My parents did not love me well. I thought maybe they didn’t know how for most of my life. I told people, when they asked about them, that they just didn’t have the right tools in their toolbox to be generous loving parents. So, I forgave them before they ever asked to be forgiven because it felt like the kind and right thing to do.
It is also possible that they chose not to love me well. This is harder for me to take in. I can’t imagine this. I have rebelled against this idea ever since I held my oldest daughter in my arms when she was five months old crying like she did for the first five months of her life and I thought to myself, “It’s remarkable, but I don’t begrudge this tiny baby this, I love her.” I meant I loved her in spite of it all. I still do now that she is a wonky teenager with lots of emotions and sometimes anger directed right at me. I chose to love her from the beginning because that’s just what I felt so naturally flowed up out of me because she was given to me, a gift.
So, I can’t imagine how parents decided somehow not to love in spite of it all, because I thought that’s what parents did, unless they somehow couldn’t, which gave mine yet another chance to be off the hook and me another chance to forgive them.
I won’t go into the why I think they didn’t love me well, it really doesn’t matter, only that I have struggled with the reality of it my whole life.
For the first forty years of my life, I participated in a ruse. I played a game with myself that was laid out in such a way that I made myself responsible for being well loved by them. I worked crazy hard at it, too. I was bad at it, mind you, on most days, because it was an exceedingly difficult and insane task. Because after all the attempts at becoming well-loved, I was still coming up empty. Both of my parents, in their own unique ways, weren’t responding in the way I needed from them. They seemed disappointed, and I woke up in the middle of many nights berating myself because once again it was intensely clear that the problem was me.
My husband, who can’t stand anyone who does not love me well—bless him—was fed up with me trying to fix a problem that wasn’t mine. But, he waited and tried to love me well enough for the parents who didn’t.
But, I kept at the Sisyphean task.
Part of the reason I kept at it for so long was that I trusted God. I trusted when God said that if I honored my parents it would go well with me. I asked him over and over in prayer to help me honor them, which I thought meant do more and more things for them, which, it turns out, was never enough.
Then, one day some things changed between us. Big things that I don’t care to go into.
And, I had to do some re-thinking about my relationship with my parents and about what working to honor them all these years meant.
And, after a lot of soul-searching and reaching out and getting help. I walked away.
I walked away from the two people I had been trying to fix my whole life. The two who in both figurative and literal language had told me my whole life that my job was to fix them.
But, here’s the amazing part: I do believe that after all was said and done (and the book has not been written yet on all to come), my walking away was the biggest blessing. Finding out the truth about not being loved well was the best thing that ever really happened to me.
I’ve learned so much about love, first of all. I’ve learned that love is not about owing someone something. It is given freely. And just because love is sacrificial, it doesn’t mean that it is soul robbing. It is honest and true and beautiful and sacrificial and soul rejuvenating. That’s love.
I’ve also learned that the fact that I kept trusting God while I was doing my best (even if my parents weren’t) has shown me the faithfulness of God. He has always loved me well. He is the example I want to follow.
He, as my Father (the one I was always looking for in my own dad), pours into me, does not leave me alone, provides for me, gives generously what I need, and says to me, “You are enough.”
So, I stand in utter gratefulness for lots of reasons. I have thrown my parents at the feet of God who knows so much better than I do how to take care of them. I have let them be, because they can’t love me the way they are called to love, and I can’t make them, or push them to it. God will deal with all that and I don’t need to try to figure it out.
It’s hard not to revel in the grace of it all. The gift I’ve been given is humbling. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t hard parts and hard days where I fall back into old habits of trying to fix everything and worry over how I am not doing as much as I could be doing or don’t have everything figured out yet. But, I still feel captured by grace and have experienced being loved well and it floors me.
I have released my mother and father from owing me anything at all, even their love. And God has released me from the job that was never mine. It isn’t tied up with a neat bow, it is still day by day, but that’s all faith ever is anyway—one thing at a time.
For now, this one thing is: today I will be well loved by those who can. And, I will love well as God enables me. That’s all.