I have written this post in my head almost daily since before Christmas, but haven't put fingers to keyboard because I just can't get the right words out. And then I passed the guy who kick-started all of this in the church lobby this morning, and was nudged again to write it down. It's basically the biggest lesson I learned in 2011, so here goes.
It started innocently enough. In LifeGroup. In the fall 2010 and spring 2011 we were doing what I had previously considered light-weight studies. You know, back to the basics ... which I, in all arrogance, thought I was basically mastering.
Really? Mastering? I should have known I had issues when I immediately assumed I didn't have any issues.
So... During the second of our light-weight studies, an early homework assignment was to list the names of people in our village who we could pour the love of Christ out onto.
Easy. I blog. I'm on Facebook. I'm in women's studies and couples studies. I could easily come up with the names of 50 people I was living vulnerably with, encouraging, mentoring, befriending...
And, as I'm sitting there the next week, with my list of 50 people that I can name off the top of my head, the guy to my left says, "I've decided to invite my mom into my village."
I know some of his story - bits and pieces had been shared over the months we'd been meeting. A painful relationship with his mom. Hurt feelings. Significant detachment and estrangement.
Did I just hear that right? Did a GUY - a member of that human crowd that's not super capable of saying really heartfelt, sensitive, emotional, vulnerable things in mixed company - really just say that? (My apologies to my male readers ... all three of you ... I realize that as I sat there in shock - and denial at what was coming my way - that I was preoccupying myself with stereo-typing you.) And, here I am, clinging to my shallower-than-shallow list of people who are easy to shower with the love of Christ.
Let's be honest... Is is easy to shower love on people who've never hurt us. But... That's not what God has called us to do.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
So, that night I let my list fall silently into the back of my Bible and knew that my heart was convicted to give this village thing some sincere thought.
I'd known what the RIGHT thing was the moment I heard my friend's words, but was I willing to submit?
A week later, I came to LifeGroup without my list in hand, but with my list in my heart. I'd really only added one person to my list, but it was the one God wanted me to invite into my life at that time. My mother.
I'd committed to call her a couple of times a month, and invited her out for holidays that we'd never before celebrated together. I even invited her to a soccer game and took her to several doctors appointments. I saw her more in 2011 than I had in the previous ten years combined.
I began to form a relationship with my mother. A relationship that was being built on today's circumstances and events, and not on a painful history. I began to see her from an adult's perspective, for who she is today. I was no longer looking through the lens of a young, inexperienced, hurt, betrayed child. Nor was I looking for who she was long ago. I was allowing for a true second chance. Allowing each of us to be different. Allowing room for love to grow.
It's not always been easy. I have had to shake those old feelings of frustration, hurt and resentment time and again. A time-out works wonders for me - just enough of a breather to refocus on peace and joy rather than being right (or vindicated). And I am amazed at just how much I have mellowed.
"God opposes the proud, but favors the humble." James 4:6b
"Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2:1
Over the last ten years, I was actually pretty sure that I didn't want a relationship with my mom; but I was also vividly aware that her absence left a hole in my heart. I praise God for putting us in that light-weight study, with the GUY who shocked me into adding my mom to my village.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12
Not only am I enjoying the continued mending of my heart, but the blossoming relationship I have with my mom is a gift to each of us. And to my children. And even to my extended family, as I have really laid to rest my instinct to keep them all at an arms-length.
Thanks to my bold friend who first added his mom to his village. I smile every time I think of you and remember how you - unintentionally - inspired such healing in my life.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another..." Hebrews 10:24-25