This past weekend, I had the sacred privilege of sharing a reflection on Luke’s Gospel for the Presentation of Our Lord. As an illustration of how both prayer and life’s moments of testing can lead us closer to God and open us to hear God’s voice, I shared a parenting experience from about seven years ago. (You can link to the full text here.)
In an attempt to be both precise and to intentionally leave a bit to the imagination, I left out some details. Some people (moms, in particular) seemed to react with an intuitive understanding. Others really needed to know the whole story.
So today, I share a few more details in this blog. Here’s the part I shared in the reflection:
Simeon and Anna got me reflecting on a time in my family life when I really felt tested as a mom. I had just started working here at St. Joe’s. At home one of our daughters was in high school and a young driver. A few close-calls made us think it wise to impose the restriction that she not drive her friends around town.
A few days later, I pulled out of the Church parking lot on my way to visit three homebound elderly women with Holy Communion. From the high school parking lot came my daughter in her car – and it seemed like kids were just filling up every square inch of that little automobile. My heart sank, my maternal blood boiled.
I had no choice, thanks be to God, but to continue on to my scheduled visits. In the sacred space of these older women’s homes, we talked, we prayed, and Christ was present among us and in the Holy Communion they received. As I went from home to home, the gentle wisdom of these women of great faith replaced my angry, hurt feeling. I returned to St. Joe’s and felt drawn to the chapel, again to the presence of Christ. All was quiet. Out of the silence came a word, over and over. FORGIVE. FORGIVE. FORGIVE.
Now, if you’ve ever raised teenagers…you know this is about the most counterintuitive advice you could imagine. But the message from Jesus was clear. I needed to trust the beautiful person that deep down I knew was emerging in my daughter. I needed to let go and recognize the potential inside her. I needed to see that God was present in this young and vulnerable child of mine, this beloved daughter of God.
Needless to say, how right God was. Out of that test, that challenge, I was blessed to see the mature, caring, responsible young woman God was already busy creating before my eyes. Out of that test, that challenge, my relationship with her changed forever. Thanks be to the wisdom of our elderly, faith-filled parishioners, thanks be to our Lord and Savior.
A few details that people asked about:
“Did your daughter know you saw her?” Yes.
“How did you just keep going with your visits?” I turned my cell phone off.
“How did she get in touch with you?” When I returned to the pastoral offices, I found out my sister was frantically calling from Long Island to track me down because my daughter had called her. (My family is not used to me going off the grid.)
“Do you still see those parishioners you visited that day?” All of those beautiful women have gone home to God – may their souls rest in peace. I was blessed to know them.
But the big question: “Weren’t you letting her get away with it? How was she going to learn?”
Oh my, I see it so differently. What is more intimidating than a calm parent when you know you’ve really messed up? What is harder than taking responsibility for yourself?
And who says she was the one with something to learn?
God spoke to me in my anger and hurt. God moved me to forgive and to figure out what that meant. Out of the opportunity I had to be in prayer that afternoon, and to be with people of wisdom, I had the gift of time and God’s voice to guide me in how I should react.
God gave me the gift of a more mature relationship with my daughter.
Greg and I often reflect on how fortunate we are to have four responsible, loving, hard-working twenty-something kids. They are the light of our lives now and always – thanks be to God.
Blessings to you and your family!