Part of me is afraid of my children. What a terrible admission! Martin’s immediate response was ‘No you’re not!‘ Well, he has watched the confident, bossy mother bringing them up – organising the family and speaking her mind over so many years… but I know what I feel! So what is that about? Perhaps most mothers would feel afraid for their children at times – it’s part of the natural protective response. But this fear has to do with their power to hurt me, to wound me with their words – just as any person one really loves has the power to do as we let them in to our hearts. Martin can hurt me terribly at times too, having access to the deep places, knowing me and my weaknesses so very well – but having said that I really can’t remember the last time he did and don’t live in fear of it happening: I trust him and feel safe.
Why am I not so safe with my lovely kids, not always so sure of their love and care for me? Well… it has been a rough ride over the years and a lot of hurtful things said as they have struggled to process their own adolescent journeys. There has been a lot of forgiveness and gaining perspective and I have gradually learned to back off to give them their own space. Mostly things are really good now, especially with Rebecca – we are friends and I love it: she is proud of me and says I have responded to her needs really well (ah – who is the being the mother now?!) Still sometimes the honesty is painful and I have to swallow my pride and readjust – but that is the same with any close friendship. And I suppose things can never be really equal with your children: you can’t really ask or expect that of them because they are not there to look after you, but the other way round… until we are in our dotage anyway!
I am hurt that Sam hasn’t been in touch since he left, as I have written before – even though I understand why that is. But why am I fearful of some negative reaction, some angry words aimed at me? This is probably not about him at all, but something carried by my ‘little girl’ who feels vulnerable after years of being shouted at as a child: she has come to the fore and those ancient emotions are raw at the moment. I was always afraid of my dad – walking on eggshells really; although those years are long-gone and a journey of redemption has been walked out so that I can now feel safe around him there is still a wound that can open. It is recognising that and knowing what to do if it happens that is important: after all I am a grown woman now! Yet fear of rejection and the pain it brings is still an issue for me… and an older relative’s remark that Sam on TV really reminded him of my father when he was young has been very thought-provoking!
When I mentioned my underlying anxieties to my counsellor, she remarked that there are things in life that it is perfectly normal to be anxious about! Some feelings of concern are useful, leading to necessary action, helping us actually get things done – without that adrenaline we may never do anything! But when it becomes debilitating or causes physical symptoms or mental illness – overwhelming stress, panic attacks, ulcers, heart disease… then the levels are too high! And that is true: it is perfectly appropriate to have some level of anxiety about Sam and the future considering his diagnosis! It is a constant battle to stay at peace – and I manage it only through trusting in the Lord and the grace He gives – and ensuring I know where my own boundaries are.
But I don’t want to live in fear of my son or wary of saying the wrong thing to my daughter and upsetting her; I don’t want to hurt them and I don’t want them to hurt me! I suppose we are all run-ragged and emotionally fragile in this family at the moment, so it is even more important to keep those ‘boundary lines in pleasant places’ (Psalm 16v6). So this gift of 2 months where I can be relatively carefree is perfect recovery time for me, really, while Sam’s boundary lines mean he is having a nice long break from his ‘annoying’ parents! Is it rejection? Yes it is! But I must choose again to believe that my son deeply loves me and will return in his own time: peace my soul – all is well!
The opposite of fear is faith – filling the space where belief in the negative is, with belief in the positive. My faith is in the person of the Lord Jesus – in His faithfulness and His promises that He will not take us beyond what we can bear, that He will give grace in our weakness and that He will work everything for good. I can’t heal myself – but the comfort of His tangible love brings the day-to-day safety I need and engenders hope so that I can face the challenges that may come tomorrow.
If we let Him, He always comes to us when we have battled all night, as we are lying in the bottom of the boat exhausted; He comes walking toward us on the water – a truly impossible event! – saying, “Be of good cheer – I AM – do not be afraid” – See Matthew 14 and thank God for that!