Of all my fears, the fear that I’m not a good mother tops the list. It came up again in a spiritual direction session after I revealed the latest incriminating evidence and added more tissues to the wet pile on my lap.
“What do you hear from God?” my director asked.
I closed my eyes and heard God’s soothing thoughts.
“I’m a mother because I have children,” I replied. “It’s just a label that describes a fact. The qualifiers ‘good’ or ‘bad’ seem meaningless to God. I’m simply a mother who loves her children.”
I felt the relief of those words settling in my body and thought about all the other labels I have: wife, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, writer, churchwarden, sister, friend. What would it be like to let go of measuring how good I am at those roles?
What do I take on to prove my goodness?
How much of my peace relies on being deemed good?
And what would it be like to be freed from the exhausting need to know I haven’t failed God, myself, or my children?
Questioning and measuring my goodness has been a lifelong compulsion. The fiery furnace of experience keeps confirming that I’m not good enough.
Yet, it’s being in the fire of other people’s judgments (or perceived judgments) over time that has begun to melt the hard metals used for or against me. Now I can see what remains is a Love that is only and always for me.
As I held this fresh thought, I recalled an image given to a directee of mine while on retreat. Her head was on Jesus’ lap, and he was stroking her hair and saying softly, “You can be who you are.”
For so long, I couldn’t rest until I was reassured of my goodness. Unconsciously, I believed there are bad people in the world, and I didn’t want to be one of them. I worked hard and took solace in scriptures that declared that all God made is good, and so am I.
Now God is inviting me to let go of self-judgment and the pursuit of finding security in my goodness. Instead, God is stroking my head and letting me know I can relax. Mother God doesn’t see me as a good or bad person. She sees the child she loves.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
∗ ∗ ∗
Wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of our human experience, and wisdom resides in those who have wintered.
— Katherine May, Wintering
A Call to Wintering:
Finding God in a Season of Dark Mystery and Starry Wonder
An Ignatian Weekend Retreat Online
Is your heart calling you to encounter God in your wintering? Join Jan Evans and me online for a silent, guided prayer retreat on November 18-20, 2022. More details here.