For years I wondered when I would ever grow up. I have always felt younger than everybody else. I was the youngest of four children, in the youngest group of kids in the neighborhood, and at tail end of the Baby Boom. This was all a perfect storm to place me in the mental position of being the perpetual little sister to the world.
My growing up years were not easy. My parents' divorce and the ensuing emotional fallout threw me for a loop. My father pretty much left the picture but my mother stayed very much in my life. Sometimes, in my opinion, too much in my life.
As I grew into adulthood I found I could never feel like an adult around my mother. I also felt the perpetual pressure to be the one to meet her emotional needs. I found this to be suffocating and overwhelming. In my immaturity I fumbled. In my effort to bring distance between myself and her, I divorced myself of anything that she stood for, going so far as to even ditch my southern mountain twang.
Through the years and into my own life as a mother, I softened. I learned about boundaries and setting them in as loving a manner possible, but I still kept the relationship far more distant than was necessary. I just had no idea how to biblically love and honor her without getting tangled up in a vortex of dysfunction and unrealistic expectations.
I was there when she died, four years ago this May. It rocked my world. I had no idea. None at all. The grief wouldn't let go. It would come at me in waves. I couldn't think. I had to nap. It was a full year before I woke up to the life right in front of me. In many ways, that life was very hard. Being the mother to teenagers and young adults is not the easiest job on the planet and certainly not one that lends itself to warm, fuzzy feelings. I never knew that my mere presence on the planet could be seen with such scorn.
I had spent my entire life trying to not be my mother, but as motherhood got harder, I began to identify more and more with her. One day, it all broke open. I wrote about it in my blog post Flannery Meltdown. Our pastor talks about the difference between gnosis, which is basic head knowledge, and epignosis, which is a true, in your gut, heart-felt understanding. That day I went from gnosis of my mother to epignosis and it tore me to my core.
That was over a year ago. I have worked through, with God, the pain of this epignosis. I went through a period of "God is punishing me because of how awful I was to my mother" and "I am just getting what I deserve" and "Why can't I turn back the clock and love her the way I should" and all forms of pain and regret. I am so thankful for the grace of God. That He does not pay us as our sins deserve.
I look back at that moment now and am thankful. Even though it ripped my heart in two, I think that is the day that I grew up.