Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fact Check for "the Worst of Mothers"

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:22-23)

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2007 just 2 weeks before my wedding. I was blessed with a daughter, Josie, in the fall of 2013 after having been in remission for a year. In the 5th month of my pregnancy, I flared, and although the pregnancy went fine for my baby (thank You, God), I got sicker and sicker and sicker. My meds quit working, and in addition to the UC, I developed severe proctitis and a partial prolapse. Now it's a year and a half later, and my UC still isn't under control. (See my original blog at When Suffering Doesn't Stop: Life with Chronic Pain for more information on that noise).

I'm a pastor's wife in a semi-rural setting. There are no support groups in my area, and though I have great friends who have done so much to help me and my family, I still feel secluded when it comes to being a Mom with a chronic illness. I've found a lot of tips for moms with chronic illnesses online, and even a few sites on the depression that tends to tag along with chronic illness, but no one seems to be talking about the guilt and shame that chronically ill moms sometimes feel for being less than we ought to be. Being a mom with a chronic illness is accompanied by so much guilt and shame that I don't really want to talk about it either because if I talk about it, I have to think about it, and if I think about it, I have to feel it, and if I feel it, it overwhelms me. But I (we) have to be stronger than our feelings. Being a Mom with a chronic illness is being stronger than lots of terrible things for the sake of love that's stronger than any thing, any guilt, any shame, any pain we feel. Love that is not a feeling, but a fact: a really real reality firmly anchored in He who first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Guilt Only Mom Would Feel
In my humble opinion, for what it's worth, the guilt and shame of feeling like the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) doesn't compare to the guilt and shame of feeling like the worst of mothers. When you're the chief of sinners, you're hurting God and maybe your loved ones and other people, too. But when you're the worst of mothers, you're hurting God which is bad enough, but you also know without the shadow of any doubt that you are hurting the person (or people) that you love most in all the world—and worse yet—the person (or people) who love YOU most in all their world. You're hurting someone who is helpless and totally dependent on you to live rightly, someone who has no one in their lives more important than “Mom,” save of course Christ. And through no fault of your own, you just aren't physically able to live up to that revered name while you're living in this broken and useless body. ...or so Satan would have you believe.

Insert—God the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Smash that mirror the father of lies holds up for you and hold up a new one washed clean in your baptism into Christ's all-atoning sacrifice. See yourself and your children through God's eyes, and take a long, hard look at the facts before you define the word "good."

1). Your child (or children) will be okay even if...
      ...you can't take her to playgroup every single time it meets.
      ...you can't take her to church every single week. 
      ...she can't go outside every nice day. 
      ...she wasn't exclusively breastfed (a MASSIVE source of guilt for me personally). 
      ...her Mom is sometimes Mom-on-the-Couch or Mom-on-the-Bench. 
      ...she watches some TV. 
      ...she has to go to bed early once in a while. 
      ...her lunch today was Spaghettios, microwaved peas, and milk. 
      ...you need the help of a nanny, babysitter, daycare, or Gramma. 
     ...even if _________________________________________.

2). You are a good Mom even if...
     (CUT & PASTE from above)

Trusting that you and your children will be okay despite things going wrong all around you is the first step on the road to true peace. No one in the Bible had it easy once Adam and Eve ate that cursed apple (Gen. 3:14-19), least of all Jesus and His Twelve Apostles, all but one of whom died a bloody martyr's death (St. John is believed to have died of natural causes). And throughout all the promises in that Bible, not once does God promise us an easy life. In fact, He promises us the opposite (See "The Rose Garden"). Why? Generally, because it's a sinful world. Specifically, I suppose the reasons are different for everyone, but it always has something to with the fact that sometimes in order to know who God truly is, welike St. Peter walking on the water toward Jesushave to sink a little first (Mt. 14:28-33).

Secondly, please do some reading before you define who a "good Mom" is and what she does. Start with any or all of the following, and please do not be intimidated: Matthew 22:34-40Matthew 25:35-401 Corinthians 121 Corinthians 13Galatians 5:16-26Ephesians 5; Philippians 2. While none of the things commanded in the Bible are easy to do, we can at least try to do them every bit as well as the next imperfect sinner who may or may not be chronically ill can. Nowhere in there does it say we have to raise our kids alone, keep a spotless house, never let our child lay eyes on a television screen, and serve them 3 home-cooked meals a day 7 days a week in order to be "good." So, relax, Type-A's. My Dad always said, "You don't get into heaven by the shine of your floor."

The Guilt Remains
After reading all this, I know you still feel bad. I know it because I wrote all this, and I still feel bad. We can't always be reasoned out of our guilt and shame. Our heads know the truth, but our hearts know another truth (Rom. 2:15): we are other than we ought to be. Everyone, sick or not, falls short in one way or another (Rom. 3:23). So, when reason won't abate your guilt, confess all the things that are guilty and ashamed of, whether they qualify as sinful deeds or not, in the privacy of your heart or to your pastor or priest (1 John 1:9). And if that pastor or priest tries to reason you out of your feelings of guilt and shame, kindly remind him that you would like to be forgiven for all your shortcomings, whether they're your fault or not. Sin isn't only the bad things we do: it's also the bad things that are done to us, the bad things that happen to us, and the good things that we fail to do. And we are welcome to lay all of it at the foot of the Cross because Jesus died for all of it. He died for all of us, every part of each one of us. He is the perfect parent none of us can ever be, sick or healthy, rich or poor, educated or not. And in the end, He is all we and our children truly need. 

So please, try to have a Happy Mother's Day today, even if you have to spend it in bed. Your body might feel sick, but your heart can still feel the love of God and the love of your children.

Make the Choice to Build a Community
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25)

I hope a community of kindness and support for one another might be created at MWCI, or that some moms might be spurned on to create a circle of support in their cities and towns for other moms with chronic illnesses. We need God, and so we need each other. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) So, I invite you to please share your stories and insights here, ask questions, give advice, and request prayers. (See the "Contact Form"on the right-hand side of the screen or use the "Comments" section below each post). In addition to your contributions, I hope to publish a new post of my own each month on varying topics related to being a mom with a chronic illness. They will not always be this long. I promise.
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DISCLAIMER: On the other hand, if you read this and think something like, “Tsk, my child would never watch TV just so I could rest for 20 minutes,” or “God is a fairy tale and everyone who believes in Him is an idiot,” kindly keep your judgmental thoughts to yourself. I've been on the Internet long enough to know that trolls and bigots are everywhere, and there is no place for you here. There are differing degrees of illness, pain, and need, so please take that energy earmarked for judging others and use it to take the log out of your own – ahem – eye or wherever (Mt. 7:5), give thanks to God that your needs are not as great as others', and help someone who needs it. Thank you.

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ATTENTION READERS: Please submit your own stories, advice, questions, prayers and prayer requests, and topic suggestions to MWCI! What's the biggest source of guilt for you? What's your greatest comfort? Your biggest regret or hardest challenge? What do you want to read more about? If you're a healthy Mom, or a grown child of a chronically ill Mom, what would you like to say to those of us who are struggling? If you are a pastor, nun/deaconess, nurse or doctor, or concerned friend, what advice or words of comfort can you give? **Use the Contact Form above, the Comment Post below or email MWCI at momwithchronicillness.org@gmail.com. Only material deemed appropriate will be published.