She grabbed a large bowl. Before heading to the garden, she checked on her toddler asleep in the bedroom. Damp curls ringed a cherub face. Meva's heart swelled with pride. Life couldn't get much better.
She picked the beans and cucumbers. Then she noticed Bessie, their Holstein cow, heading for the corn field. With much bellowing and stick-waving, Meva returned the reluctant cow to her pasture, then secured her with a chain.
Meva returned to the kitchen and began to snap the beans. Suddenly she heard a strange noise coming from just below the living room window. She hurried to investigate.
Horror gripped her. Her child's body lay crumpled on the floor, the cord from the drapes tightly wound around her neck. Her tiny face was purple.
Feverishly Meva cut the rope. "Breathe, baby," she sobbed.
But neither she nor the medics could save the child. Her baby died.
Many years later, a woman, bent with age, choked out this story to me--but not only to me. Her ever-present grief spilled over onto any of the nursing staff who would listen. Again and again she relived the horror. Her guilt was palpable. No amount of "But it wasn't your fault" brought her the peace she so desperately needed.
Some time later, I did a painful inventory of my own mothering. Fortunately, none of my children have died, but I, too, have hurt my children. I look at their emotional scars and wonder, "Did I contribute to that?" Psychiatrists confirm my suspicions.
At times, self-condemnation threatens to unglue me. At an especially painful time, I wandered from room to room crying out, "How could I, who love my children so deeply, hurt them like that?"
I grabbed my Bible off the coffee table and flipped to I John. "God, let me hear your words of forgiveness," I pleaded. But this time the familiar words of I John 1:9 did nothing for me: "If we confess our sins, (God) is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." I kept on reading.
Ever so gently, a question formed in my mind, "Helen, why did Jesus come to this planet?" I kept on reading.
"Why did Jesus come?" the small voice persisted.
The answer leapt off the page I was reading, as though written in neon lights, "He appeared so that He might take away our sins. . . . The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (I John 3:5,8).
"Yes, you are guilty of imperfect mothering," I could hear God saying, "but never mind. For this reason Jesus came." At last, guilt was silenced. I could forgive myself. Peace came.
Helen Grace Lescheid is a writer from Abbotsford, B.C.
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