The Calloused Heart of a Mother

Truth be told, her heart began to harden long before you were a reality, sweet child.

Her first scar may have occurred when she was just a little girl.

There were unmet expectations, a harsh word or two spoken over her by a teacher, a coach, or the kids at school.

Or maybe it was even before then. Maybe she came into this world without a father to behold her, or a mother who cherished her.

It could have been junior high that your mother’s heart toughened.

The mean boy called her ugly. The cheerleaders told her she wasn’t invited in their crew.

Or she was the cheerleader, or the rich girl, or the pretty one. The most popular girl in school. She should have felt so lucky, but the job of keeping up with popularity birthed a fear of the unknown, of falling off the pedestal.

Her heart might have hardened over her family circumstances, what she didn’t ask for but got stuck with anyway. Her parents’ nasty divorce,the pain felt after one of their deaths, a family tree of abuse, or maybe just parents who didn’t care enough to ask her about her day, her friends, her feelings.

Could be that she never lived up to their expectations, and though they loved her and tried hard to make it known, the elephant of disappointment in the room just wouldn’t disappear.

If not any of the above, it’s quite possible your mama’s heart—soft at birth, cared for throughout childhood—grew calloused by her first love.

He promised he loved her, then he broke her heart, maybe even shattered it, maybe to where she thought it might never grow back together again.

And possibly it did, little by little, by the man she grew to love and perhaps even marry. She believed he’d healed her heart, made her whole again.

But then you came along.

Your birth was most likely the greatest thing to ever happen to her.

When they laid your sweet, newly-birthed body on her chest, when your heart beat in perfect rhythm once again with hers, like it had when she carried you, every bit of blood, sweat and tears poured into bringing you here was forgotten.

All she saw was love.

Or unfortunately, maybe that wasn’t so. Maybe you weren’t planned for, maybe you were even unwanted by the woman who carried you. Or she wanted you desperately but was unable to care for you the way babies deserve.

So your destined mother came along and scooped you from the arms of what the Devil had intended for awful, and she and your Creator made it good.

That mama’s heart, possibly calloused by years of trying to have a child of her own blood, or from losing one baby after another to miscarriage or failed adoptions, that mama’s heart is especially fragile.

You may not know this, but what your mother believes those first couple of weeks is that you will never hurt her.

You couldn’t possibly. You’re too perfect.

Though you keep her awake all hours of the night, though you’ve changed her body, her routine, her home, her husband or companion, for better or worse, she still doesn’t believe you could do a thing to hurt her.

Then comes the first disappointment.

You’re not developing properly, quite possibly. Not meeting the benchmarks that someone, somewhere deemed “normal.”

Or you scream on a daily basis. Your tummy won’t stop hurting; nothing she does can help. She wants to hold you, but you don’t want to be held, or you want to be held too much and she has other responsibilities on her plate.

Her employer hasn’t given her enough time with you. In his masculinity, your father is simply unable to understand what it means to be a mother.

Or your father isn’t there at all.

Her family is expecting too much, and her friends haven’t had children yet and just don’t get it. Or they’ve already had their babies, and they’re so busy with their own set of issues that they can’t comfort her like friends often do.

In those foggy days, sweet angel, mothers can’t see. There’s no way for them to understand that this too shall pass.

They trip over their own feet in the blindness of walking a new road. Each bump brings a new callous on the heart.

And all too soon a new set of highs and lows arrives. Highs of walking, riding your bike without training wheels.

Entering preschool and making it the whole day without crying for her.

The lows come, too. And during this time of deciding who you will be, they are especially painful to a mother.

You are a different boy, perhaps. You don’t play ball like the other boys. Your days are spent in a dinosaur-fueled obsession. You know every name and species, and your mother begs you not to talk about it too much at school.

You’re a girl who refuses to dress like little girls should. While the other girls are wearing big bows, you’re sporting huge ball caps. Your mom longed for the graceful dancer, but she got the ball player instead.

And the teenage years?

One callous after another.

The first time you make a bad grade, one that is completely your fault. Or the struggle with school work that isn’t of your own doing—you simply can’t keep up with today’s stressful demands. Your brain wasn’t meant to function behind a desk for eight hours, and your mother is being punished for it.

The first phone call home, asking her to pick you up after a night out. Your mom is proud that you called her, thank God, but the whole way to get you she’s wondering just where she went wrong.

Or it could be that you are the most perfect child that ever existed, everything your mother could have asked for.

It won’t matter. She will still worry.

Did she spend enough time with you talking about God?

Did she fight with your father too much? Or was keeping him out of your life the right idea, after all?

Did she show you plenty of affection, discipline you properly, let go at the correct time?

Did she shield you from pain?

Or did she cause it?

Sweet son or daughter, you just have no idea how hard her heart must become to love you.

For if it didn’t callous just so, she would surely crumble. The world is too scary a place to love you from a soft heart.

So little by little she toughens up, her heart hardens, and from that scar tissue she is able to parent you with a fierce, strong love .

She does the best she can, you will always believe that about her. You sometimes won’t want to. She hurt you by her actions or her lack. She caused you undeserved pain.

You will be angry over her mistakes, but you won’t be able to help how you feel about her. You will always believe she did the best she could, even if it wasn’t good enough.

Because you, precious gift, you love your mother with the softest of hearts. And if she really is the good mama you deserve—we all deserve—she will seek forgiveness for any callous she might have caused to form on your heart.

In time, you both will learn that no human can keep his or her heart from hardening. That there will be scars, deep and permanent, intentional and not, caused by the flawed people we encounter in our journey through a fallen world.

But if you’re lucky enough to figure it out while here on earth, you’ll discover there is only one true Healer.

And the pursuit of His heart is you. 🙂

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