Sarah Mae is woman who comes from a divorced family, with an alcoholic, verbally and emotionally abusive mother, who was pregnant at 16, was pressured into having an abortion, found false security and veneer love through boyfriends and sex and who met Jesus powerfully through the tender, persistent wooing of God. Meeting Him changed everything. It’s a grace to welcome Sarah to the farm’s front porch today…
She broke me.
But He found me.
And after He bound up my wounds
He taught me how to love her.
Because she was broken too.
My fingers trace the shape of the cheap pink Daisy razor sitting on the side of the tub. I wonder, can you slit your wrists with a cheap razor?
Goosebumps form on my arms.
My foot reaches up and turns the handle of the facet, pushing it all the way to the red line, but only a cool stream comes out.
I hear the scooping of ice cubes and the sound of them hitting her glass. The vodka comes next.
My insides tighten and the feeling of steel moves up my shoulders and down my arms.
Her words from earlier loop in my brain. I drink, so what, you need to get over it.
Get over it.
I feel it again, the fire that’s trapped under my skin, that burns through my body; I don’t know how to get it out of me.
I look at the razor again. Could I do it—could I slice the life out of myself?
How much would it hurt? How much would it hurt her? My mind drifts off into a fantasy where mom finds me limp and blue and slouched in red water.
She realizes what she’s done, how much she’s destroyed, and she tries to wake me up but it’s too late. Now her insides burn.
The fantasy dissipates, and I slide further into the water, which barely covers my shoulders.
What I want more than sliced arteries is for her to tell me she loves me.
I want her to hold me in her arms as though I was her little girl again; I want her to rub my arms and stroke my hair and tell me everything is going to be okay. The fire seethes.
My fist wraps tightly around the razor and I yell out,
“Maybe I’ll kill myself!”
A split-second of hope fills me, like maybe my insecure, needy declaration will wake her up and she’ll run to me and we’ll have that real talk and we’ll cry and hug and prove talk show endings really do happen.
“Go ahead. I dare you.”
I release the razor and I sob into the lukewarm water.
People always ask me how I forgave my alcoholic mother.
How do you forgive someone who wounded you so deeply, who carelessly brushed aside your pain, who caused such destruction?
And even more specifically, how do you forgive them when your wounds are still open, when they show no remorse, when you are so dang tangled up with them you’re not sure how on earth to get untangled?
Here’s what I know:
One of the most significant things we can do if we are struggling with forgiveness and pain in relationship, is to mourn.
I first learned how to mourn after I took myself and my mother issues to a woman named Melanie, a counselor that was recommend to me.
We sat down in her small office and I smiled nervously because maybe it was dumb that I was there. At some point I told her my mom didn’t send me a birthday card, and I know it’s dumb, but I’m really sad about it.
We talk, and by “we” I mean “me” and it turns out there is a load of sorrow and despondency right underneath my skin.
I’m flat-out sad, down to the bone, cry me a river, sad.
And also, I’m pretty ticked off.
My mom abandoned her role as mother, and she chose her alcohol over her children and she is a mean, offensive, unedited, stubborn, word I will not use here. And another also, I want to be held.
Will I ever have a mother like that, like the kind that holds their daughters and carries their hearts?
That’s mushy, I know, but this is where I’m at.
Mush and ache and anger and desperate for physical affection.
Here is what I want to hear Melanie tell me: Yes, it’s possible to have those things, maybe not with your mom, but maybe another woman will fill that role. Maybe another woman will adopt you as her own and take you in and nurture you and give you all that your heart has been longing for.
Melanie did not say those words. Instead she said this:
You have to mourn the loss of a mother.
I don’t know how long I stared at Melanie before the tears tumbled out. I would have to release her as my mom, grieve her as though she died.
Because the reality is, I don’t have her. I don’t have the mom my daughter heart longs for. Waiting for her to be something she’s not is just keeping the wound open.
It’s time to begin to let it heal.
We mourn because it is the process of accepting reality and letting go of expectations that we may have pinned our hopes on.
And here is how we begin to do that:
We Acknowledge It
We were created to live with Him in a garden, and yet we awake every morning in the desert of a fallen world. Michael Card, A Sacred Sorrow.
When there is nothing else to do, when the pain is too much, when prayers don’t get answered the way we had hoped, we lament.
Over 1/3 of the Psalms are filled with psalms of lament, raw, honest emotions with no pretense, with a literal meaning of, “to tear the hair and beat the breast.”
Lament was not something to be hidden or ashamed of. When we lament, we allow space for the expression of deep, guttural pain.
Part of our healing comes through lament, acknowledging our pain and the truth of it.
The worst thing we can do is dam up our feelings. When we have trauma, when bad things happen, and we have to function, sometimes we compartmentalize. We don’t deal with it, we stuff it down and wall up. Doing this separates us from our emotions. We stuff through denial, busyness, all sorts of ways.
But all this stuffing is just our attempt to avoid lament, our God-given expression of grief.
When we do this, when we stuff it down, eventually our stuffing begins to develop cracks and emotions come out. We try to put fingers in the holes, but that inevitably breaks, and many times in ways we don’t like. Some people bottle up their whole lives and live half-dead.
This quote (often attributed to Ben Franklin but not sourced) says it best: “A man dies at 24 and is buried at 64.”
We develop anxiety in feeling our emotions and we try to control life so we don’t have to feel them.
Anxiety says, “I can’t handle it.”
The truth is, whatever the pain, it won’t destroy us, and “this too shall pass.” If we really can’t handle it, that’s when we should seek out a counselor.
We Find What Brings Healing to Our Own Individual Heart
What works for me might not work for you. You have to figure out what brings release and healing to your own heart.
Some people process by sitting and crying, talking to friends and family, some through journaling, doing art, running, music, and so on. There are a variety of ways.
One thing that’s important regardless: use the things that bring you peace and joy to help you process your feelings.
For me, I had to feel it all and then write.
I wrote my heartache into poems and it helped me to process and release the pain.
We Take Time
Two weeks after a loss is usually when the crash happens. This is why community and funerals are so important.
Anything you can unload off your plate during this time is wise. Call friends to help you. Understand that people want to know how to help.
When emotions come up, feel them, observe them, let them naturally dissipate.
Be honest in processing reality. “Lord, is there something you want to say to me about this?” (My friend Amy said her mom’s friend says, “Come here pain. What do you want to teach me?”)
For some of us, the crash happens 5, 15, 20 years into the unresolved grief. The same thing holds true: Be honest. Let the pain do its work. Let the feelings come.
The important thing is not stuffing it, but vulnerably facing it and walking through it. The healing comes through the pain.
And this healing, this despair to joy, this rescue, it’s always a miracle and it’s always a surprise.
God is good and kind, and He is “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13).
I don’t know what your heartache is today, what wound or secret or tangled up relationship you’re facing, but I know that this:
God hears your cry and He cares for you.
Your pain grieves His heart, so much so that He holds your tears in a bottle, knowing, remembering each hurt, each injustice, each lament (Psalm 56:8).
And He tenderly holds them all and He fights for you, always working for your good.
It’s not over.
If you’ve ever wondered how you could forgive someone who wounded you so deeply, who carelessly brushed aside your pain, who caused such destruction, or more specifically, when your wounds are still open, when they show no remorse, when you are so dang tangled up with them you’re not sure how on earth to get untangled, then you are who Sarah Mae has written for.
The Complicated Heart is the story of how Sarah learned to love and forgive her alcoholic mother, but more, it’s for those of you need to know how to have hope when the dark invades.
This is the story of how even in great darkness light finds a way in, comforts us when we can’t see, and leads us out into the fullness of day where redemption and freedom and healing are waiting for us. There is victory and hope and joy despite the pain.
[ Our humble thanks to B&H for their partnership in today’s devotion ]