“He was always such a good boy.” She spoke quietly, sunlight from the window illuminating every furrow in her forehead. She wasn’t particularly pretty. But perhaps she had been before grief had taken over her features. Moving toward the light, she scanned the spring-green countryside before continuing.
“I loved him as mothers love sons. Fiercely. Madly. He was always my favorite, but I tried not to let it show. I couldn’t help it. He just had that way of pulling my heartstrings.” Turning from the window, she settled herself on low cushions and closed her eyes for a moment. “He was different. Special. I really wasn’t sure where life would take him. But I just knew he would go far.”
Then the tears came. Just one or two, from beneath dark lashes. She fought them bravely, struggling for the composure that had held her together through the years as fingers pointed and tongues wagged in not-so-soft whispers that cut like shards of glass.
“I was thrilled to hear of his adventures with those eleven friends of his. News traveled quickly when something miraculous happened. True, a couple of them were a little rough, especially those sons of Thunder! But from what I understood, they had each other’s backs. And the power of God was surely with them. Why, he even healed the sick and cast out demons. He shared the stories with me himself during his last visit home. I just don’t understand what happened.”
She shook her head as if trying to jar the memories loose. “If they were unkind to him, he never told me. He didn’t give a hint of betrayal. They always seemed like such a close-knit group. I mean, for three years they were together, night and day. I cannot fathom what went wrong. How could such a terrible thing happen? That’s not how his ministry was supposed to end. That was not how he was supposed to die. Oh, Judas! My Judas!” Her tears could no longer be contained as violent pent-up sobs shook her small frame.
Can you feel her ache? Identify with her heart? Do you know that mother? You know…the one whose son is in juvenile detention? Or rehab? Maybe she’s the one whose daughter overdosed a couple of years ago. Or whose sweet grandbaby grew up to be a perpetrator. Or the one who isn’t a mother at all because she had one too many abortions, wrecking her chances of conception. What is she doing for Mother’s Day?
Perhaps you have been the mother, or the wife, or the sister who is being whispered about. Or maybe it’s your husband who ran that stoplight while driving under the influence. Or your teenager, who didn’t see that guy on the motorcycle because she was texting her boyfriend. Is that your daughter-in-law, whose black eye reminds you of the days when your son’s father did the same to you?
Mother’s Day makes some mothers want to curl up in a tight ball of shame and hide behind their wall of pain while their friends are opening pink Hallmark envelopes and going out for brunch. Chances are, you know one of those shame-filled ones. She may be in your pew, your prayer group, or your circle of friends. She may be in your mirror.
Dr. Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” In her book Daring Greatly, she cites some of the responses people gave when asked for an example of shame. Here are a few, as found on p. 70:
- “Shame is having someone ask me, “When are you due?” when I’m not pregnant.
- Shame is hiding the fact that I’m in recovery.
- Shame is bankruptcy.
- Shame is my DUI.
- Shame is infertility.
- Shame is telling my fiancé that my dad lives in France when in fact he’s in prison.
- Shame is Internet porn.
- Shame is hearing my parents fight through the walls and wondering if I’m the only one who feels this afraid.”
If I could speak for the mother of Judas, I could probably add, “Shame is having your son hang out with Jesus Christ for three years and blowing it all by betraying Him and then hanging himself from a tree.”
Maybe it seems strange to talk about this on Mother’s Day weekend when everything is meant to be roses and kisses. But holidays are some of the most difficult times for people, especially those in recovery. And if we are truthful, that should probably include most of us. Maybe this isn’t your particular holiday to mourn, but I can almost guarantee there is one.
Thursday would have been my husband’s mother’s birthday. She passed away just last spring. He did what I’m encouraging each of us to do when these things come up. He reached out. He called his sisters. He called his dad. They remembered Mom and comforted one another with words. They brought one more measure of healing to the wound that is losing a loved one.
Was it Judas’ mother’s fault that he went rogue and is best remembered for betraying the Son of God? Should she have had to walk in shame for the rest of her life because of her son’s adult choices? I don’t know if she did. But it would certainly be tempting, wouldn’t it? Shame makes us want to hide. Shame says, “You are a bad mother.” Shame says, “It’s your fault your kid turned out that way,” or “You don’t deserve to have kids anyway, after the kind of life you’ve led.” Shame is a liar.
After 12 years of researching shame, Brené Brown suggests four elements of what she calls, “shame resilience,” which, she says, “always ultimately lead us to empathy and healing:
- Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers.
- Practicing Critical Awareness.
- Reaching Out.
- Speaking Shame.”
If this Mother’s Day isn’t looking too bright, for whatever reason, may I encourage you to practice courage and reach out to someone? Own your story. Don’t let it fester. Don’t bury it. Talk about it. Share it. And talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone else if you really loved them and were trying to comfort them. Let’s be kind to ourselves, and kind to one another.
Not every mother’s Mothers’ Day is joy-filled. But every mother deserves to know that “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Peace is one of those good and perfect gifts. Whatever your story, may His perfect peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds (Philippians 4:4) today.
*Thank you, Winter_can_wait, for sharing your beautiful images with us. More from Ami can be found at http://twenty20.com/winter_can_wait