When Your Mother Was Eighteen

When your mother was eighteen, she was hated by everyone. Or at least that’s what she thought. It could have been true; it could have not. Whatever the truth was isn’t as important as understanding that there is no humanly possible way to make everyone love you. But she so, so desperately wanted to make it happen. To make everyone love her. That is the mistake she made.

In 2016, your mother began writing a book — just for you. It was titled, “If I Should Have a Daughter One Day.” It never got too far. On the first day she began writing the first lesson, she couldn’t even get halfway down the page for fear that she might mislead you. That innate, meddling fear came from an insatiable desire to protect you from herself. That voice in her head –the one that gets loud on bad days and whose voice rumbles through her rib cage when she loses sight of God- tells her that she will never be a decent mother.

“You are much too selfish, too greedy, too incompetent to love something so wholeheartedly.”

That is probably true, too. If she is anything like the woman who bore her into the world, the essence of her selfish, wretched being is inescapable. But your mother — she has always wanted to be different. To love you in a way she could never love anything else in this life.

But you know what she learned when she turned twenty one?

She learned that no matter how much she hated herself, there was nothing she could have ever done to make God love her any less. Likewise, there was nothing she could have ever done to make God love her any more. His love was always steadfast in a way that brought her to tears, relentlessly, uncontrollably, fervently.

How can she explain it to you? How could she ever capture that love in words to her friends and anyone she encounters? She’s found it so difficult to elaborate into the most eloquent of terms. No words could possibly be sophisticated or breathtaking enough to accurately reveal what God’s love truly feels like when you allow Him to manifest in your heart. It would be her greatest joy in life for you to feel it too.

When people look at your mother, there is a very specific image they see. She’s more than cognizant of it. Countless times, her peers have called her numerous things — none of which seem to bring her satisfaction or happiness.

“Corporate. Lawyer-to-be. Driven. Successful.”

She’s been called bad things too.

“Bitch. Ingenuous. Fuck girl.”

How is it, though, that the good things don’t sound any better than the bad ones? If the compliments are not important, than what is?

If I were your mother, I would want you to understand this before anything else:

Look at yourself the way God looks at you. Nothing else matters.

You are a sinner. You are so frustratingly imperfect, flawed, and disastrous every single day. There is no way you could ever deserve a perfect love like the kind you seek. But that doesn’t mean someone like the God you love won’t offer it to you. That doesn’t mean that you were not redeemed. In fact, He found you so precious that He killed His one and only son so that you could be with Him one day. It wasn’t because you were deserving; it was because he loved you so desperately that he allowed himself to feel suffering for your sanctification. Your mother didn’t understand that until very recently. If she cannot teach you anything else, she wishes you would keep this one fact sealed in your heart forever.

There may be a time when the world looks at you and says you are many different things. Don’t be like your mother. Don’t let every single criticism eat you from the inside out to the point where you don’t even know who you are anymore. Whenever she tried to do something right, it seemed like it was always wrong — so you know what she did? She displayed a specific portion of her accomplishments, then proceeded to lock herself in the bathroom and cry on the cold, tile floor until she couldn’t breathe. I never wish a feeling like that for you. I never wish it for anyone.

The fact that such misery will happen is inevitable. But the important thing that your mother and you must realize is that it will only happen if you do not seek God in the center of your life. When you make it about you and you make it about how much you yourself can accomplish, you will begin to live for those labels:

“Corporate. Lawyer-to-be. Driven. Successful.”

And you will kill yourself for them too:

“Bitch. Ingenuous. Fuck girl.”

God loves you. That’s all you need. You don’t always have to try and do the right thing. Ironically enough, the more you try to do so, the more others will think you are doing the exact opposite. Life is funny in that way, isn’t it? The validation that you may seek does not exist. Everyone cannot love you. Everyone will not love you. You will not love you.

But why does any of that matter anyway? What advantage do we seek by craving imperfect love from another imperfect person for our imperfect selves? How could we ever be foolish enough to believe that such worldly affirmation could compare to a love like our God’s?

If I should have a daughter one day, I would tell her all of these things.

So for my daughter — who I will be lucky enough to raise one day — this is for you.

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