Tuesday, May 10, 2016

To My Daughters, in the Wake of Mother's Day

Dear Clementine. Dear Charleigh.

It is late, and I am tired. I am so tired in my body (deep down in my bones) and in my spirit. I am so tired, and I have a midterm to write, a syllabus to rewrite, photos to edit, and clothes to fold. I won't have another night off for two weeks, and I feel as though I've done nothing well for the longest time. I've been aiming for okay, for good enough, and sometimes I've fallen short of even that.

So I'm taking a little time for you, now: just a little time, time that I don't really have, to write down a few things I want you to know in case I get run over by a truck or, more likely, choke to death on a pancake. A few things for your future.

The first thing I want to tell you, in the wake of Mother's Day, is that I'm sorry. I don't think I've been the mother to you that I've been to your brothers. They have been so much easier for me to parent. I like to place the blame on you and say that your brothers seem so happy, so grateful, to have a mommy, while you seem so irritated with me: like you want to kill me off and take over the running of the house.

But lately I've been feeling like there's more to the story: like maybe my difficulties with you have more to do with me than with you. This notion makes me squirmy and a little breathless, if I'm being honest, but there's something to it. I think you frighten me in a way the boys do not. I think I am terrified of failing you in the ways I have been failed by others and in the ways I have failed myself. It's surfacing, now, and I'm going to have to deal with it: for your sake, and for mine. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

I'm sorry if I have, at some points, yelled at you and, at others, checked out on you. These are learned behaviors that I am trying to unlearn. I want you to be tough (tougher than I), and to that end I want to tell you: true strength is engaged but controlled. True strength has words, but they are calm and calculated. There should never be a need to apologize for them.

Say what you mean and own what you've said. Speak up for yourself, especially as children of God. Don't let anyone but Jesus tell you who you are and especially who you are in Jesus. (S)he hasn't the right. Don't receive as truth any blanket statements, from human mouths, about women. Pray and delve into the primary source of God's Word, thereby seeking your truth as individuals and directly from the Father.

I don't know what He will say to you, but it will be everything you need to know. He will show you what you need to do, and those things--whatever they are!--are your highest callings as Clementine and Charleigh. Whatever they are, your inspired contributions are equal in value to the inspired contributions of others. The prayers you've been led to pray, for example, are just as important as the prayers of others. Anything else, even a mere implication of anything else, is a lie. If you call it such, you may find your audience apathetic, and that's okay. You care, anyway. You may find your audience offended, and that's okay, too. You reject the lie, anyway.

Your inspired contributions may or may not involve motherhood. Motherhood is not necessarily the crowning glory of womanhood. What matters is that you, as individual believers, do what God calls each of you to do. The crowning glory of your personhood is your sold-out obedience to the King of Kings. And here's the thing about that: He is your free choice. Receive Him as a choice. Eat and drink Him as a choice.

Your inspired contributions may or may not involve handling the kids (yours and others'); running Vacation Bible School; playing the piano; cooking up some food; cleaning...everything; and singing in the choir. These are high callings, indeed, but they're also things that menfolk often don't want to do. Again, God will show you what you need to do.

Regarding the "authority" and "leadership" of others and especially men, at every turn, you are free to choose who leads you and speaks into your life. Just because an individual is a man, even a man in the church!, doesn't mean he is your spiritual leader. You can turn your back on most any man and walk away, and you'll need to do this many times. Most times, even. Choose husbands and pastors carefully, prayerfully, in an attempt to avoid messy break-ups, but know this: there may be messy break-ups, anyway. You can control only yourself and never the other in a relationship. The best relationships include Christ as a third strand and are, therefore and as Solomon advises, not easily broken.

I pray that you will become soldiers of the cross. I pray that you will become spiritual leaders. I pray that God will pour out His Spirit upon you, that He will pour generously. I pray that you will open your mouths and prophesy because then we will know--won't we?--that we are in the last days in this dreadful place.

I believe in you. I am thankful that mothering you is one thing (not the only thing, and not necessarily the most important thing, but one thing) God has given and called me to do. I am thankful because I love you so very much, way down deep in my tired, aging bones.