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The other day a friend announced that she had "broken up" with her daughter. She laughed as she said it, but there was a hint of seriousness to her words. At any rate, she was obviously upset.
"What did your daughter say about it?" I asked. I couldn't imagine a mother actually doing something like that, although I'm sure it crosses most moms' minds at least occasionally.
"Oh, I didn't tell her!" she said. "I broke up with her secretly. Besides, I don't think it's possible for a mom to break up with a child."
This friend and I often talk about daughters together. She has two, just like I do.
Like mine, one is easier and one is more complex. It's the complex ones who make us feel the most insecure in our roles as mothers.
My friend said she never knows where she stands with her daughter or what her role is in her life. For example, if her daughter doesn't call for a week or two, she wonders: Should I call her? Will I be an intruding mom if I call too often? (And how often is too often?)
Can I ask if she's paying her bills on time, changing the oil in her car, drinking too much? Can I suggest she go to church - or clean her bathroom?
"I feel like I did when I was a teenager and I liked a boy but wasn't sure if he liked me back," my friend said. "That's why I say I'm 'breaking up.' It hurts too much sometimes to continue feeling this way."
Preach it, sister.
Almost every mom I've ever talked to feels this way at one time or another, especially moms with daughters. It's all part of the growing up process, I suppose - moms growing up as well as their kids.
From what my friend said, nothing traumatic took place between her and her daughter. No fight or harsh words. She just didn't feel connected to her any more. She felt obsolete, out of the loop.
My friend wanted to be her daughter's friend and confidante and share in her secrets and hopes and dreams. She wanted to feel liked by her daughter but didn't. She wanted to keep her daughter from harm, knowing that it wasn't possible. And she wanted to be important in her daughter's life again.
I told her I could relate, that I think most moms could. Our babies growing up and growing away seems a cruel cosmic joke at times. It doesn't feel natural, although neither does walking around with a 130-pound child on your hip seem like a viable option.
Still, it's hard for moms.
After I finished talking to my friend I called my own mom. I've gone months without calling her before. Never again, I vowed.
It made me wonder if God ever feels bad like moms sometimes feel. When his kids don't pray, don't honor him, don't turn to him except when in crisis, does he feel sad? Does he ever feel like breaking up with them?
I know I can't assign human emotions to God, even though he has emotions. As beings created in his image, we and he experience joy and sadness, grief, anger, love. However, our emotions are always tinged with sin.
Our anger is never completely righteous; our hurt and sadness, even our love, is tainted with self. It's commingled with a need for approval and affirmation and acceptance.
When moms want to break up with their children it's because of self - self-preservation, self-protection. It hurts to let go and to realize that you're no longer needed in the same ways that you were, and possibly not needed any more at all.
Thankfully, God never has those feelings because, well, he's God and needs nothing to be complete. He doesn't need his children's approval, doesn't need to hear their voices on the other end of the phone saying, "I still love you."
He doesn't need that, but we who call ourselves his children do need to stay connected, at least I do. I need to stay reminded that he loves me so I won't go off on neurotic, insecure tangents, wondering if I'm still OK with him.
His love never changes. His acceptance never wavers. As impossible as it is for a mom to break up with her child, it's infinitely more impossible for God to break up with us, not ever. Not even secretly.