Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Mother's Devotion

The other day at "Heart, Mind, and Strength" Greg Popcak said something that nearly made me drive off the road. A woman had written in, asking how to handle her college-age daughter who let them pay her bills, but otherwise didn't want anything to do with them. It seems that the young woman has weight issues, and her mother was wondering how to get the girl to lose weight.

In a nutshell, his response was, "First, take a look at your own life. Your preoccupation with appearances is getting in the way of your relationship. Remember, not all those who are pious are necessarily devoted. Devotion comes from relationship ... You should be less concerned about your daughter's weight than the fact that she doesn't want to spend time with you."

My mind started whirling, flashing back to my teenage and young adult years when I did everything I could to keep a safe layer of distance between myself and certain members of my family. There were times I remember actually falling asleep to avoid conversation. In the car, I'd whip out a book. At home, I'd stay in my room until summoned to do housework.

In church, it was a different story. I felt happy to be there. People seemed happy to see me, and I had certain musical and intellectual abilities that translated well to church work. When I ran away from home at the age of 10, the church was the first place I ran to. And so, I suppose it's no surprise that Catholicism appealed to me. Same God, but with a safety net: Faith anchored to something more permanent than the whims and interpretations of one or two people.

But here's the thing, and the reason I titled this post as I did. I would feel as though I had failed my kids if I passed my faith on to them on the same terms my faith was passed on to me. I want my kids to experience love-based faith, relationship-based faith, which has been modeled first and foremost within the intimacy of family relationships. I don't want my kids to be afraid to tell me when they are in trouble, or when they're wrestling with a problem. I don't want them feeling as though I love them only when they are doing what I want them to do.

I want them to experience a mother's devotion. Sometimes I worry that I have too much baggage to pull this off. The other day at confession, a priest reminded me that I needed to spend more time enjoying my kids, as this is how they experience the love of God. Today, instead of sending my daughter into her room to stay there until it's spotless ... I think I'll go in there and work alongside her. And I will listen as we work, and if she breaks into one of her special "Sarah Songs" that goes 245 stanzas without a discernable plot, I'll try to join her on the chorus. It's time for me to practice "a mother's devotion."

Do you ever find it tough to juggle "piety" and "devotion"?

Still reading? Come and join me at EMN, where I reflect on the Feast of the Annunciation, and how God uses even negative experiences in our lives as channels of grace.


MightyMom said...

I find we often work so hard and worry so much about our kids' abilities to be independent...that we forget to just help them and let them enjoy being helped. Sometimes they just say help momma because when I'm putting on their shoes and socks they have my undivided attention.

Unknown said...

Devotion sounds a lot like what the Catholic psychiatrist Dr. Conrad Baars called "affirmation." It's about being with someone versus simply expecting them to do something. For more information, you can visit I am a big fan of Dr. Baars' work.