I’d answered my phone joking.
“Did you lock yourself in the chicken coop again?” It wouldn’t be the first time she’d gone out in the morning to feed the chickens and collect eggs to find the latch had locked her in.
“I fell, I’m hurt . . . I think I broke my back.” Strangled and gasping for breath, I’d never heard my mom sound like that.
I ran out the back door toward the chicken coop. She was crumpled in the dirt, the giant compost bin pinning her. One red muck boot lay off to the side, the impact had thrown her back and it had launched from her foot. I couldn’t lift the bin straight up so I pushed it aside, terrified I’d break her more. Her anguished cries rang through the tops of our pine trees. The chickens side-eyed us and resumed pecking the ground.
She could move her legs. Tiny body draped over mine, we walked in tandem, and I let myself hope she’d only have a terrible bruise and limp for a bit. Maybe it wasn’t so bad.
But then I saw her face and I knew. I know the look of someone trying to hold in the pain to make others comfortable. To not make a fuss. To pretend to be fine so the world doesn’t fall apart and days aren’t ruined and plans aren’t canceled.
I know the look of someone hurting where you can’t see it.
Back at the house, my kids were solemn and dutiful, grabbing her a sweater and phone charger, clean underwear and a toothbrush, just in case. I ran a brush through my hair and threw on clothes.
My children prayed. They’re acquainted with crisis. They’ve witnessed me being packed up and whisked off to the emergency room and know the drill. Pray, wait, hope. Often, that’s all we can do.
My foot pressed on the gas once we hit the highway. I stopped glancing in my rearview mirror because I could feel the swell of anxiety cresting up my ribs, the clench of nerves and cortisol and adrenaline as my heart pounded beastly like rams horns battering my chest with rhythmic thuds.
“I was listening to the Bible on my phone,” she murmured, “about God’s grace being sufficient for His power is made perfect in weakness. And then it toppled on me, right then. It is, you know, no matter what. Be calm, Alia.”
I told her to rest, to stop trying to comfort me. Still, she prayed peace over me, for God’s will, for relief from pain and grace to endure whatever comes. She’s a woman who prays. I nodded but couldn’t help feeling this was too much. She was broken, and panic felt like my lungs were crushing. I was angry that so often when we prayed to take the pain away, Jesus said His grace was sufficient.
I was tired of the message of weakness, and I wanted it gone.
Right then, grace didn’t feel even remotely sufficient.
The x-rays came back hours later showing a fractured T12 vertebra. We were grateful there was no spinal cord damage.
They outfitted her with a clunky brace that wrapped around her core and over her shoulders. She was dwarfed by the hospital bed, tucked on her side where the pain was least. Hours of waiting left her face sunken, and I couldn’t look at her without demanding they do more to ease her pain. Finally, painkillers came and her features softened. Her teeth unclenched and her fists unrolled, her small hands lay open-palmed, a smudge of dirt still smeared across where she had pushed and tried to escape from the compost bin.
Once home, we moved her into our room while Josh opted for the couch. I told her to wake me if she needed anything, that’s what I was there for. I told her not to attempt to move or get up herself. I was up with her to the bathroom, to give her more medicine when she began to moan and cry, to guide the straw to her lips and to pray for her pain.
She said I’m sorry every time she had a need.
“I’m sorry I messed up your travel and speaking plans and you had to cancel.”
“Could I get more water? I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, but I have to go to the bathroom.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to wake you, but can I have more pain medicine yet?”
With each request, I saw it clearly — how wrong it was to apologize for her weakness, her pain, her needs. How ludicrous it is to apologize to someone who loves you and is serving you and would, if they could, take away your pain even if it meant taking it onto and into their own flesh.
“Mom, I want to do this stuff. Please stop saying you’re sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for.”
This is love. We don’t have to apologize for our needs. We bank on the sufficiency of God. I am my mother’s daughter, and she’s taught me that with her whole life. I can’t not see Jesus in this too.
In our weakness, God’s grace is enough. We meet pain with every good and holy offering even when it seems like too little. We see wounds, and we do not look away. We recognize the faces of the hurting ones and say, “You don’t have to pretend, you can make a fuss here.”
I am with you.
If you’d like to learn more about God’s call on our lives to live out our ministry of weakness while keeping fluent in the language of hope during difficult times, I have a brand new book out, Glorious Weakness: Discovering God In All We Lack!
We don't have to apologize for our needs. We bank on the sufficiency of God. -@aliajoyh: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
No one likes to be weak, especially in a society that values strength and super heroes. They haven’t made a movie about the “Super Weaklings”and I don’t foresee it coming. Yet God has put me in a place of weakness on many occasions physically and emotionally. Like you, I fight against and get tired of the continuing weakness, but it’s that very weakness that has sent me running into the arms of my Savior. The blessing in the curse, if you will. In order to utterly rely and depend upon God, I believe that our pride must be taken out of the way first. The Bible talks about having a humble heart over and over again. Power and humility don’t usually go hand in hand, but in God’s economy, when we are weak (and humble)…THEN we are made strong in Him. No strength until you admit and embrace the weakness. Beautiful post and thank you, as always, sharing from your point of weakness so we know we don’t walk alone.
Michele Morin says
“We meet pain with every good and holy offering even when it seems like too little.” -> Thank you for admitting this–that sometimes the grace of God, found sufficient by Paul and Corrie ten Boom and all the greats just does not seem like it’s enough when we’re in the sharp teeth of affliction.
And I’m wondering if Paul and Corrie started where we are and grew into their ability to receive grace instead of deliverance and still say “enough.”
I’m trusting for that kind of growth, and it’s a slow process, for sure.
Alia Joy says
I imagine it’s something that grows stronger with use. I know I can see grace in places I wouldn’t have in my 20’s or even 30’s so perhaps it is this way. The more we rely on God and learn to trust his character, the more we see sufficient grace when the world seems to be falling apart.
Alia Joy.. thank you for the beautiful story of your moms sweet self.. I can see your heart and hers so clearly here. I pray she’s well and back to her normal activities . My moms in heaven as of this month and I loved waiting on her hand and foot as she did for me some 63 years ago! Yes His grace was sufficient for me and her.. His strength met me in my weakness and I praise Him for it \0/ . You’re post made me cry as I miss her and also because it’s a gift to have a good godly mom and to be one ! Blessings to and through you
Wonderful words of hope, dear Alia! Thank you!
Heather MacLaren Johnson says
Stunning, Alia! You write, far more beautifully than I can, my exact sentiments. Thank you.
Alia Joy says
Thanks for being here with me, Heather.
Beth Williams says
Most people don’t like being needy. The feel it is a sign of weakness. That is when we call on God to help us & that makes us strong. I have been in your shoes many times. It has’t always been easy. Sometimes I wanted to cry & make it go away. I would fight & want to leave the situation. Being weak in a culture that demands strength & do it yourself isn’t easy. Calling on God can seem like being puny. Both parents had severe dementia. I would take them to the doctor’s, cook, run errands, etc. My dad moved into an assisted living. He also had essential tremors (shaking). One day I was over there at lunch. He was sitting in the middle with one guy on either side of table. He was having trouble feeding himself. I asked if he minded if I did it. The man to the left said “you will get jewels in your crown for this”. Talk about hearing God speak to me!! He had to be hospitalized twice for dementia (psych). It was through God’s sufficiency that I was able to handle it. God allowed me to be there for them & help them out as a Christian & a daughter. No apologizing for any pain. They simply couldn’t help it & I simply had to be there. Praying for you & your family.
Alia Joy says
Amen. You are speaking my language, sister.
We are all Wounded Healers trying to heal the pain of our family, when we are in pain.
Lord be in us a healing in all seasons.
God’s Love & Christ Peace!
Crystal Storms says
So true that we apologize for the way our pain impacts those who love us. But on the other end we would do all we can to ease their suffering and know their pain isn’t their fault.
Thank you, Alia, for the reminder that our weaknesses aren’t faults.
Thank you for the reminders here. I struggle daily with wanting more than “just” God’s grace in hard situations where we want to see restitution/justice for wrongs done to ourselves or those close to us. Currently walking through a dark time with my high school daughter who had to leave her school with 6 weeks left in the year and start over at another high school due to girls bullying and spreading lies and rumors about her all year long. She fought so hard to ignore it, but the last round brought with it too many broken relationships with people who said they were her friends, and she had no strength left to fight. So in my mind, those awful people at school won, they got what they wanted. She was the nicest kid and the people were jealous of her, and wanted her gone simply because they thought she was a threat to their popularity. I have prayed all year that God would show himself and fight for her, and not let these bullies win, and yet we continue to see them succeeding, having great relationships and enjoying life, while my daughter has to start completely over and cannot go back to a place she had loved.
While I know God knows all and sees all and right will eventually win, I also know that there is no guarantee that these people will ever have to be held accountable for what they’ve done to my daughter, at least not in this lifetime. And seeing her hurting as a result of nothing she did, and my being helpless to fix this is just too much. I have begged God to forgive my lack of faith in His process and His timing, but I still am consumed with frustration on how wrong seems to have won this battle.
Thank you for the reminders that we can be real and be hurting without hiding. This was what I needed today.
Janet, thank you for posting this, I feel your pain. I have been in a similar position with one of my children. I think many of the same things. Alia’s book, Glorious Weakness, has been such a wise comfort. Love to you.
I bought your book and devoured it! Thank you so much for writing it.!
Alia Joy says
Thank you, Sue! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Karli Friesen says
Thank you again Alia. My 21-year-old brother has been fitted with a dialysis catheter this week…I just want God to say, yes, he is healed. I don’t want to look ahead and see a lifetime of suffering for him.
Thank you for your gentle, honest, tenacious words and your unrelenting hope. Don’t give up. You are seen and beautiful and your words are making a difference in our lives.
Alia Joy says
Karli, it’s so hard to see someone you love with a long road of suffering ahead of them and hope and pray for God to take it from them. I’m sorry for this pain. Praying grace and peace over you and yours as you love and walk with your brother.
I hope your Mom is doing well. My Mom was critically injured in August 2017. She improved to walking with a walker and in October 2018 she broke her right foot in three places. Back to the wheelchair but at least she had a soft cast and after a month could put her weight on it. Released from that accident in January. April 2 she rolled her left foot, fell and broke her ankle/leg in three places. Hard cast, wheelchair, no weight bearing, around the clock assistance (primarily me) for 6 weeks. Then hopefully she learns to walk again. BOY DID I NEED YOUR MESSAGE TODAY!!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much!
Alia Joy says
She is doing well, thanks for asking. This was several years ago and while she’ll never be completely as she was before the accident, it hasn’t held her back. I’m so sorry for all your mom has been through. That’s so much. I’m glad this message found you at the right time. God is good like that.
Becky L says
Alia, thanks for sharing your story about your mom’s incident. I’m glad she made it thru. Its hard when mom gets hurt or sick. Lost my mom 5 years ago. She’d been in a nursing home for 6 years. Thankful for the time I was able to spend with her. I pray you have good years with your mom.
I’ve read the beginning of your book. Looking forward to reading more of it.
Sitting in the dark on recliner instead of going to bed. Relax and feet up. (in)courage me is my favorite go to reads. In the quiet. In the dark. On my phone. Good night my friend!
I love this story you shared of your momma.. There’s nothing like a momma’s love and it made me cry to see how much you love on her. My mom lives thousands of miles away, four state in between and I see her the most twice a year. Wished she lived closer to me so I can cook, clean, and take her to all the places I know she enjoys… I will see you soon momma!! Thank you for sharing this message.
Bonnie Gray says
Hi Alia! I love how your stories are always real from your journey and your every day real life – and the people who you love and the experiences you share, just as they are. Yes, I relate to apologizing for needing love and care. It’s a way of saying, “I need love,” and that’s hard if you’ve learned not to express need. 🙂 I’m moved by your vulnerable words, speaking from a place that is honest and also touched by what God has whispered to you. Thank you for sharing from your heart and journey. I’m looking forward to seeing you in just a little bit at the (in)courage retreat and enjoy your company and get to know you better on this week’s journey, friend! 🙂 love, Bonnie