June 25, 2015
Learning to Trust
She hears the front door squeak open, and she tenses, involuntarily bracing herself for . . . she is not quite sure what. Whenever he comes home, everything changes.
When she is alone, she can almost relax, almost imagine a life full of peace and serenity and calm. In the quiet moments, she can remember a time when there was silly laughter and deep joy and infinite hope for the future. But those days are behind them now, and her home is, instead, filled with frequent strife and familiar bickering. There is a tension that lives here now, a tension that she can almost feel.
She never knows which one will walk through the front door at the end of the day: Happy Him or Angry Him. The him who smiles and asks about her day, or the him who snarls and immediately starts belittling and criticizing her flaws. The him who wants to chat and engage, or the him who is sullen, angry and withdrawn.
The minute he walks in, the part of her brain that senses danger is activated, and every muscle, every sense is instantly on high-alert. Are those light-hearted footsteps she hears striding down the hall, meaning that he is ready to interact with her? Or can she hear a hostile purpose in those shoes, meaning that someone somewhere in his day may have upset him somehow, and now he is ready to take out his frustration on her? Or perhaps, could it be that she hears a slight shuffle, the defeated trudge that will send him and his dark mood straight to his room, barely even noticing her?
He rounds the corner to where she is standing, and one look at the expression on his face tells her everything she needs to know. It’s Happy Him. At least for the moment. She exhales the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding, and allows herself a smile in his direction. He grins and greets her with, “Hey, Mom! I’m starving! What can I eat?” Her son is home.
She remembers the day she welcomed this boy into her home all those years ago. When she first heard his story, she simply could not comprehend what it was like for him. How can a Child from a Hard Place live in constant vigilance, never knowing from one moment to the next what to expect? How can he live with constant anxiety? Forever wondering if the one he loves is going to hurt him? She remembers thinking, I cannot imagine.
For the first few months, it was understandable that he would not trust her. Why would he? She was just the next “mother” in a long line of “mothers” who had not lived up to his hopes and expectations. Who had disappointed, rejected, and given up on him. And so along the way he had learned to have no expectations. To depend only on himself. It was simply too much of a gamble to rely on someone else, knowing that the ones he loved would eventually let him down.
As the months and then years went by, however, she became increasingly frustrated, and even resentful, that he refused to trust her. He would not really believe that she would do what she said she would do. How hard could it be, she wondered? I consistently meet his every need. I have never done anything to hurt him. I will always be here for him. I will never ever disappoint him! Why can’t he simply trust me?
She loves her son, of course. Loves him deeply, with a fierce protection that would do anything for him. Anything! But in her private, more honest moments, she admits to herself, although never out loud, that this isn’t exactly what she had expected. That being a mother to this child is the hardest thing she has ever been asked to do. That this is not what she thought her life would be like.
Maybe, she considers, I do understand how he feels after all.
She understands now what it is like to live with uncertainty and anxiety. What it means to constantly face each morning with that unsettled, uneasy feeling, not entirely sure of how the day will unfold. To always be on alert, waiting for the next outburst, the next mood change, the next unpredictable behavior that has a way of sabotaging family unity, school days, friendships, and special events.
She understands now what it is like to love someone with all her heart, and at the same time know that he has the capability of hurting her deeply.
She understands now what it means to worry about the future. The questions are most likely the same ones that he asks himself. Will he have the confidence and self-discipline that he will need to hold down a job and support himself? Will he know how to find healthy relationships? Will he ever be able to trust?
She, too, understands now how difficult it can be to trust. Before, when life was simpler and she was full of optimism and naïve enthusiasm, Happy Her had a strong faith in the Lord’s goodness and providence. Hopeful Her had trusted Him with all her heart, fully confident in His love for her. Fully believing in His promises.
When the angry, powerful waves threatened to capsize her family, however, the first hints of fear began to creep in, and Doubting Her began to wonder if God is really capable of keeping those promises. If He really is as good as she had believed Him to be. Along the way, Anxious Her became more and more reluctant to trust Him. It was simply too much of a gamble to rely on Him, knowing He would eventually let her down.
The irony is not lost on her. How can she ever hope that her son will trust, when she herself is so reluctant to trust? How can she expect him to heal, when she herself needs to heal? How can her son ever find peace and joy, until he sees the peace and joy in her?
She can almost hear her Father saying, I consistently meet her every need. I have never done anything to hurt her. I will always be here for her. I will never ever disappoint her! Why can’t she simply trust Me?
She falls on her knees in brokenness before Him, admitting that she, too, is a Child from a Hard Place. She weeps in shame at her unbelief, at her weakness and terror in the face of the fierce storm. She humbly surrenders her control and self-sufficiency, and pleads with Him to forgive her. Pleads with Him to hold her closely and protect her and shelter her. To be the Father that she so desperately needs.
She understands, now, why it is so difficult for her son. Why he has unpredictable tantrums and erratic behavior and frequent outbursts. Her frustration and resentment melt into renewed compassion. At least for the moment. And the grace that she has received from her Father, she can now extend to her son.
She will be here again tomorrow. And the day after that. Falling on her knees before her Father, admitting her failures, surrendering her fears. They are both on this journey together, her beloved son and her. They are both in need of patience and compassion. Grace and forgiveness. They both have such a long way to go. They are both learning to trust.