A couple months back I wrote about the restaurant my mom opened in Northwest Arkansas. Since then, the little business has drawn in folks from all over and even picked up several “regulars”. It’s been a great, growing time for my Mom. Learning how to run a small business. Finding out how to manage a restaurant. Seeing how to pick up new customers and keep them coming back. Over and over and over again, Mom has made me nothing but proud. She’s stretching herself and succeeding and it’s incredible to watch. It’s made me see her as something other than just my Mom. And I think every child needs that experience at least once in their life. It’s humbling. And beautiful.
And if that were the only thing I had my eye on in this new outfit, life would be great. Grand, even. But there’s more to the story. And that’s where things get hard. And messy.
This business venture involves family. Extended family. And the day to day existence of all these bodies and personalities has been difficult. Demanding. And draining. One of the most trying things my immediate family has ever been through. And if you know us, or even just know my story a bit, that says a lot.
In all of it, I’ve pushed my Mom to be filled with love and hope. Compassion and understanding. To turn her cheek. To extend a hand. I’ve watched her try over and over and over again, and again, my Mom has made me proud. But then something else will happen. Some other impossible circumstance, and again, the temptation to fight back will arise. I have tried to communicate truth to my mother. I have spoken Jesus’ words in Luke 6: to love when loving’s not easy, to not judge, to be a tree that bears good fruit.
“It’s not as easy as it sounds, ” she’ll say.
“I’m not perfect,” she’ll respond.
And then the dagger…”And I’m not like you.”
I gave my life to Christ in 8th grade and ever since I’ve been on a journey to live this faith out as authentically as I possibly could. I have failed and failed and failed again. And yet, sometimes, the only thing my family can see is this “perfect, righteous, Christian” boy. Whether I’m trying to put on airs or not, it’s nearly always seen that way. I’ve tried to extend love. And grace. But what is communicated over and over again is judgment. Disappointment. And shame.
While praying about the whole situation with one of my best friends yesterday, I zoned out for a bit. I could no longer hear the words he was saying. All I could listen to was an apology. By me. To my Mom. And I gotta admit, I was confused.
What did I need to apologize for? What had I done wrong? Where I had made a mistake? But I couldn’t shake the feeling. And because I knew that none of it came from my own head or my own heart, I knew God was up to something.
So I listened. To what He was saying. And I heard.
And, thankfully, I obeyed.
I left my friend’s office, went next door to mine, shut the door, and called my Mom.
“What are you up to?”, I asked.
“At Lowe’s. Buying stuff to plant flowers outside the restaurant.”
“Well Mom, this may not be the best time for this, while you’re at Lowe’s and all, but I feel like I need to apologize to you.”
And I did. For the next few minutes, I expressed to her that I’ve been trying to communicate truth to her. Love and grace and hope and yearning. For something more. Something greater. But I said that I felt like maybe that’s not quite what was being heard. That, while I thought I was speaking one thing to her, another thing was actually being heard.
“I feel like you’ve felt judged by me. That you think I’m ashamed. That I’m not on your side,” I said.
“That’s exactly how I felt,” she replied.
And the dagger struck again.
Part of me wanted to defend myself. To let her know that I had never tried to express any of those thoughts or ideas. But part of Him rested on me. A large hand. On my shoulder. And I felt peace in being misunderstood. And even good about apologizing for it. I knew something good would come out of the apology and that the need to clarify anything up was just my flesh yearning to feel good and righteous and innocent.
I surrendered, with a little water in the corners of my eyes. And restoration and reconciliation began to come forth. Seeds planted like flowers from Lowe’s.
“I’m proud of you, Mom. I hope you know that. I hope I’m communicating that to you. Right here, right now,” I said.
“Thank you, Bobby. That means a lot. A whole, whole lot,” she responded.
As I said yesterday, I’m beginning to really learn, through my big old hard-headed head, that there is a vast difference between what you say and what they hear. Two different worlds.
I’m also learning, though, that sometimes you need to have your ear to the ground. To listen. To really hear what they heard. And every now and then, even when your heart and your head are fighting you tooth and nail to resist, you need to go back. And say it again. Maybe in an apology. Maybe with a new clarity. Maybe using a new voice.
But say it. Over and over and over again. Until you’re really heard. The true you. The truth in you.
With lots and lots and lots of love.