She is the wisest of all creatures, carries you where ever she needs to be herself – feeds, clothes and proudly places your distorted version of an elephant on the refrigerator door, the “Hall of Fame” in every home.
She’s your mother. No matter her achievements or accomplishments outside the home, whether in a big or small job, her dying thought with be as mother. She creates as God creates, she sustains as God sustains and she is sometimes not at her best, as God has also shown us about Himself.
Bishop Oscar Romero said, “We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.”
What a minute! Are we talking about mother or are we talking about God now? Seeds, planting, future promises, laying foundations and yeast? Isn’t that God’s job? Or is God’s job mother’s job?
Add an “s” to mother and you find it’s high time that you find a place of your own. Take away the “m” and you’re talking about everybody else because you only have one mother.
In my young, caustic days as a priest, an elderly woman came into the sacristy and said that she would be my grandmother. I told her that my grandmother died. Not the best thing to say as I think back now but I did not need a second “grand” or “mother.”
The qualities of motherhood are qualities we all wish we owned and practiced. Whether achieved by our individual mothers doesn’t matter, the qualities still stand as important and worth achieving.
Not to bore you with a list of ten (for lists always contain ten items), I give you three qualities – patience, anticipation and resignation. I did not promise you the easiest of qualities but whatever the other seven are, they follow those three words.
A mother’s patience is envious to me. She knows what needs to be done and yet may takes minutes more before the child gets it. It’s that first step, no referee needed for a bathroom visit for number one two, the first properly held fork, the kneeling at the right times during Mass and “that” girlfriend” you’re seeing isn’t right for you. A mother is patient, even if she is wrong. She will patiently wait for you to make her wrong right even if you were right. (Only a son can appreciate that sentence.)
Anticipation is the second and easiest and resignation, the third, is the hardest. “The world is yours,” she tells you constantly as though oysters grow on tress and her resignation for all the decisions she doesn’t make for you but are uniquely yours whether done in success or error.
For all of us which one is the most difficult for a mom to achieve? If I can guess I’d say “resignation” because of its power to set someone you love free without judgement, evaluation, restriction or consequence. “Patience” is a learned quality that may be achieved or not and “anticipation” is the easiest because it is always an unknown future we can safely imagine. “Resignation” is what our Creator God needed to do for us and what mothers reluctantly give in to us. In the Church, we call it “free will” but in mother’s case she’d say, “I think you’re wrong but what can I say?!”
The Catholic Church calls itself “mother” as though it can replace our birth mothers. Nature claims “mother” as an adjective as though we need to now protect her as much as she protected us. And we love the phrase “the mother of all inventions” because of the anticipation and hope all mothers have for each of their children.
Bishop Romero also says, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well.” I suspect that being God is a pretty big job. I know that being mother is also a pretty big job with lots of successes and failures. But that’s the beauty of any laid foundation – we build upon, revise it, sometimes repeat the same mistakes but we plant, influence and water this great gift of life. And, don’t forget to add plenty of yeast. We do this for ourselves and we provide this to our children and gently coach those around us.
Women have told me they lament that they are not able to have children. I’m not able to either. But I’ve learned that motherly qualities are not restricted to child bearing. Each of us can “give birth” to what the Creator gave the created to create, “patience, anticipation and resignation.”
But I’m still not sure if I’ve been talking about God or about mothers?