Did you know that motherhood isn’t sainthood, and that women impose wounds just as powerful as men do? We hear non-stop about absent fathers, but nearly never about mothers whose presence never leaves us but to whom we’ll never belong.
Sometimes mothers berate their daughters for knees gushing blood from rollerblading accidents, facedown in ditches. Sometimes mothers wag fingers at oldest children so they know that daddy’s in the hospital near-dead, not from the allergic reaction to that prescribed antibiotic like Doctor said, but thanks to his own children. Sometimes mothers chuckle and urge siblings to jab at the thin-skinned one of the group, because young children just don’t do it enough on their own. Sometimes fourth-grade teachers welcome new students with high praise and it leaves New Student’s stomach churning, because in truth they’re a monster and now they’re a liar, too, because Teacher believes otherwise.
Sometimes preteen daughters arrive to school in tears nearly every morning and hear whispers of “wimp” and “weakling,” because why else would a young girl cry? It couldn’t be because they don’t feel loved in a home where Mother stays home with them.
Sometimes daughters drop juiceboxes at pool parties and mothers respond with every insult that’s on-call at the top of her mind. Every insult except her classic, excessively profane ones, because that would be inappropriate in polite company. The company’s not so polite if it’s Daughter’s peers, because she’ll accuse her of unspeakable acts unknown to Daughter, and she’ll mouth “Slut” repeatedly through backdoor windows, her voice heard always, through locked doors and adult woman’s nightmares. Sometimes mothers end up dragging near-crippled daughters to emergency rooms because months-long complaints of illness were all in their head. Sometimes mothers tell teenage daughters they’re hideous, inside and out, everyday without fail, and in reality that daily reminder’s good and tame.
And sometimes Teenage+ Daughters hunt down love in other people’s homes. Sometimes it’s the Boy-Girl cliché, and home translates as bed, and it’s no home at all.
But the story isn’t always cliché. Sometimes Teenage+ Daughter knows that Average Boy’s bed doesn’t include room for authentic love. Sometimes she flirts with the idea, but always she knows that the One who truly bore her into existence asks far more of her and of Boys. And by submitting one application, one wearied late-winter afternoon, she chooses first to search out the Parent whose always loved her, the One who models all Goodness, Beauty, and Truth, the only One who acts and speaks with immunity.
And the healing begins then but it’ll never end, not while any of we sojourners navigate God’s green earth, because even Daughters who desire the pure love of God first and foremost desire to be loved in other people’s homes. And that desire to belong anywhere on earth, that breathless pursuit, returns Adult Woman to grade four, once she learns that she’s never belonged, that they’d prefer her to be-long-gone instead.
And old wounds tear open as she reads words, endless words, and words tear everything to shreds. And like Mother, their professed piety and civility’s expressed by omitting profanity, because their words aren’t what Jesus would say, and they never asked what Jesus would do, and they did it all in secret. And no Christian community exists for the likes of her in their version of God’s Kingdom, and her faith in professed Christians evaporates and it’s just as it should be because we’re called to faith in a perfect God, not the imperfect who claim perfection.
And it doesn’t stay secret because tears flood out like waterfalls in Church pews and the imperfect who know their imperfections extend healing hands, Christ-like. And it doesn’t stay secret because Adult Woman stands behind a podium and speaks the truth that Mother violently denies and that they sleep well with at night. And she speaks her own words and as she speaks their secret words begin to lose the power they never should’ve had, and she speaks her own words because silence is consent.
And the Truth that’s always existed exists today: She’s not her Mother’s Daughter. She’s not the Imaginary Woman written about with words, endless words. She’s a Woman created by Love, for Love. She’s created in Love’s image, not her image. She’s created in Love’s image, not their imaginations.
And motherhood isn’t sainthood. Loving’s sainthood.