I stand in the door frame like the invisible mother. Unseen. I had made several announcements about “deep cleaning” and the need for organization. After all, we are starting school as distance learners right here at home. I enter like the queen of a palace, looking to find triumph over the mess.
One son is trying on a myriad of dress-up clothes, ensembles covering the floor. Another son lounges on his bunk surrounded by piles of sundry miscellany. A third is mesmerized by the blue shining screen of a laptop. I marvel at the sprawling chaos. Three boys share this room, but my entrance brings not one single side-glance, nor any apology for the sprawling Lego labyrinth I manage to side-step. Not a glance in my direction. No well-thought explanation, excuse, or plan-of-action is expressed. I can feel my frustration rise at the thought of how soon we must re-set. I also admit that I would like this room to showcase our domain with order and cleanliness for an upcoming gathering.
On the heels of disdain and frustration, I feel my indignation rise. Am I not the one who is appointed to govern here? I want to declare the importance of my agenda. Most days, when the demands in this domestic church carry on endlessly, I am content to contemplate what it means to go unnoticed. I am well aware of the opportunity of my sainthood being crafted at the kitchen sink. But then I have these moments where my ego wants to shout the importance of my agenda from the rooftops. In these slippery moments I am reminded of today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah criticizes Shebna, the high-ranking leader who governs the people. Why? Because Shebna focused his time, effort, and expense to build himself an elaborate tomb—a monument of his own importance. He gave in to the temptation to use his authority to build up his own ego and to revel in his own projects and plans—all for the sake of celebrating his own greatness.
Sure, I want to get organized and start off this year on the right foot. And, yes, I want the boys’ room to be relatively clean for extended family guests. But God looks upon the heart with which I exercise my authority. This reading forces me to ask a difficult question: How am I using my God-appointed authority as a mother? I am called to lead for the sake of building cathedrals of goodness in my children, not for demanding my own monuments of perfection. When I enter the boys’ room, am I bringing life to the room and encouraging their ingenuity, or demanding my own?
In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ chooses a different kind of leader to build the Church. Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom to Simon Peter. Yes, Peter is quite human, replete with weaknesses and failures, but his aim is not to dominate, but to serve and to follow Christ which continually results in humility. Most significantly, he shows us what it means to have great heart, genuine repentance, and a well of deep love. Though imperfect, God has set Simon Peter as the rock on which to build the Church.
How might we mothers examine the wellspring of our hearts? We too, though imperfect, can lead and build our humble homes out of a heart of authentic Christ-like love, leading from a place blessed by God for the sake of building up the Church. The passage of Romans today speaks of the sublime mystery of Gospel living: Oh the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!