I’m not sure I was quite prepared for all that came along with my daughter turning 13. I was a teenage girl once, so I sort of knew what to expect. I was familiar with teenage mood swings, the temper tantrums, the eye rolls, and sarcastic tones; however, I was completely unprepared for her direct arrows of anger that, quite frankly, left me emotionally LEVELED.
Following a direct shot to my heart one afternoon, tears instantly filled my eyes. I felt my anger rising like water in a flood-driven river—overwhelmingly fast, surging, and nearly uncontrollable. My body shook. Somehow, I refrained from screaming what I wanted to in response to her stinging words that broke my heart.
Trembling, I managed—through clenched teeth—to get the words out, “I’m going to pray.” As quickly as those words left my mouth, I was gone, out the door, in my car, and driving to the perpetual adoration chapel at my parish.
I was shattered. How could my little girl, my precious girl, hurl such cruel words at me? I had made a deal with the Lord years ago when my husband and I were desperate to conceive. If He would answer my prayer to bear a child, then I wouldn’t just make up for what I thought my childhood lacked, but I would be infinitely better—no, I would be THE BEST mother. And now, according to my daughter, for whom I had prayed to God for, I was so much less than that.
I held it together as I walked into the chapel, and not wanting to offend the other woman already there, silently knelt to pray. Mercifully, she left only a couple of minutes later. Alone in the chapel, I let it all out. Heaving sobs echoed in the small room. Tears streaming and eyes lowered, I wept, “Lord, I am so sorry!”
My deepest fear had been revealed—I was a failure. And it had been revealed by someone so dear to me. My mind raced as the tears fell. I begged aloud, “What should I do? What should I say? How can I make this right?”
I couldn’t possibly return home and be the mother she needed me to be! I wasn’t cut out for this! My heart screamed. I ferociously journaled my feelings and all the ways I had not lived up to my promise to the Lord.
And then, just like that, I literally stopped sobbing. The tears just stopped. I looked up from my clenched hands for the first time since I had entered the chapel. I locked my eyes on Jesus in the monstrance.
“Do not be afraid. I am here,” I wrote in my journal at that very moment.
I kept writing with my prayer to the Lord: “Father, only You will make my heart right. Only You will make her heart right. Soften our hearts toward each other, Lord. Allow her to soak up Your love for her. We are your beloved daughters.”
I realized then that it was no longer about my failure or my daughter’s anger. It was about Him. Jesus. I couldn’t possibly make this right by myself. I didn’t know what to do by myself. I stopped looking at this problem as being all up to me to figure out. It became less about me or even about my daughter. It became all about Him. “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).
In that moment, in front of Jesus, it became less about me and all of the things that I had said or done wrong.
It became less about my daughter’s words, her hurt feelings, or even my own self-doubt.
It became all about Him.
It became all about His love for my daughter. It became all about Jesus filling my heart with the grace I desperately needed.
It became all about His grace softening my heart and her heart, so we could open our ears to each other and listen with love instead of shouting with anger.
It became less about who I was in my own eyes or in my daughter’s eyes. It became all about who I was in His eyes.
It became all about laying this situation at the foot of His cross and taking my eyes off myself so I could lift them to meet Him.
When I stopped clenching my hands and beating myself up, I opened my hands to receive His love. I was right where Jesus wanted me to be: in His presence, receiving His love. Author Henri Nouwen writes in his book Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith, “Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell.” In this moment of feeling like a failure as a mother, in my poverty, Jesus lifted my gaze to meet His. He did this so that in my weakness I could receive His love, grace, and strength. And there, in my poverty, revealed for Him to see, I could RECEIVE His blessing and, in turn, bless others.
I’d love to tell you that I left the chapel that night, returned home, and instantly became a perfect mother. I didn’t. I did leave that chapel filled with peace. With God’s grace, I returned home, my anger and hurt feelings replaced with fierce love, open ears, and clarity. Resolving the issue with my daughter took time, patience, firm discipline, and love. And all of that came from the grace God filled me with as I poured out my heart to Him. Without His grace, my anger surely would have won. And when anger wins, we all lose. I am convinced that all of this only happened with God’s grace.
I will never be a perfect mother. But HE is perfect. I will never love perfectly, but my daughter and I are perfectly loved by Jesus.
 Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (New York: Harper One, 2006).
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