I turned left onto Alderson Road and as I slowed for the stop sign, I looked up through the naked, winter branches. There I caught sight of the cross that stands tall for us on the steeple of our parish. I felt the rise and fall of my burdens, my emotions rushing forward in relief at the sight of the cross. Tears welled up as I felt the embrace of truth in my innermost being. I hadn’t realized how I had longed for that sight, the vision of the cross right in the sky like that. I thanked God for the cross in that moment. I thanked Jesus in that moment. Yet, right on the heels of my thanksgiving I felt the piercing reality – had I thanked God in the midst of my crosses of motherhood this past week? Had I entered into the invitation to life in Christ through those small moments? How had I missed the opportunity to unite myself with Christ? How had I rushed past this very same, poignant cross appearing before me daily right in my own household?
The verse in 1 Peter beautifully expresses the truth about Christ being our example. Clearly this is what my soul longed for as I stared at the cross in my moment of stillness.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:21-25).
He is my shepherd – my mothering must flow from this deep place of truth. Had I really waited until I was en route to Mass, at this high, holy point of the week, seeing a physical cross light up the sky in order to let the reality sink in? How can I learn to turn to him in my daily walk of motherhood and invite him to guard my soul in the midst of the crosses? How can I be a font of righteousness and healing to my domestic church? How can I keep following in his steps? I began to revisit my week and ponder the places that stole in and whispered desolated exhaustion instead of the power of Christ. Thankfully, we did not face epic, devastating issues as a family this past week. Yet, as I lay my exhaustion at the foot of the cross, I admit that it was in the small, splintering moments that I lost sight of how to abide in Jesus and respond like Jesus – to unleash his power from within.
It was when….A child that seemed suddenly more adult than “mine,” and neither my words nor my wise solutions appeared to be enough like they once were. There was toothpaste that looked like sheer acts of vandalism on the bathroom sink. There were mornings I tried in desperation to encourage, cajole, and finally drag kids out of bed so as not to attain yet another late pass from the school office. There was morning sickness that washed over like a tidal wave during the same hour dedicated to cooking dinner for a household of 6. We seemed to be living in a house that looked like it was bleeding laundry with no spare bandaid big enough to accompany the gushing. There was deliberation over ongoing financial strain, the result of a decision to embrace family life as paramount above worldly success. There was the boy who suddenly saw the world through a more independent lens (very appropriate to his developmental age) and left this mama feeling misunderstood and discredited where she usually meets a sure win. There was a skin rash that, though small in the scheme of things, felt reminiscent of an Old Testament plague. The list goes on at my house, as I am sure it does at yours!
Is it possible that the challenges you and I face daily as mothers are, in effect, an answer to our very own spiritual need? We pray for an increase of humility, and God directs us hourly to the occasions to apply this exact virtue. Our mothering efforts are clearly misunderstood or go unseen, while regard goes to another source. It’s hard to consistently speak the truth in love when children must be instructed in virtue – increasing their awareness, kindness and obedience. It can be even harder to respond in grace when dealing with defiance. But the response of our hearts to the seemingly mundane moments of motherhood reveals whether or not we are pressing into the gift of uniting ourselves to Christ. To take hold of this holy, unseen work takes the strength of Christ within.
The sweet relief is that the Holy Spirit has been given to each of us personally and is infused into our very hearts to help us live the call when we cannot simply rely on our own strength. We must call on the Holy Spirit and invite Jesus in. “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18).
Are there areas in your daily walk as a mother that God is asking you to release more fully into his guidance? Where can you ask the Holy Spirit to flow in humility and grace through you even in the mundane moments? Ask for the power to unite yourself to Christ and respond as he would to the daily demands. It is for the glory of God. We are each part of a glorious work in the kingdom!