By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;
you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19
The past few weeks have been round after round of personal storms, some of which I have told you about, and others I cannot because they are not for me to tell. Entering into this penitential season, I knew the Lord wanted to draw me into a deeper purification than I could possibly imagine. For those of you undergoing your own personal storms, I write to give you hope and a different perspective of what you are suffering. Because there is one thing I know for sure, that is, God is good, all the time. In that I have no doubt.
As most of you know, my mother has been declining over the past couple of years. COVID isolation escalated her decline. I wanted to take a few moments to talk about my mom. I love my mom, more than she knows. Everything I am about to write comes from a place of deep love for her.
My mother was incredible. I say that in past tense, not as though she is already passed, but to set the stage of the kind of woman she was before all her illness set in. She is still incredible, but in a different way now, and there is a deep beauty in how I see her now.
There was absolutely nothing my mother couldn’t do. She was brilliant and sharp as a tack. Nine times out of 10, in a room full of people, I would know, my mom was the smartest one there. Not in the book sense smart, but in a savvy kind of way. She was beautiful. She was always put together, dressed to the nines (on a very low budget), hair done, make-up on. Our house was always clean. She cooked us dinner, even though she was the Vice-President of a non-profit organization that worked closely with the Reagan White House. She was the woman who had it all. And did it all – well.
I want to celebrate the fact that my mom accomplished all of these things. But I want to also mention how hard it was to grow up like this too. Please understand that what I am about to speak of is in no way a judgment of my mother, nor does it imply that I do not love her fiercely. My mom was and is my best friend. She is hilarious. She is still hilarious, even in her dementia, she has not lost her sense of humor.
As I grew older with this example of a dynamic woman, I realized I could not reach the same level of achievement as she did. The demons of “you’re not good enough” pummeled me. That coupled with over achieving siblings and the poison arrows of suggestion made it easy to spend life sinfully. It wasn’t her fault, she like all of us, battled her own demons. I think that’s why achieving was so important. It makes you feel worthwhile. But it also sometimes keeps you from knowing truly where your worth comes from. It also can make you think that you can save yourself, and you can save others. Mom was a “fixer”. She wanted to fix what was wrong with me. She wanted to fix my siblings. This is because she so deeply loved us and she was only giving what she knew how to give.
But it wasn’t her job to fix me. There was a time when I was bitter that she wanted to fix me. I loved her but I was mad at her too. I didn’t know how to stop being mad. Mostly because I hadn’t identified what was going on. Mom had a spirit of perfectionism that attacked her. She, and I, we didn’t recognize whose job it was to save. It would only be later that coming to rely on the Savior could bring the freedom from bitterness for me. Like in my last post, I can show you what gift Satan was trying to steal from my mom once I recognized what spirit was attacking.
To be sure, I already knew my mom had this gift of mercy. I saw it growing up. She regularly extended mercy to others that was a sight to behold. She helped relatives and friends who struggled with addiction. She extended herself to those who were isolated and lonely. We had people who suffered all kinds of things come to my home growing up. Mom extended a hand of mercy, words of wisdom and the gift of counsel. She was incredibly kind, a true women of God. Except to one person; herself. She lacked mercy towards herself.
Mom wanted to be her own savior. She didn’t ever ask anyone for help, ever. She tried to do it all. It took a toll. She had countless health issues over the years, of which I have no doubt stress of achievement played a role. I can’t tell you how many times I heard her call herself stupid if something didn’t work out perfectly. What a complete lie that was and is.
As I grew, knowing I could not keep my house as clean, be as skinny, or help run an organization, I struggled in extending mercy towards myself too. I searched for worth in sin after sin. I, like her, could extend mercy to others, but in my head, I didn’t deserve the mercy. God couldn’t possibly love me because I was not good enough.
It wasn’t until I met Jansen Bagwell and he walked me through deliverance that the demons of perfectionism were banished from me. I know the perfection God wants is perfection of virtue, not achievement. I was able to forgive my mom of things I didn’t even know I needed to forgive her for. The healing I experienced was almost inexplicable, except that it isn’t because it comes from God. Our relationship blossomed and caring for her became easier, even if she didn’t want me to help her. Again, understand that this is not a judgment of her, but a deliverance from the chains I was in because of my inability to extend mercy to myself for my own lack of achievement. As I write this, autocorrect has had to correct my spelling of achievement every time. And yet God still loves me.
Fast forward to now, and mom’s health is failing. She has dementia and her once sharp as a tack mind cannot remember what I just said to her. Her body, for the moment, is bedridden. She has to rely on anyone but herself to be cared for.
As I stood in the hospital room feeding her, I had a moment of gratefulness to God. Mom was finally accepting mercy. God is purifying her in this last era of her life. She is completely dependent. Any saving she thought she could do for herself is gone and she must rely on her Savior and His providence to survive. It is a total purification of achievement. No more attachment to things of this world.
My mom loves God deeply. I can see how God is removing everything from her that had kept her from Him alone. And he is doing it while she is still here. Long Suffering is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Although it is very hard to watch, it is purifying me too. Teaching me to rely on my savior instead of myself. Teaching me to honor my mother in these last years of her life. Mom is partaking in the cross and I believe it is the pathway to her entrance to heaven. As hard as this time has been, as much as we have both cried, I cannot imagine anything better.
I got her ready to Facetime the family. I put her lipstick on, just like she likes, so she could be presentable to the family. She smiled, she likes to look good.
I hope in my writing of this piece mom knows how much I love her. That she knows I think the world of her. That my love of God was taught to me by her and my father. That she knows that I know how much she sacrificed and how much she fiercely loves us. Mom can’t remember what I tell her, but I hope she knows, I love her to infinity and beyond.
We are all going to pass away someday. We are all going to return to the dust from which we came. I feel like mom and I have entered into the Passion this Lent. I hope it eventually leads to her glorification in heaven. I am grateful to God. True mercy and charity are something God achieves in us. Praise be to his glorious name.
Please pray for my mom and for me as she recovers from breaking her hip.
So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44