There I was, taking a personal moment to relieve my bladder. My 4-year-old burst through the door stark naked and said, “Mommy, I am sorry to come in here while you’re doing your pee-pee, but I have to tell you that I can’t find any underpants anywhere. I have even looked in the dryer and the laundry basket, and I even looked in the washing machine… but I didn’t dig in the washing machine, but I can’t find any to wear.”
As I sat and listened to his concern, I wondered, “Did Mary — you know, the mother of God — have visitors while using the bathroom?”
Seems to know what she is doing...
You see, this isn’t an unusual event in my life. I am the mother of two boys, ages 4 and 3, and pregnant with our first daughter. Since first being introduced to parenthood I have found that many of my previously normal activities — such as personal hygiene — have been on public display. It’s not abnormal for me to excuse myself for a moment I’ve put off for hours only to have the entire event turn into an interaction with tiny people who ask things like, “Do girls have keeblers (yes, that’s the name my husband blurted out the first time our first-born inquired about the male anatomy)?”
...Not so sure she knows what she's doing.
So as I journey through this adventure known as motherhood in a blind panic to discipline and praise, love and nurture, engage and educate… and still manage to brush my teeth, I look to find inspiration from the great maternal role models of history. This of course leaves no one other than Our Lady as the quintessential example of both an earthly mother and a spiritual mother of the highest caliber.
Of course, here’s the clincher: She had the whole Immaculate Conception thing going for her, whereby her lack of original sin leads me to believe she didn’t bark at Jesus when he failed for the 15th time to put underpants on. But of course, He probably didn’t fail to adhere to the request in the first place. I can’t help but wonder how prone the Almighty was to behave like my non-Divine boys do, breaking into brawls while mommy tries to tend to some of her basic needs — after all, I’m lucky if I can get one leg shaved in the shower before one of my children comes screaming into the room announcing that his brother smacked him in the head with a ping-pong paddle because he wanted to hear what it sounded like.
So how can I follow a woman not plagued with the intrinsic weaknesses of my heart? And how can I expect to emulate her actions if I’m convinced her child never spit out his green beans at the dinner table or refused to keep his finger out of his nose?
The answer is almost as simple as the Elmo’s World song that has been replaying in the back of my mind for two years… but not nearly as irritating. Just as we cannot possibly be God, we can certainly aspire to walk His walk — that is in fact what He asked from the beginning. And in the attempt to conform an imperfect spirit to the Perfect’s will, grace saturates us with more power to do so than we even imagined.
I think the same is true in seeking to excel at the most important vocation of a woman, motherhood. When we seek to follow (not worship, as so many people incorrectly think the Catholic Church espouses) the example of the New Eve, who shows us the capacity for human righteousness amidst a fallen world, we become quite aware of our shortcomings, and we unconsciously offer them up for pruning so that we may serve in the manner the handmaid of the Lord did some 2,000 years ago. That becomes my mission daily - one I hope to achieve even in my greatest failure to do so.
Even though I have three children, I recognize how far I am from the good mom I want to be, and yet how much closer I am thanks to the journey itself. As with anything, the best way to learn how to do anything is to do it, to trip and fall, get back up, dust yourself off and carry on with the lessons now snuggled in your back pocket, accessible at any time as a map toward a greater good. After all, as the great philosopher G.K. Chesterton reminds us, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
So even if Jesus let his mother go to the bathroom in peace (which the Bible never mentions and our Church Fathers didn’t address, so I suppose it’s up for speculation), she can still serve as a guide as I traverse the road of motherhood. I shouldn’t be intimidated by her example nor should I be jealous of her success in being so. Rather, I should simply ask for her prayers that I might follow in her footsteps and attempt to align my vocation with hers. A tall order… but then so is spending nine months growing a new human life in your womb and giving birth without so much as an Advil only to have that beautiful soul 3 years later scream at the top of his lungs as he sits in the corner, “You are a mean Mommy. You go to timeout.”
I once said to that dear soul – my youngest son, Donovan – in a moment of tenderness, “You are such a gift.” He sat up and replied, “No, I not a gift, I Jesus.”
So I guess in a way, Mary and I have a lot more in common than I had thought.
Copyright 2013 Becky Bowers-Greene
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