hours, and the few between arrival and bedtime are divided among three, so somehow it remains hidden. Others might see glimpses, but for the most part they enjoy this lively personality. He’s respectful and obedient to others, well rounded and a friend to many. His face is one of a thousand expressions, he can coax a laugh at will, and there are moments of delight. Those are her moments of hope that all will take a turn for the better…soon.

But “soon” is not a matter of days…or weeks…or months…but years. Years! But can you hear it? Something happened.

Obviously, this is autobiographical. I can write it because I lived it. For years. The guilt, the frustration, the denial, the shame, the sense of failure. There is such a difference between mother love and liking a child, and anyone who has walked this road knows exactly what I’m talking about. I would have given my life for my son, I was thankful for him, but I wondered if this viscious cycle would ever end. Thank goodness–thank God–I have amazing in-laws. It was my father-in-law whom the Lord saw fit to speak a word of truth to me, that at first infuriated me, and then proved to be transforming.

One day as I was expressing frustration over something new my son was doing to exasperate me, Grandy said with a wink and a grin, “Maybe this is about you. Maybe God is trying to teach YOU something!” I wanted to kill him, right then, right there. This most certainly was NOT about me and I didn’t need to learn anything right then, thank-you-very-much! I needed sympathy, empathy, HELP! Three young children born within five years of each other, a husband and marriage I wanted and needed to nurture, a part time job and a busy “life” left me dangling often at the end of an unknotted rope–with freshly-lotioned palms, grasping but never secure.

As my fury faded, and trusting my father-in-law to know more than me, I began to look Godward with a different heart. Perhaps this was the first time I began asking God if He didn’t intend to change my circumstances, to change me through my circumstances. If He was going to continue allowing “something” in my life that drove me to tears, that He would use it for my good, His glory, and somehow the advance of His kingdom. Even something as unspeakable and ugly, despicable and foreign as these frightening emotions from mother to child.

It didn’t happen overnight; honestly, I don’t even remember when things shifted. But slowly it dawned on me that this child had been MY teacher, that I was to be a student of him, to learn how to mother him in a way that shaped his best interests. He taught me that God wasn’t above using anyone and any circumstance to drive me to a dependency on Him, to humble me, to affect change needed in my life.

Today, this child is the most like me, and it is not our similarities that derail me, it’s our differences. Perhaps it’s as simple as this “personality” on testosterone versus estrogen. But I like him. A lot. And I am thankful (and praise God) that we are on “this” side of “that”.

Although it doesn’t fit precisely here, a section of scripture that comes to mind right now is in Matthew as Jesus was teaching his disciples and others (beginning at chapter 5:43 through 48). Emphasis is mine, indicated in bold print:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” ~ The Message

I guess God needed to grow me up.

If you’re visiting from a Jenny’s “Naked & Free” post, I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. And thanks for letting me “get naked” with you….

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