It was going to be as close to perfect as I could come. As a young mom of two small children, I was in control of my life – determined to get the “normal” and “balanced” part right. I would have two kids, a boy and a girl and we would have just the right accessories. With backflips and a tight grip I managed to keep things looking balanced the way I had planned. I would not have a chaotic life like I experienced in my growing up. I would work part-time and plan gender-specific craft activities for each of my children after hours! I went to a non-denominational church, got a latte in the foyer and planned to be good Christian – Jesus could help me manage!
I enrolled my two kids in a small Christian school where I met three Catholic moms, who were a remarkable witness. It wasn’t so much what they said but how they lived. These mothers were honest and vulnerable about the burdens they experienced in their marriages and in raising children but they resonated a purposeful, holy joy. In their ordinary humanity their lives pointed to something divine. In large part, these mothers incarnated a daily version of what the Eucharist was all about before I even knew exactly what true presence was. What they possessed was mysterious. I was hungry deep inside but keeping it together on the surface.
I became pregnant with our third child – and I combatted a series of conflicting emotions – one being fear of losing control and then one of a deep hungering for God’s possibility in our lives. Upon miscarrying at seventeen weeks, I flailed helplessly with grief not understanding the ground of my own heart. I remember one of my Catholic mama friends standing on my stoop dropping me off a steaming meal, given straight out of her own need. Later that year, I shared a deep emotional wound with the same friend and she mentioned how she would “offer up”my pain while she gave birth. I was dumbfounded. I had never heard of this kind of love. The kind of love that voluntarily gives out of oneself, even out of personal pain. What kind of love made purpose out of pain? What kind of joy was this?
The lives of these moms seemed extreme by all-American standard – their level of commitment to their Catholic faith pressed them daily to the Empty mark. And yet, in a strange way, it was a life that resonated with abundance.
I had deceived myself into thinking the path to abundant living must come from a perfect set of achieved circumstances, family status, life balance or management skills. Our God and our Mother Church seek always and only to out-give us in our “openness” and all that is asked of us is a “yes (fiat)”. This “open yes” is a genuine path to abundant life and a viable road to sanctity that my heart now feeds upon. My heart has found a home in my Catholic faith and I am giving my all to His love. Although at times I am pressed on every side, the love of Christ is re-shaping, re-making me and changing the very ground of my heart. God’s generosity far out-gives my feeble “yes”. Jesus waits to out-give with the eternal incorruptible food of himself. He bids me walk the way of His abundant grace. Following the path of Catholic marriage and motherhood has been like uncovering a vibrant paradoxical treasure. When I am pressed empty, I find His fullness.
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” John 15:16