The Troublemaker Continued

Christ comes not to bring peace but to cause trouble, but it is trouble that detaches us from harmful patterns of behavior, opens our hearts, leads us to greater freedom and ultimately saves us. –Michael Casey, Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Interactive Christology

After reading over the last blog post a number of times, I realized that the conclusion is just too abrupt. As it is often in life, I want to skirt over the difficult times and fast forward to the freedom and salvation. But the truth is as I eluded, motherhood has been painful and clarifying and freeing all at the same time.

It happened for me subtly at first; the urgency of feedings and diaper changes at all the most inopportune times and then with the tender heartache of playground scuffles and hurt feelings…the growing awareness that my life was not my own. The day in and day out work of raising children erodes your false self like the ocean waves persistently lapping against the shore. You continually put your children’s needs before your own, and schedule your life around theirs. But that Divine work is slow and can be easily sabotaged by growing resentments or even the desire to build-up a new false self, the supermom.

And then at some point the storms hit, putting everything in perspective with a piercing truth…your children mean more to you than your own life. For me it happened when my child was betrayed by her best friend, and when I heard the psychiatrist say my son had multiple learning disabilities. And then there are the tsunamis, when the counselor told me my daughter was bulimic, and when I sat with my depressed son trying to convince him his life was worth living.

These are the moments you never want to have but they are also the ones that open hearts and usher in a greater freedom. In the midst of the crisis you are completely and utterly present. Every meaningless pretense falls away. Having exhausted all your own resources, as the mystic says, you fall to your knees. In those (in retrospect) graced moments I get it. Those moments are unitive. I am completely brought out of my own head, my own self-centered ways, my own way of seeing the world–I am one with my children and we are all wrapped up in the Almighty.

In those moments there is such clarity. I understand my relationship to the Divine One. God is all-powerful. All my strength derives from this Love. And the troublemaker is there too, never leaving my side.

I won’t say that I am happy for the bulimia and the depression and all the mess of life. If I could, I would wish them all away. Rather, I accept them for what they are. I am trying, as the poet Rumi suggests, to welcome everything and everyone who come to the door of my life. But it’s hard. What I can say is that I burst with gratitude that I have a Strength to draw on. And I am ever so grateful that there is One who ushers me into freedom, bringing me the truth of who I really am.

The sun blinding in its reflection off the creek behind our apartment.

The Troublemaker

Christ comes not to bring peace but to cause trouble, but it is trouble that detaches us from harmful patterns of behavior, opens our hearts, leads us to greater freedom and ultimately saves us. –Michael Casey, Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Interactive Christology

Jesus, the troublemaker…I guess I was in my early twenties when I realized what a troublemaker Jesus could be. Until then he had been a benign friend, always agreeing, always wanting to do the things I wanted to do, never challenging or making me really think about who I was or what kind of life I wanted to live. I remember it like it was yesterday, pee streaming over the strip and then just waiting. Twenty-three years old and only married three months, everything in my being told me I was not ready to be a mother…but here it was. I was pregnant and I did not want to be a mother…not yet.

I am not sure how long I stayed in that divided state. I do remember feeling pressure to move into elation. I remember my mother telling me how a baby in utero can feel if its not wanted. There was no option for me, really. I would become a mom in nine months. I rode the waves of reactions and my own emotions.  Disbelief, disappointment and disapproval were typical ones from friends, co-workers and family. Gradually, I moved into acceptance, expectation and at last, joy.

Looking back it was the most defining moment of my life. Every decision became guided by the reality that I was a mom, that little people, then older people, depended and relied on me. But it also caused a lot of trouble for me. Every few years I wondered at who I had become and where a different path would have taken me. I had to detach myself over and over to grand ideas about who I should be, the job I should have, the life I should be living. Over and over I had to learn to open my heart the tiniest bit more.

Becoming a mom is the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me. To say being a mom has helped me grow doesn’t do justice to the journey. Of course there is a blinding, all-encompassing love that comes with motherhood.  There is also the squeezing out and constant annihilation of ego, that dreaded but comfortable false self.  The true saving grace…through it all Divine friendship and mercy have been constant and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing.

Inspiration from these weeks

Over the weeks when I couldn’t write lots of things inspired. Here are a few…

 

Abba Sisoes said, “Seek God and not where God lives.” We live and breathe, grow and develop in the womb of God. And yet we seek God elsewhere—in defined places, in special ways, on mountaintops and in caves, on specific days and with special ceremonies. But the life that is full of light knows that God is not over there, God is here.—sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

 

Let those who are imperfect not be afraid—all they have to do is to make progress. Let them not love their imperfection just because I said, “Let them not be afraid”; in that case they would remain where they are. Let them make progress, as far as it depends on them. Each day let us draw nearer—but let them not withdraw from Christ’s body.—Augustine of Hippo

 

Pray with you whole being even though you think that it has no savor for you. For such prayer is very profitable even though you feel nothing. Pray with your whole being, though you feel nothing, though you see nothing, even though it seems impossible to you. It is in dryness and in barrenness, in sickness and in feebleness, that your prayer is most pleasing to me, even though you think that it has little savor for you.—Julian of Norwich

 

On a beautiful walk not too long ago…

 

 

Teach me a new way to love

I am back at it. Last week I went to a lecture given by a member of the Sisters of Mercy, Marilyn Lacey. She has for the last 40 years worked with refugees in some form or other. It all began for her when she happened to respond to a call for people to go down to the airport to help refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam who were being resettled in the US. She was a math teacher and nun but had the day off and thought…why not? She ended up bringing one of the families back to the semi-cloistered convent…and it began…her passion meeting a great need.

For eight weeks the family lived with them until they could be moved to their ultimate home. Sister Marilyn fell in love with the families five children. The night that they tearfully said goodbye to them she had a dream. In the dream the youngest boy came to her in her school yard. She asked him what he was doing there and his response was: We have come to teach you a new way to love.

I can’t even think of that story without such emotion churning within me. I have to stop and ask why. Why am I so jealous of that dream? Why do tears form in my eyes each time I even think about it?

It has to be because more than anything I want to be fully engaged, passionately engaged in doing God’s work. And I want that kind of clarity. I would like God to visit me in a dream and whisper the secret of who I am to be, what I am to do into my ear.

I used to listen to or read stories like Sister Marilyn’s and beat myself up for not living that kind of a life. I have read so many books on vocation and calling trying to decode the puzzle of me. Now I understand a little better that there are many ways to serve. But absent the dream, I end up with a kind of generic assurance that whatever I be, so long as I belong to God, it will be enough…I will be more than enough. Once again, I long for the confidence to believe all things and to believe this thing.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel said that when he marched with Martin Luther King, he felt like his legs were praying. I want that too. To be so engaged in my tasks, so passionate about the subjects that my body prays. Perhaps it comes back to living in that present moment. Allowing the other, whoever it may be, to teach me a new way to love.

A picture that Sr. Marilyn took in southern Sudan.

Checkout Sr. Marilyn’s non-profit and her inspiring work at http://www.mercybeyondborders.org