The Mom Side


Being a mom with two boys, I read the story of the Wedding at Cana and I can’t help but wonder what was going through Mary’s head that day. She’d spent her life raising this boy to be a man and now she faced a defining moment in his life. Here he was stepping out into the world in a whole new way. Was she ready to let him go? Was she afraid of how society react? Was she proud? Did she wonder if there was more she should have taught him?

Last night my two guys got into a wrestling match and, forgetting how big they are now, I waded into the middle of it to try to break them up. The end result was that all three of us came dangerously close to crashing through the Christmas tree.  It was the end of long day at the end of long, stressful week with these two. I was never one that had a particular devotion to Mary and on days like yesterday, I really find myself asking if she ever went through this craziness.

Nadia Bolz-Weber often describes Mary as a badass. Anne Lamott writes about Mary as the mother of a teenage Jesus and pictures her walking behind Jesus with a stone clutched tightly in her hand, just in case he gets out of line. I love both of those depictions. But I get stuck thinking that Mary had something that I don’t – back up. When Jesus went missing at the temple, Joseph was there helping her look for him. And if he stepped out of line growing up, Joseph would have been there to straighten him out.

It gets very lonely sometimes, being a Mom without backup. My boys and I have been through a lot and that presents some pretty unique challenges to parenting. I have to carefully pick my battles and I do an awful lot of balancing. I have to be a hard ass about so many things: grades, homework, bedtimes, video games, being online, foul language, rude behaviors and the usual brotherly fisticuffs. And when they step out of line, there’s no one but me to play the heavy. I’m always afraid of being too harsh because I’m also the late night counselor and I don’t ever want them afraid to come to me. I have to be my own check and balance, a one-woman good cop/bad cop, and I can’t afford to make mistakes. I have an ever-running tally in my head of Good Mom Moments and Bad Mom Moments, which for someone with a tendency to be too hard on herself is not always a good thing to have.

When my kids are hurting, I look at Mary and know she knows how hard it is as a mom to see your son hurt. And when they step out into the world in ways they never have before, growing from little boys into independent young men, I know she went through that too. I have to think that, knowing what she did about her son, she must’ve wondered at times if she was doing all the right things. So today, while most sermons will focus the start of Jesus’ ministry, I’ll be thinking of Mary as she watched her role as his mom change forever. Nadia Bolz-Weber says that what made Mary such a badass wasn’t her obedience, but her trust that God saw her as worthy. And if God trusted me with these two, obviously He thinks I’m badass enough to raise them right. I guess I just need to trust that God knows what he’s doing.



Some recent comments from a Catholic archbishop in Spain made a bit of a splash earlier this week on the internet when he spoke in his homily about domestic violence and how women draw a macho reaction by rejecting their partner’s demands or by asking for a separation. You can read the story here or here.

In these modern times, when more attention than ever has been focused on women and their roles in society, domestic violence has been hauled out into the light and exposed for the widespread, insidious evil that it is. We can read more than ever before about the various forms of abuse and its short- and long-term effects. Articles abound which detail the ways in which abuse is often perpetuated in other forms long after a woman exits a violent relationship. There is plentiful research, much of which has been translated into layman’s terms, that demonstrates that not all abuse is physical and psychological damage from abusive relationships can last for years.

So that brings me back to church. As one who is actively dating other churches, I spend a serious amount time reading official statements and following various synod gatherings, especially from Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, and Episcopal churches. Back in November, a document was issued from the ELCA which specifically addressed gender-based violence. It contained a confession of individual and corporate sin in which the church admits to failing in the past to address such violence and for its role in not doing enough to counter bad theology which allowed for a misinterpretation of scripture in such a way as to promote patriarchal systems based on the view that women are ‘lower’ than men in creation. It went on to address the practicality which every congregation is likely to face at some point: having a woman and her abuser both as members of the congregation. In this situation, it was stressed that the safety of the victim is to be the greatest concern. Abusers, while they must be cared for, must also be held accountable not only to the victim but also to the community of faith. Congregations are strongly encouraged to have specific guidelines and plans of action to cope with such situations.

As a domestic violence survivor, I read it with great interest when it was issued but I didn’t do much of a real comparison with Catholic statements at the time. The comments this week from the Catholic archbishop touched a very raw nerve and so I decided to dig a little deeper. As I had written on this blog previously, the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome did not have much to say about domestic violence except as it explicitly related to women’s role as mother. As I scoured the internet now, I did manage to find a relatively new document from the U.S. Catholic bishops on domestic violence that was long on scripture and short on any real practical guidance. Accountability is mentioned only once as a bullet point with no specifics whatsoever.

When a woman finds herself under attack at home and seeks the help of the Church, the clergy especially have a responsibility to not only refer her to specialized counseling services but also to ensure that she has a safe haven within the community. Abusers can, and should, also be referred to specialized counseling but they must also be held accountable for their actions.

This leads me to ask the questions of my Catholic brothers: what does real Christian accountability look like? When do we need to move beyond pastoral care to exercise the pastoral authority we claim to have been given through apostolic succession?

Perhaps it means the messy work of assisting an abuser in transitioning to a new parish away from their victim.  Perhaps it means putting safeguards in place that allow a victim new to a parish to ensure that their abuser does not follow them. But for as long as accountability remains an undefined bullet point, victims will continue to suffer needlessly and for this the Catholic Church is accountable.
ELCA Foundational Document & Related Social Message

USCCB Statement When I Call For Help

2016 – Day 2


Day 2 of the New Year. The hangovers have lifted and thus begins the onslaught of New Year/New Me social media posts. The ephemeral week between Christmas and New Year’s with its odd work and school schedules gave us a break from real life and it’s so easy to see all the ways we could be better, our lives could be better and huge changes all seem possible and within reach. It may sound cynical, but I’m not that into the whole resolution mentality. I always find the whole New Year’s Eve thing with all its glitter and fakery to be empty and fairly depressing. By January 2, the glitter has been swept up and dumped in the nearest garbage can and reality is poised to return first thing Monday morning. And so we find the need to post our resolutions on social media in hopes that doing so will keep us accountable and/or in hopes that someone will take the journey with us.

I spent decades of my life wondering if I would ever be good enough, if I would ever measure up. I was in constant competition with a ghost who couldn’t be beat. And for what? It didn’t make me a better person. It made me sad, lonely, and angry. So I spent the last few years resolved not to get sucked into the whole resolution nonsense ever again. I’m done with the whole idea that if I only fix [fill in the blank] that life will somehow be better. But this past year or two, I’ve softened a bit. I know I’m not perfect and at the same time, I know I have tendency to expect perfection from myself. And maybe, just maybe, I need to find the middle ground of simply being human.

It seems kind of odd to me that we end the year immediately after celebrating the birth of Jesus. We took a truly new beginning and made it an ending. Then we took an artificial man-made new beginning that seems hellbent on glossing over and/or forgetting the past and put that at the head of our calendar. Jesus’ birth changed all of human history but it didn’t happen all at once. Think about that. Jesus came into human existence as an infant. He didn’t walk out of the stable a week later and start preaching parables. His first new year was spent learning how to talk, how to walk, how to feed himself, and he spent the rest of his life learning what it was to be fully human, all the while being fully divine. Why do we so easily toss aside that idea of infancy and childhood a week after celebrating his birth? Are we that afraid of the humanity of Jesus that we’d rather ignore it entirely in favor of his divinity?

The images of Jesus learning to coo and giggle, and to toddle along, catching himself on Mary’s skirts to keep from toppling over should be ones we consider. If God himself learned to be human one little developmental milestone at time, building each year on the lessons of the one which preceded it, why do we seem so determined to start over fresh and new ever time we buy a new calendar. Why do we constantly need to reinvent ourselves every single year?

I rang in 2016 but there will be no New Me. Just me. Learning to be me. Building on yesterday. And I’m more likely to need to ease up on myself than to hold myself accountable. And if I need someone to walk that journey with, I don’t need to look far. He’s already walking it with me.