Dear Shadow-Dwelling Mother,
You remember what life was like when you mothered in the light, without the heavy blanket of pain pressing down on you. The small, blue handprints on construction paper, the photographs of smiles that came easily, the journal entries describing your hands so full but your heart filled to the brim, all remind you of your days in the sun. Mothering in the light was never easy, and you and your children were far from perfect. Yet you read books and told stories and wiped tears with a sense of weightlessness that you now long to know. Certainly there were things that obstructed your view of the light at times, worry over a missed milestone or frustration grown from disobedience. But the shadows cast from such obstructions were fleeting, constantly changing and easily integrated. You received the calling of motherhood with gratitude. Some days were incredibly hard, but most days were wonderfully happy, and you knew, in the light, that you were blessed to be called Mother.
But today, you find yourself dwelling in the dark of a shadow caused by an event, a disappointment, or yes, perhaps a death, that is so vast that you wonder if there is indeed any light at all. It is one thing to dwell here in solitude, as an island. But you have been called “Mother”, and such a name does not exist on any island. You now know that the milestones and the meltdowns were miniature, and the moments and the mundane were miraculous. Bearing the pain of your loss might seem possible if you were to focus only on mending your own wounds. But you have been called to wipe the tears, to soothe the cries and to bind the broken hearts of your children as well. And your children bear wounds and pains that no band-aid or kiss will cure. Such a calling requires a strength that you are not sure that you possess.
The questions that the little voices of your children raise often come out as innocent curiosities, yet they hold such profound depth that you are unable to answer them. Questions beginning with “why” and “how” and “where” seem so simple to your little one, but you have no answers that satisfy. For it is hard to find words when you are choking back tears, challenging to form thoughts when the wind has been knocked out of you, and it is difficult to see truth when you stand in the middle of the dark. You wonder if God called the wrong woman. You feel that you are too weak to carry your own pain, much less hold and nurture the brokenness of the little loves of your life. Your cup is dry, and they are still thirsty. Your heart is broken, and theirs still need mending.
A mother’s heartbeat is the pulse of the home. Your heart is shattered, but you do in the shadow what you learned to do in the light. You bend low and dig deep and get to the hard, sacred work of picking up the pieces of your heart, while scooping up the pieces of theirs, as you pray in hope, that you will all be made whole again. You know that you are right in thinking that you are unable, unequipped and inadequate to do this work alone. So you say “yes”, again with gratitude, to the high calling of mothering in the shadow, while you call on He who is able, He who is equipped, He who is adequate. You weave your worry into a tightly spun ball and kick it to the curb, while you open your hands to receive the gift of trust. Here, with palms open, you allow God to begin His work of restoration, trusting that He might mother a miracle through you, to bring healing to you, yes, but most importantly, to your children.
My dear, fellow shadow-dwelling mother, this shadow is only possible because there is a Light behind the pain. Though you dwell in the dark, you abide in the Light. And the pain is not meant to torture, but to stretch and the fire is not meant to burn, but to refine. I know that this shadow feels like home, but it is only a tunnel leading to new life, and there is Light in front of the pain as well. If you will allow it, if I will allow it, we might emerge from this tunnel, not necessarily as happier mothers, but as holier mothers. May we continue to dig deep and to bend low, while we get to the hard, sacred work of mothering in the dark. We will find that in the middle of this tunnel, with hands dirty from digging and knees scraped from bending, that we quietly slip off our sandals, for we are quite sure that we stand on holy ground. My fellow shadow-dweller, it is here on this dark, holy ground, with the hope of Light at the end of the tunnel, and the trust of a healing miracle, that we know, in the shadow, that we are blessed to be called Mother.