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Confronting Your Own Pain This Mother’s Day

mothers day hateIf you are determined not to subject yourself to all those insensitive jerks at church this Mother’s day, who show no regard for your loss, infertility, pre-mother status, or some special case relationship that you have that you think qualifies you to stand for Motherly recognition, but fear others might misinterpret, this is going to be a heart felt call to emotional maturity… but it may feel like a proverbial kick in the seat of the pants.

Fleeing pain, resisting or else resenting those things and people that “cause” pain are instinctual reactions to pain… psychological self-defense mechanisms and all… but certain responses to pain are a mark of emotional immaturity and should not be blamed on those around you.

In my article “Mother’s Day Massacre: A Response to “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks about Mother’s Day),” I confront the tendency of our society to imagine that pain is the great excuser. We are to be defended, pardoned, supported, and placated no matter what we do or how we do it, no matter what we demand, so long as these actions and demands stem from some deep emotional pain. To do otherwise is insensitive, cruel, dehumanizing, and wrong. I hurt, let the world mourn… let society rearrange itself to accommodate me and my feelings.[1]

This may be hard to hear, and, though you won’t believe me, equally hard for me to say… but… Grow up.

I have a dear friend who lost her adult son a couple years back. Mother’s day is a painful confrontation of that fact. My heart weeps for her loss, but her testimony of divine grace and guidance in the  midst of her ongoing struggle with her own pain is inspiring. To her, however, it’s just the anguished struggle to confront a nearly bottomless grief with the hope we have in Christ and the resurrection.

I have another friend who can’t have children. Mother’s day is a constant reminder of her heart’s deep longing. While I can hardly imagine the emptiness of this, since I am not a woman, I do know my own unmet longings, and try to empathize and sympathize.

I have other friends, I’m sure I don’t even know who they are sometimes, who’ve murdered their own children in abortion clinics and will have to confront that choice quite pointedly again this Mother’s Day. My own sins have never led to the death of an innocent, but I have enough regrets that shame my very soul when they surface to mind to imagine… my heart breaks for them.

I have another friend who recently lost her mother. Mother’s day is a blow to her own desire to see her mother again.

Here is what I’ve learned in my many years on this earth…

mothers day stormLIFE IS PAIN!!! Love is pain. Parenthood is pain. Childhood is pain. Watching others triumph from the pit of my own sense of failure is pain. Everything wonderful and glorious in this world is pain. We are, everyone of us, on a path that leads to total earthly loss, systematic breakdown, and the eventual death of everyone we’ve ever loved or ever will love. The only way to avoid pain is to… no wait a minute… there is no way to avoid pain so long as you live in a world drowning in it.

Indeed, pain, suffering, consequence and loss are unwelcomed and often unappreciated gifts from a loving creator to His wayward creatures.

Pain is a path to growth. Pain prompts change. Pain disciplines us. Pain warns us. Pain is the calling card of heaven, beckoning us to look up from our self-absorption and pleasure fixations to that which lies beyond this world. Pain provides that all important contrast that makes everything else more meaningful. Let’s see, what did I leave out? There’s, “No Pain, No Gain,” but that’s overworked so I won’t use it.

I’m not suggesting that we should hurt ourselves to continue the work of God, nor am I suggesting that those who work hard at helping other people avoid some types of pain are somehow thwarting the work of God… though we do have a tendency to be enablers of weakness and immaturity by keeping those we love from experiencing the pain that their choices elicit and that their need for personal growth demands. What I am suggesting is that we get a better theology of pain and suffering, that we put our own pain in perspective, and that we behave with a little maturity when we hurt inside and out.

We are all guilty of immature reactions to pain… especially emotional pain.

We hide from confronting painful places, people, things. We don’t want to face our loss, sense of failure, exclusion from festivities, or shame. We can’t bring ourselves to remember sweetly in our sorrow, nor painfully before God and, so, we flee, refuse to speak of it, refuse to think on it. Sometimes we damage ourselves and families trying to numb it… or shout it down with debaucheries.

We feel jealous or envious of those who still have what we’ve lost or gained what we can’t. We flounder in our ability to rejoice with those who rejoice on a day meant for celebration and honor. As the wise man wrote, there is… “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

We resent those who’ve crafted such a demonic event as Mother’s Day… Oh the HORROR!!!!… that highlights our pain.

We need to be the center of attention and have all OUR issues brought to the fore. “What are all you people smiling about!!!! Don’t you know that I hurt inside!!!!!”

This Mother’s Day, don’t let sorrow over your loss or sin or grievance keep you from striving for emotional maturity. Take your pain to God; lift your jealousies, envies, and resentments before Him, praying for repentance and growth. Find someone or something to honor other than your own pain. Everything doesn’t have to be about you.

This can be a difficult process. One friend who lost his son in an accident said, “I didn’t feel human again for over a decade.” Another who lost his son to suicide scrapped his entire existence, sold everything, moved away, lost himself in studies, busied himself for decades with new ventures. It haunts his every step, but he serves, he blesses.

Yes, dealing with our pain can be a grueling process… If it wasn’t, doing it with grace and mercy wouldn’t be such a profound mark of maturity and growth. We need to be patient with our own pain, learning to manage it before God and Christ and others in a way that is redemptive for ourselves and redemptive of those around us. Be patient. Be forgiving. Be reasonable. And above all, neither flee what you must confront, nor blame others for that which is, in truth, a battle with yourself.

[1] I am not speaking to people whose grief is fresh. It takes time to find one’s balance after a tragedy. Still, we have many who may be described as wallowing in their own pain, thrashing out at others, behaving badly, expecting everyone to bend to them.

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