I spoke to a mother today who spoke about how difficult it was to know she was a good mother because of the helplessness in the hospital and the voices that shamed her about why her child made it to the hospital, which by the way is not her fault at all.
Over the last couple days, I have seen her struggle to feel capable as a mother. I have seen her reflect over her guilt and her self proclaimed bouts of depression over being a good mother. As we talked, and I probably do more talking than I should as a chaplain, she shared that she has to make such a conscious commitment to hearing the good voices, of the child in the hospital bed waking up on some mornings and running around the house yelling “Happy Boy”, or hearing her kids tell her they love her.
I could not agree more about the conscious commitment. Particularly about us as human beings. Sure, I see lots of people in the hospital who because their child is sick feel incompetent, unworthy, incapable or unloved. But as people outside of that sphere, we often do the same things. We often feel incapable and incompetent, and so we run and hide, fill our minds with so many other voices or things that we don’t have to interact with any of that.
Even though our society tends to be more self fulfilling or self serving these days, I think that has a lot do with the desire to escape the feelings we have of being incapable or incompetent or unlovable. For those without faith, perhaps the self serving theme solves the problem by individuals trying to be the first to love self and moving from there. For many others, whether they are into self loving or self loathing, either directly or indirectly we are dealing with these feelings of inadequacy.
And so we have to make a conscious commitment. To what though? To do more self care? To visit the massage parlor every week to feel good about myself? To go to the gym more often, to eat with people more often…whatever we might do. To what? A conscious commitment to the voice of God crying out that we are the beloved of God, that first and foremost, beyond the love of ourselves from self, we are loved by a God who goes out of his way to make inadequacy adequate, to make weakness strength, to make death redemption. That voice of God for this mother I believe is the child running around yelling happy boy. That voice of God may be the friend who says he is grateful to have you as friend simply because you are created by God. This conscious commitment may not require being alone with God in a silent retreat for days, or may not require time in solitude (as my favorite writer Henri Nouwen suggests), but it may require awareness of the voice of God in your life, wherever that happens.
You (and I!) are good because God created you that way. And we require conscious commitment to remember that, because that will sustain you through broken times and dark valleys and burning deserts more than any good self care or self love or addiction or anxiety can. At least its the best I can say at 10pm during a long week when I have seen some of things I have seen at the hospital.