{This Sacred Everyday} Angie Mabry-Nauta

Happy Independence Day! It’s a joy to have Angie Mabry-Nauta contributing to our “Freedom” edition of {This Sacred Everyday}. I met Angie in April at The Festival of Faith and Writers and was immediately taken by her boldness and her story of pastoring, being broken and finding the courage to seek God’s healing. I’m grateful she’s willing to share a bit her life with us today.

 

The gift of freedom…to child from parent, with love



Your heart is free…have the courage to follow it.

The brief scene of 8-year-old William Wallace and his dead father in the 1995 film Braveheart has always engrossed me. In William’s dream his father remains bloodied from his mortal wound, but awakes to teach and encourage his son one last time. For a few seconds father and son are eye-to-eye, looking straight into one another. Their gaze does not shift when the father speaks his last line ever to his son. It is a brief, yet powerful moment that non-verbally speaks more than the ten words allotted to the shot.

“Your heart is free…have the courage to follow it.”

What does William see in his dead father’s eyes as he dreams? I wonder. William is now parentless and will be raised by his uncle away from his home land. My guess is that William’s eyes are searching for something – anything — that might aid him in living the rest of his life.

Gregarious Peach via Ashley Chenard on Pinterest

This Braveheart image came to mind recently as my own 8-year-old’s eyes besought mine. Tears filled her eyes as she talked. Sometimes she is afraid of herself — she “does mean things” when people hurt her, she said. Is she really that mean person? she asked. Many times she doesn’t like some of the things that she does, and she doesn’t understand why she does them in the first place. And already there is something for which she is unable to forgive herself – she almost unwittingly stole some candy from the grocery store before Mom and Dad saw what was afoot. She wanted the chocolate and took it. The concept of needing to pay for it first was not quite on her 4-year-old radar.

She was being quite hard on herself. Nevertheless, I could tell that a reading and brief exegesis of Romans 7:14-25 wasn’t going to help her, nor was an explanation of human nature or developmental psychology. Certainly scolding was not an option. That would have pitched her deep into a well of shame.

Help me! Sophia’s gaze seemed to be begging. Who am I? Why do I do the things I do? Why do I have these huge feelings? Why am I unlike everyone else my age? Why can’t I just be nice all of the time like God wants me to be?

Like most parents, I desire for my children to have more and better than I did when I was growing up. What I want for my girls is freedom – emotional freedom to be exact. I want them to be free to know and become who they are, the True Selves that God purposefully created.

In the case of physical health, many physicians agree that children usually fare better than adults with diseases, broken bones and surgery recovery. In comparison, adults’ symptoms tend to be more severe; and bones and surgical sutures heal slower. If a person is going to get sick or have surgery, conventional wisdom argues that it’s best to “get it over with” when s/he is a child. I would posit the same to be true for emotional and mental health.

This freedom that I seek to give to my girls now was hard-earned in my adulthood. Liberation came for me only following vocational burn out; a huge and painful spiritual transformation that encompassed two years of my life; hours of prayer and spiritual direction; and thousands of dollars of counseling. If I can somehow spare my girls that multi-faceted anguish, I’ll do everything humanly possible within the direction that God leads.

So when Sophia looked at me like she did, I did my best to be a mirror – to reflect the beauty, sweetness, intelligence, heart for God and people, joy, and love that I see in her. I allowed all of the love that I have for her in my heart to flow through my eyes as we began together to discover who she is. When she asked me questions about herself, I answered with probing questions to guide her in self-discovery and self-esteem. When self-loathing seeped out of her own eyes, I held her gaze and showed her a different vision of herself. When loneliness saturated her words, I told her stories of my childhood and my own emotions, and emphasized that she is not alone. Throughout our conversation Sophia’s eyes were fixed on mine.

She stared at me as keenly as did young William at his dead father. What was she looking for? I cannot tell.

What I did know was that Sophia was intently searching, and I felt the importance of showing herself to her. In that moment, the Spirit whispered via my intuition that Sophia didn’t need to know who I am. (Although she did need to know that I was there for her and not leaving.) She needed to know who she is. And the best gift I could give to her is the freedom to explore and discover herself. I don’t worry whether she will live in a God-honoring way because God created the Self we are working to help Sophia find, know and love.

What this requires of me as both of my girls’ mother is letting go and not trying to control their personal expeditions. There is One who is far greater than I, after all, who knows the way to their core where that very One lives. I am one of those mothers for whom letting go isn’t particularly easy. But I realize that my letting go is their ticket to gaining the emotional freedom I desire for them so strongly. Yes, I carried them in my womb; but God is the One who created and shaped them (Ps 139:13). Yes, I gave birth to them; but God is the One who gave them life. Yes, I spend the majority of my time with my daughters and I know them well; but God is the One who knows them from the inside out, and has each day of their lives planned out (Ps 139: 16).

Sophia and I have only just begun to discover who God created her to be. (Insert here a play on her name, which means “wisdom”, and is also a way of referring to the Holy Spirit.) She has already returned to me twice, saying she’d “like to talk a little bit more, like we did the other night”. From what I recall she has done most of the talking and I have mostly reflected. And God has amazed me with Sophia’s rapid emotional growth and astute insight.

It seems there is something to this (emotional) freedom thing, after all.

May it ring this and all days, and may God be glorified through the people that we are.

 

Rev. Angie Mabry-Nauta is a theologian, writer and ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA).  She worked in church ministry for six years, and is currently serving two “congregations” — her family and her audience.  Angie blogs on her own site, “Woman, in Progress…” and for the RCA on the Church Herald Blogs.  She is a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild.

Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @Godstuffwriter.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Thanks for sharing this story Angie. I hope to mirror in the same way to our children. Happy 4th!

    • http://www.revangiem-n.com Angie Mabry-Nauta

      Thanks for reading, Ed! From what I have learned about you, I feel confident of your heart and your willingness to be a great father. The rest God will do through your faithful spirit! :) Happy 4th to you, brother!

  • Pingback: The Gift of freedom to child from parent, with love « Woman, in Progress…

  • Jill Vande Zande

    Angie,

    This entire post left a lump in my throat. Such a beautiful, beautiful picture of the amazing person your daughter is becoming! And I think you’re absolutely right to say that mental and emotional health are formed most profoundly in childhood years. I, like you, have a marred, scarred, bleeding, and wounded childhood. I spent so much time in therapy “healing the 8-year-old” it was unreal. And sometimes I still miss her. But on my best days, I see that my heart, which has been pieced back together by the hand of God, is exactly the kind of heart God can use.
    As a parent, you will make mistakes. (I don’t need to tell you that!), but I think you’re well on your way towards using your hard-won wisdom to give your daughters a better emotional life than the one you had.

    • http://www.revangiem-n.com Angie Mabry-Nauta

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jill. You bless me richly with your reflection and your encouragement. I experience you as growing in God’s grace and in the Spirit’s healing balm. Press on, sister, for you are called.


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