This Lent, in addition to giving up wine, I am focusing on my prayer life. I feel God beckoning me to new levels of peace, calm, tranquility, and resilience. Wine, normally, is not easy for me to give up, but giving up anxiety and fear is much harder. Sometimes the cause is hormones; sometimes it is external circumstances; sometimes it is just neglecting to exercise, eat right, and sleep enough. Whatever it is, I know it is not how I want to be. So I am leaning into the grace afforded in this liturgical season with the hope of becoming the way God wants me to be—a docile, joyful, trusting child of God.
The Scripture passage that I am plunging into daily is John 14. It begins: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Right there, I take pause. After all, my daily life is often replete with challenges, stresses, and crosses, big and small, and I am often troubled. How can Jesus possibly imagine that I would not let my heart be troubled? I wonder. As a mother, in both the big and little things, I can lose my peace. My nine-year-old is about to perform in a talent show: What if her classmates, who already exclude her, laugh at her? My five-year-old picks his nose: After twenty years of mothering, I am t-i-r-e-d of talking about boogers. At the end of a long day, I collapse on the bed and start falling asleep, fully clothed, and aware that I have not yet turned on the dishwasher, taken out the trash, or responded to important emails. I am troubled that I am so over-extended.
But the next morning I continue my prayer over John 14. Jesus continues: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places . . . I go to prepare a place for you” (verse 2). My whole body relaxes when I read this verse. This is where I belong; it is the telos, the end, the goal of my life’s journey. How I long for it with all my being. How grateful I am that I have a goal in the first place, an endpoint that is so richly satisfying and worth this journey through life. I realize that many people who lack faith lack an adequate endpoint to their lives. I am blessed to be a Christian. I also feel a kinship with the monks and nuns over many centuries, even millennia, who have dedicated their lives to renouncing the world so as to arrive at these same dwelling places. I feel a closeness with my anonymous friends as I seek, through my vocation of motherhood, the same destination.
The next verse grips me: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (verse 3). Extending his words to his disciples to myself, I think, he loves me. He cherishes me. He wants me to be with him. ME—with HIM. Little old me. I wonder what he sees in me, why he would want me. I can frustrate even myself much less the people around me. What about all my faults and failures? With a wave of grace, I quiet these thoughts and settle in on the message: He loves me. Tears come to my eyes. I don’t deserve it. Then I respond to myself, Of course not. That is the point. You do not deserve it, but he still knows you and cherishes you.
Struggling hard to believe this point, seeing my internal resistance, I think of my own children. I desire for my children to come home after a long day at school or being away. I love my six children with all my being, not because they deserve it, but because I know them, see them, and love them for who they are with an indescribable love. I then imagine that Jesus loves me like that—not because I am without sin and fault, but because he knows me better than anyone; he made me, and he loves me with his indescribable, even infinite love. I go back to the verse: “So that where I am, there you may be also.” With him. With him. With him. I think of the context of Jesus saying these words. He is at the Last Supper. I think, The Eucharist. I am with him and he is with me in an extraordinary way in the Eucharist.
Then Jesus says, “You know the way to the place where I am going” (verse 4). Thomas responds,
“Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus says to him, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (verses 5-6). I am stunned by Jesus’s answer. He is not only beckoning me to the destination, but he is the way to it. He is the alpha and the omega. He is with me every step toward himself and the Father to whom he is wanting to bring me. Jesus is my everything.
I find my complete peace in the following words: “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you . . . Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (verse 23). The Father and the Son are making a home in me, just as I am making my home in them. Home. I am at peace because I am home.