Socks and Hymns

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m screeching at my children.

“Where are your socks? Why are they not on your feet!? Did you get your backpack like I told you to? We’re going to be late! Ahh!” My irritation with my children is compounded by the lingering censure of an e-mail I received earlier in the week asking me to *please* be on time to lead the hymn. Inwardly I bristled when I received it. These people don’t even know me! They have no idea what my life is like. I’m driving 30 minutes with three small children and it’s hard enough to get out the door as is. Why did I even volunteer to help? Who do I think I am? Beneath my indignation lies the shame of feeling like I’m failing yet again. Maybe I really am too tainted, too “other” to belong to this group.

I’m yelling at my children because I woke up feeling inadequate and disorganized. My ambivalence about going to this homeschool group in the first place, is manifesting itself in a lack of preparation. We get in the car and I apologize for yelling (again, why am I so short-tempered lately?) “Mommy should not have yelled at you when it was my fault we are running late. You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” They’re three and five. It’s not their fault they can’t find the socks I didn’t fold in the laundry basket. 

Children are kind, forgiving, resilient. I know this, because I always wanted to forgive my mom, and I always did, until one day I didn’t. I know what the studies say… “good enough” attachment is what we’re aiming for and repairing rupture is the part that is important. Parents aren’t, and can’t be, perfect.

But still, the threat of becoming my mother haunts me.

Am I really doing any better? How will I know? The lines between my mother and myself often blur in my head and all I can do is pray for the wisdom to know what is mine and what is hers. 

We make it to class on time.  As I walk into a setting both intensely familiar and painfully foreign, all the alarm bells in my body go off, just as they have each week since we started. “This is too familiar!” the protective managers in my head scream. “We know what’s lurking underneath all of this “nice-ness.” These people are fakes! You’re a fake! This is not real. It is too good to be true. Run! Your family was just like THEM!”

I make my way to the front of the sanctuary (why did I volunteer to sing in front of people?) and wonder to myself what I am doing here. What would happen if I said really bad words right now? Would they all stop talking to me? Someone announces the opening hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” and we start to sing. We’re singing the first three verses — one more than last week. I sing loudly and the familiar words start to soothe my soul a little as I jiggle the baby on my hip. But then we get to the third verse, and my voice starts to crack. The words catch me off guard (have I even heard this verse before?) and I can feel my voice falter as I try not to burst into tears.

When through the deep waters I call you to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; for I will be with you, your troubles to bless, and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

I don’t know how it will work. The water feels so very deep and threatens overflow often. A song’s verse doesn’t change the uncertainty and struggle of each day, but it is a blessed reminder that God is here too. In the middle of the mess I am not alone, and He promises to use even this.

Annelise Roberts is a woman sifting through wreckage for the foundation that still remains. Writing is group therapy for her inner committee. She is more certain of less things than ever before but clings to the hope of truth and beauty. She is the wife of a patient, kind man who loves her persistently, and mother to three small boys who give her motivation to get out of bed each day, and ensure that she never sleeps.