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“Breakthrough,” New Era, June 1997, 28


Things were pretty tense between Mom and me. One false step … and our whole relationship could come crashing down.

I used to feel like my mom didn’t understand me. It seemed that all she cared about were her rules. How could she understand me? She had never done anything wrong in her life.

I decided I could do better without her, so I started to define myself in opposition to her. She always wore nice skirts and dresses. I always wore big, shabby jeans. She followed rules of etiquette meticulously. I ignored them. She did everything she could to invite the Spirit into our home. I listened to counter-culture music. She worked to avoid even the appearance of evil. I hung out with kids who were in trouble, and even though I wasn’t participating in their serious transgressions, Mom knew I was on the edge.

My mom spent many rough nights worrying about me. One night she got up to check on me and found a pile of pillows shaped like a sleeping form beneath my open window. When I got home after my mom had spent a long night calling my friends, the police, and anyone else she could think of, I was told I was grounded until further notice.

Soon after, feeling angry and rebellious, I found myself in the principal’s office at school. Knowing that I could identify the culprits of a recent prank, he explained to me that if I didn’t tell him who the guilty party was he would suspend me instead of them. I defiantly kept silent. So he called my mom and told her I would be staying home the next day.

This time she was really angry. While waiting for me to come home and considering an appropriate punishment, she was getting a box out of storage in our unfinished attic. Distracted, she took a wrong step between the beams, which sent her crashing through the insulation, drywall, and plaster of the ceiling onto the floor of the dining room below. Still gathering her bearings in that painful pile of rubble, the thought came to her: your relationship with Michelle is this sensitive right now. One wrong step and the floor will fall out from under you and will be permanently damaged.

When I got home from school, I expected a lecture. Instead, when Mom greeted me, she gently showed me what had happened and explained that she loved me and that she had been prompted to take special care of our relationship and needed my help. I looked at her legs, black and blue from the ankles up and covered with some fierce looking scrapes. All I could think was how amazing it was that as the ceiling gave way beneath her, her first thought was for me. Even I was humbled. We prayed together for help to learn to love and accept.

It wasn’t easy. I really had to work to change my attitude. Looking back, I realize that, all along, she only had my welfare in mind. I eventually found out that Mom was a really fun person. We looked for ways to spend time together in positive situations, doing things we both enjoyed. I learned to allow her to function in roles other than disciplinarian. And most importantly, I learned to change my perspective. Instead of being embarrassed by our “old-fashioned” home, I came to love bringing friends over. I finally realized that I was equally responsible for the success of our relationship.

I guess I’m the one who should have fallen through the ceiling, but I doubt I would have heard the Spirit at the crucial moment. I’ll always be grateful for a mother willing to love me into loving her.

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh