Monday, May 9, 2011

What She Taught Me About Mothering

A repost from the archives... Mother's Day one year ago... but it is still true.

I remember it well, the mama-loving machine that always seemed to be filling our house with strange faces on the days we wanted most to be alone. I would squirm under the uncomfortable conversations, the turkey served to drool dipped chins, the small rooms teeming with too many who had nowhere else to go.

Today I sat in the cushy chairs where the followers gathered who want to walk in the Way. We listened to sweet words read, words of rhyme and rhythm, that spoke of the forever love, the eternal sacrifice, the endless depths of a mothers heart, and they gave me a flower to tell me it was so of me.

But today being the day to think of mothers, I thought of mine and the way she filled our house with strange faces. And I thought of the sweet words and how they weren't really true of me, because the love in my heart has limits. It cuddles and cradles the the soft cheeks of it's three, it listens to heartaches and trials of it's own, it comforts and cares for the needs of it's kind, the flesh brought forth from my flesh. But does it have room for strange faces?

They crowd around outside in the courtyards, racing bikes, kicking balls, making forts out of junk. It's a blessing, this group, this troupe of arms and legs. And I send mine out and into the fray, giving thanks. Then, it changes. The dynamic. A different kid, different background. Words don't sound gentle and actions speak loudly, too loudly for my comfort. My eyes narrow, my heart hardens, biting words in my head. They spill out with a friend, my dislike, my dismay. I build fences, pull my brood in, put up signs barring entry.

Are mothers to be praised when they love only their own? Isn't this, the grace community, the one that should be everyone's home? Aren't they, these little urchins, these ones that grate my skin-- also loved, also cherished, also eternal beings within? When my son looks down at his dirty hands from play, and asks me as his mind runs, about the dirty ones we pass by every day; he wants to know if we can help them, give them something Good and Clean. And I think, how can I help him love those dirty hands but not a dirty mouth, a dirty background, a dirty mind, a dirty child?

They all came unto Him and he would let them. He would let this child, my child, and all those children come unto Him. He gives me children to love and then he asks me to love all the other children too. Who did I think I was, saying no, saying they were not good enough? Isn't this, the grace community, the only place they can come, not being good enough? Aren't I the same dirty girl, the same dirty child who gets to come to my Father every day?

I think of my mother's house today, and every other day, still teeming with the unlovely, still feeding drool dipped chins. She raised a dirty girl there, two dirty girls and two dirty boys. She loved them with words and meals and comforts and prayers, memories and sacrifices and the burning hurting love that only a mother who loves dirty children can give. She washed us clean with the Word, she pointed us to the Way.

She showed me and shows me still that mothers can't just love their own. I still squirm under the uncomfortable truth of it. I still squint my eyes at first. But there's a fresh Wind that blows through me and lays its hands all over me, changing me. I'm off to tear down fences. Take that sign down. Swing open the doors. Let love come in this place, let it spread itself around. There is more than one way to celebrate Mother's Day.

And I would add that I still struggle, and yet I've seen Him grow my heart a little larger, and some of that through just showing me my own dirt.

 And which of our kids doesn't seem dirtier to someone else than they seem to us? And which of us doesn't grate against loving the dirty whether flesh of our flesh or not? And which of us doesn't struggle to look in the mirror and see what is really there- rather than never look and only imagine yourself all bright and shiny?

 But this is one thing my mother has always shown me... that she knows she is dirty, but she washes herself with the Word, and she scrubs the feet of her neighbors and gathers all the grubby kids in, even me. And these three things I want to be true of me, and if they ever are, it will be in large part because she showed me the way.

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