Article by: Sarah Koontz, Founder of Living by Design Ministries
“I want to be in relationship with people who love me unconditionally,” my mom quietly admitted, tears streaming down her face.
Like a dagger to my heart, the truth seeped into my soul and revealed something ugly I had never before seen.
I had not loved her well.
What do you do when you realize, for the first time, that one of the primary relationships in your life is broken and the fault rests solely on your shoulders?
Don’t get me wrong, up until the moment I described above, I had been confident the blame was not my own.
I had dedicated countless hours of emotional energy to building a case against my mom, finding fault in her every move.
She simply didn’t love me how I needed to be loved.
But what if, in the midst of it all, she had pulled back from the relationship because it wasn’t a safe place for her to be?
What if by focusing on the things I felt were lacking in the relationship, I had somehow destroyed everything that was good and beautiful in it?
Driving away from my mom’s house that day, my head was spinning and my heart was broken.
For the first time in my life, I had seen myself through her eyes.
Eyes that were filled with a mixture of intense love and intense pain.
I wanted, no I needed, to do everything in my power to erase the pain I saw in those eyes.
But how do you erase the pain in the eyes of someone you love?
In moments like these, when I am overwhelmed and uncertain of how to proceed, I do the only thing I know to do.
I pray. I seek. I beckon the Lord to enter into the brokenness of my life and show me the way through.
Brokenness is a powerful thing, uncertainty is a gift, and desperation is a key that unlocks the truths of God’s word.
But only if you pray, seek, beckon.
Oh, how I longed for an immediate answer, a peace to fill my soul and comfort to dull the pain.
I hate feeling ugly, and broken, and incapable.
But the Lord’s answer was not immediate, and the ugliness clung to me like a reluctant toddler clings to his mother’s leg.
I, Sarah Koontz, had failed.
There was no other way to say it.
That’s the painful truth.
I had not loved my mother well.
Days passed, and I continued to seek the Lord in prayer.
It is rare for me to have an experience where I hear the Lord’s voice behind me saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 31:20)
But the Lord eventually responded to my desperation, to my pleas for wisdom and direction.
He spoke gently to my heart…
How have I loved you, Sarah?
I was standing in my bathroom when this question floated through my head down into my heart…how has He loved me?
It’s at moments like these that I am eternally grateful for my upbringing in the church.
Because I knew the answer to that question.
God loves me, not because of my own merit, but because of the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross.
When God looks at me, He does not see my past sins, because my slate has been wiped white as snow.
God loves me because of who He is.
In that moment, I was able to figuratively look into my Heavenly Father’s eyes and see his unconditional love for me.
There was no pain there, no brokenness, no dissatisfaction…just love.
How could God look upon me with such love and acceptance when I have failed Him so utterly and completely?
Then it struck me.
He could look at me that way because the slate had been wiped clean.
He had truly forgiven me of all of my shortcomings and chosen to love me unconditionally in spite of them all.
If I could learn to love my mom in the same way, maybe in time, that love could erase the pain in her eyes.
A clean slate.
An unconditional love.
These gifts are not mine to offer, but I know the One who is the giver of all good gifts.
And I will ask Him each morning for the strength to see my mom through His eyes, to love my mom with His love.
Mom, thank you for those tears.
Thank you for loving me enough to show me your pain.
I will never be able to love you as perfectly or unconditionally as God has loved you, but I will dedicate the rest of my life to loving you better.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
Have you ever failed to love your mother well? Are you struggling with this issue currently? I would love to pray for and encourage you.
If you have a story to tell, a question to ask, a frustration to share….I am here to listen and to pray for you. All you have to do is drop me a note using the form on our “CONNECT” page.
I may not have the answers, but I understand the battle and have found great freedom in recent months.
If you are struggling in your relationship with your mom, I encourage you to read our mother-daughter story from the beginning:
1: To the Grown Daughter Who Has Failed to Love Her Mother Well.
2: Here’s What Happened When I Chose to Forgive My Mom.
3: Careless Words and Broken Egg Shells
4: Fiercely Loving My Perfectly Imperfect Mom
5: Beauty for Ashes: How God Redeemed My Mother-Daughter Story
Our God is in the restoration business; there is no relationship on earth beyond the reach of His agape love.
It’s not easy to love our moms—selflessly and without expectation—but it is what God has asked of us.
And God never asks anything He does not also empower us to do.
Even if your mother-daughter relationship is never restored this side of heaven, you can have peace in knowing that you did everything within your power to love your mom well.
And isn’t peace what you’ve been longing for, after all?
This post was inspired by Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday writing prompt “Shadow Boxing.” I believe that the breakthrough in my relationship with my mom was dependent on one key factor I wasn’t able to share in the story above. When we choose to forgive and wipe the slate clean, the devil loses a foothold in our lives. Satan does not want us to live in unity and he adores discord, especially in the family unit. For many years, I held tightly to the hurts and pains from my past experiences with my mom. Petty little stuff. But satan duped me into believing I had a right to it, and because of that I was stuck…shadow boxing with my mom, oblivious of the true enemy. When I made a decision of my will, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, to wipe the slate clean. ..I put my gloves on and, for the first time in a long time, dealt a knockout blow to my true enemy.