Parenting brings us face-to-face with our vulnerability. Caitlan Rangel hears the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in a new way on one of these days.
Motherhood brings me face-to-face with my own weakness and vulnerability like nothing else. Beauty, truth, and goodness emerge in simple moments on a daily basis. Moments of difficulty sometimes seem to be just as regular.
Our culture trains us to prioritize and become proficient in productivity, independence, and power. When we desire to parent our children as listeners of God’s will, those worldly values get rocked.
Sometimes I hold onto those worldly values even though I know there’s a better, more life giving way. I’m like a toddler with fists full of Cheerios, staring at a toy I yearn to play with, but am unable to because I won’t let go of the Cheerios.
When I hold onto my Cheerios, I turn in on myself. I allow my imperfection to fill me with shame.
Since I’m an Easter woman, and that’s not an Easter song, I try to take steps out of myself and toward God and my children when the noise wants to settle into my mind and heart.
On a recent morning, I heard and felt the whispers of inadequacy coming on strong. Fresh air always helps. So, I packed my little ones up in our double stroller, and off we went. I knew that I needed to pray. I popped in my airpods and found the Chaplet of Divine Mercy that I like to pray with Franciscan Friars of the Renewal friends.
The words of the closing prayer struck my mothering heart as they had not before:
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself (emphasis mine).
We come face-to-face with difficult moments each day. Communication challenges with our spouse. Sickness. Financial worries. Children pushing our buttons. Battles with personal demons.
And what do we do when those moments arise?
I wish I always turned to God first. But, I don’t. Sometimes, I pick up my phone to call my mom or text a friend. Sometimes, I turn inward in frustration or shame.
When I turn to God first, what happens? My Father shows me kindness. He turns to me in love and mercy. He sends His Spirit to strengthen my spirit. He gives me the grace for the next right thing.
When we stay in God’s gaze instead of turning inward in shame, we experience the truth of God’s words to St. Paul:
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
God’s mercy purifies the weakness and vulnerability of motherhood. God makes our vulnerability the place for personal and familial encounter with Him.
God knows this journey of parenthood. This is who God is as Father, Maker, Creator. When we give ourselves to God in our difficult moments, God “reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child…full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 6).
God parents us as we do our best to parent the little ones he’s given us. And from this place of being children of Love and Mercy itself, God invites us to look with eyes of love and mercy on our children in their own weakness and vulnerability.
God our merciful Father, we encounter our weakness and vulnerability in raw ways as we parent each day. Help us to notice when we want to turn inward in shame or despair, and instead lift our eyes to your loving gaze. You love us so much, God. Give us your own eyes for our children, spouses, and those we meet along the way. Help us to see their needs, and respond with tender love. Amen.
Copyright 2021 Caitlan Rangel
Image: Yan Krukov (2020), Pexels
About the Author
Caitlan Rangel relishes in the ordinary being the extraordinary, fresh air, morning coffee with a little cream, and stolen moments of quiet. Her greatest joy is being anywhere with her husband and three children, especially when mountains are involved. Caitlan writes to empower parents to be the primary educators of the faith with Pathways Formation Suite, and blogs at Pure in Heart.