It was a long season of unrelenting conflicts. Day after day, they beat on me like a hot sun until I felt like I had all but dried up. My heart was baked hard and impenetrable, drawn out from my body like clay from a kiln.
I did not like this child of mine, not really, and any emotional feelings of love I had once known had long cemented into bare obligation. Fissures of anger and frustration ran through me like fault lines; I felt at any moment, I would break.
Of all my children, this one had challenged me the most. We rubbed each other against the grain until static sparked. And I was weary of it. The constant friction had skinned me of any tenderness, compassion, or delight until I had little toleration for even minor infractions or personality differences.
I had become quick to anger, slow to speak praise, resentful, irritable, and everything else that love is not. I had become everything I never thought I’d be as a mother.
There was a deadness in me that was terrifying, ugly, and shameful. I knew it. I felt it, heavy and horrifying within me. I thought about the unspeakable damage I was doing to this child by being overly critical and harsh. Why, God? I cried. Why did you give me this child if I was going to mess it up this bad?
But I had no idea how to change it. Maybe it was already too late. Can a dead heart beat again? Can something so hard become soft once more?
Then one day, everything shattered. It was the same battle we had fought before, on repeat. Only this time, I had nothing left. No margin, no buffer, no grace. What may have been normal childish behavior felt to me like willful disobedience and purposeful provocation.
It felt personal.
When my husband came home from work, I was so upset, I could barely speak, and what I could say was vile. “You have to handle this,” I said, “or I am going to say something I shouldn’t.”
He went to our child’s room and talked in low, patient tones, the kind I didn’t seem to have in my settings anymore. Then, a long while later, he found me. I didn’t want to talk about it, yet somehow, I ended up telling him everything. He listened until my anger slowly distilled into its true form: fear.
I was so afraid.
I was afraid of what I felt in my heart, afraid of who I was becoming, afraid of the trajectory of my relationship with this kid if I could not get a grip on this, and so afraid that I would not be able to fix it.
All that fear came bubbling out. Even shame could not hold it down, even though I wished it could. It is a wretched thing to vomit up all the bile in your soul. But once I started, I couldn’t stop.
“I think one day you’ll be great friends,” my husband said quietly when I was done. “But this is not something you can fix.”
In my frustration and bitterness, I had forgotten that. I didn’t want to ask God for help because I didn’t want him to know I needed it.
That changed the minute I confessed my struggle out loud. There in the bedroom before God and my husband, everything that had been stuffed into the hidden places of my heart was hauled out into the light. It was shocking. Unholy. Disgraceful.
What else could I be afraid of? What guilt could torment me and hold me down? I had already said it all.
A little space opened up in that stone of a heart for life to pulse. For the first time in a long time, I felt the heartbeat of hope. Perhaps it was not too late for God to raise the dead.
There was no Lazarus awakening, no sudden transformation, but only a slow softening, like spring. In fact, I found it hard to pray at first. I was still raw, and it’s hard to pray over the hurting places with any amount of faith that one day, it will be different.
But it only takes a little bit of faith to melt a heart of stone, and God was willing to supply it. The more I softened, the more I could pray, and the more I prayed, the more God rebuilt the relationship I thought was destined to failure.
Slowly, God began to show me the beautiful blessings of having a child so unlike me. The friction that created sparks in our relationship also sharpened us and drew us both closer to Christ. I needed this kid to be exactly the way God created them to be.
What started out as a set of circumstances that hardened my heart turned out to be the single greatest thing God has used in my life to grow it.
Perhaps you have been in a difficult season of parenting, and you feel devoid of any joy toward the child you bore. Your heart is hard, and you wonder if there’s anything that can ever change that.
I’m here to tell you there is hope for you, mama, and grace. It is never too late for God to soften your heart and restore the relationship you have with your child. God will do the work.
What is keeping you from running to him for help? What is holding you back?
Perhaps today is the day to lay down your anger, guilt, and frustration. Perhaps today is the day to let God begin mending your heart.