The phone call came, as they usually do, at an inconvenient time. It was my mom, calling from Mississippi, telling me in Baton Rouge that my dad was in the hospital in California and had cancer. This was definitely not convenient. I called my dad and told him I was flying out in a couple of days to see him. He said he was looking forward to my visit.
My relationship with my dad had been rocky at best for the last twenty-five years, and I was not really looking forward to the trip. It was the right thing to do, but not necessarily the first thing I wanted to do. I was angry and hurt by what took place during and after my parents divorce, and though I wanted answers, I didn’t really want to go through him to get them.
The next day I told my boss about my departure. He asked me how things were, and I gave him a quick version of our relationship. He said, “Sit down. I want to talk to you about my dad, who has bi-polar disease.” We talked for a few minutes, and I said, “Your dad is just like all of us. Not one of us is really in our right minds, are we? For if we were, we wouldn’t live a life that needed a Savior.”
The idea that none of us are in our right minds bothered me, so I began to explore Scripture to support my idea. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (italics mine). If our mind was right, then it would not need to be “renewed.” I only renew my driver’s license when it has is no longer valid. I do not have to renew something that is proper, valid, and sufficient for the task it was created for.
Now if my mind is still in the process of being transformed and renewed (and I think I have a fairly adequate mind), what about the minds of those who we label “disabled”—those who are autistic or have Down’s syndrome? We all understand that their minds are not “right,” and we don’t condemn them because of the things they do with the minds they were born with. Instead, we grant them a great deal of latitude because of their disability.
But then, aren’t we all a little “disabled”? Not one of us is fully functional in our mental capacities – not in the way God created us to be.
Perhaps this is why Paul told us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). All of us are a burden, in some form or manner, to those around us. If I want you to bear my shortcomings, I need to put forth the effort to put up with some of yours. In this way we do for others what we want them to do for us.
So where am I headed with all of this? One day we will all stand face to face with God (1 Cor. 3:10-15), and only then will we be in our right mind. 1 Cor. 13:12 says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” All those people we love—those with Down’s syndrome and bi-polar disease, those we’ve never had a decent, intelligent conversation with, whom we’ve never really known because of their infirmity—one day we will stand next to them before the throne of God. On that day God will open their minds as He will open our own, and for the first time we will “know fully” and be in our RIGHT MINDS!
With that picture in my mind, I flew to California to see my dad. I found I no longer needed answers as I sat in a chair beside his bed for ten days and listened. I saw a man who did the best he could with the mind and abilities he had, and I chose to love him as he was. At first, I didn’t want to go and see him, but in the end I didn’t want to leave, and I cried for hours after I left him. He died about two weeks later.
But this I know, and in this I hope: One day my dad and I will stand together at God’s throne, and I will finally see my dad as he truly is, and he will see me. And with the approval of God, my dad and I will walk hand in hand into an eternity of knowing as we are fully known, and loving as we are fully loved. Isn’t that what it means to be in our right minds?
I love this post.
I have a non-relationship with my mother, because she seems like such a toxic person that I don’t want her around my kids, potentially damaging them the way she damaged me and my sibs. What’s your opinion on that…do you think it’s okay sometimes to draw a protective line between yourself and someone you theoretically “should” have a relationship with, like a dangerously unstable parent?
Thank you for stopping by. I’m glad something I’ve written is having a positive effect in your life.
I think you should always be careful to “draw a protective line” between your children and who you allow to influence them, even if it is your mom. You are the one responsible for making sure they are brought up with the Godly wisdom necessary to live the life God knows they should have. If you know of a harmful situation and you let them enter it, you are the responsible one.
If you have no relationship with your mother, then I don’t suppose there is much need to introduce her back into your life and that of your children. However, if you have some contact and she wants to see her grandchildren, then you can talk with her, set some ground rules, and allow her to be with them under your supervision. However, if at any point she goes beyond your set rules, IMMEDIATELY remove them from the situation. You can honor the fact she is your mother without allowing her toxicity to disturb your family. I’m sorry your mother is not the ideal mother and grandmother you like to have, but your first obligation is to your children, not your mom.
I hope this has helped.
It did. No, I haven’t spoken to my mom in a long time, and there’s never been a time when we had a healthy relationship. When my children were very young and I saw the way she was treating them, I realized it was time to make a decision about whether she should be a part of their lives. I feel like I made the right choice, but some people feel that I copped out of my daughterly duty. I’m with you, though — I think my first duty is to the well-being of my children.
You have a “duty” to honor your mother. You do this by not causing her harm and doing your best to see she has what she needs to live a life that honors God and respects others. This “duty” does not include putting your children in any type of threatening situation — physical, psychological, etc. I feel sorry for families that do not live in a respectful manner, looking for ways to bring out the best in others, but it happens all the time.
I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my dad, but I made a decision to live differently than the way I was raised. It sounds like you are doing the same. Furthermore, you have seen what you don’t want in a mom and are making decisions that will foster a good relationship with you children, and one day, with you grandchildren! And let me tell you, grandkids are a real joy. It is also wonderful relating to the children as they are now adults.
I know what you mean…the older mine get the more I enjoy their company.
Although the adolescent girl has her days…
There is one mother who’s been watching over me for 50 years. You might know her… John 19:26. I’ll say a prayer for peace in your family, Debora.