I Would Never Be You

A child falls in an unattended pool or climbs into a zoo enclosure or is forgotten in the back seat of a hot car. A new little one, unintendedly conceived, is left to die inside her mother. An ill one, predicted to live a life full of disappointment and pain, is torn limb from limb before birth.

And then, in the place where sadness and grief should be, we hear "I would never..." One mother calling out to another -- you're wrong. you're evil. you're scum. and I am so much better than you.

She told me I was better -- a better mother, a better student, a better wife, a better person -- than those who had failed me or who had buckled under the same pressures. My heart could not agree.

In my counseling journey I've gone through a handful of psychotherapists. For the most part, they were all helpful in different ways at different times. Only one turned out to be significantly ill-fitting, and it took many months -- plus essentially being dumped by her -- to recognize the problem. She had a habit of jumping to conclusions without waiting for me to reach my own understanding about what I felt. One interchange often comes to my mind; it was meant to be an encouragement but wasn't at all. She said because you would never... She told me I was better -- a better mother, a better student, a better wife, a better person -- than those who had failed me or who had buckled under the same pressures. My heart could not agree. Where I began to say it hurts more now because of the pregnancy or the changes in medicines or some other reason I could not identify, she jumped in with the implausible it's because you would never abdicate your responsibilities as a mother, as a woman.

Illness mixed with a self-serving bent common to all human beings makes me not immune to a whole host of sins. I am not better than anyone else.

It is certainly true that there are things I know I will not consent to do. Mental illness moves that line a bit at times, for instance making self-harm seem reasonable, and that is where my coping tools come in. Still, I can trust that I will never be so faithless and desperate as to knowingly cause the death of my own babies, but even that is not something I know because I can trust myself and my own reason and basic goodness. My heart rejects this; I know I am not reliably good. I know that no one is good. And in the end, I know that what has convinced the mother leaving Planned Parenthood, relieved at her empty womb, could just as easily have convinced me to do the same under the same circumstances. I am not good, and neither is she.

And then, in the place where sadness and grief should be, we hear "I would never..." One mother calling out to another -- you're wrong. you're evil. you're scum. and I am so much better than you.

I cannot leave it at that. We are not left hopeless. God himself is good and can be universally trusted. I can trust him to hear me and to protect me from confusion. I can trust him to keep me pure, increasingly and forever.

My Christian counselor telling me how admirable I was, without any mention of Jesus, was never helpful, especially as I was weighed down by grief and guilt and shame and other things I've never learned a name for. Instead, I slowly realized she didn't know me, didn't care to know me, and was just talking.