Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pretty, Pretty Please

I have two daughters. One is self-motivated, eager to please, and rarely needs discipline. The other is self-absorbed, free-spirited, and spends a good part of each day in time-out.

I can identify with the plights of both my daughters. In high school my biggest concern was how to fit in, how to draw the least attention to myself, how to make the right people like me. I didn't need to be told to do my homework; I did it because I didn't want to be part of the dumb crowd, and of only slightly more importance, I wanted my parents to be proud of me. But there's a part of me I've more recently grown into: the I-don't-take-crap-from-nobody self. Perhaps because I've been hardened by the trials of life, or maybe because I'm all the more wiser for them, I'm much more prone to do the things I want to do unencumbered by others' expectations of me. I tend to think of me first, and therefore spend a good part of each day in time-out.

So as I strive to purposefully mother my children, keeping in mind their personalities and inclinations, I struggle. I struggle because I don't know how to keep my eager-to-please daughter from idolizing others, from pinning her heart to her sleeve, from feeling guilty and being driven by shame. I'm equally clueless about how to make my self-pleasing daughter notice other people and their feelings. While she's much less likely to be somebody's doormat someday, I'm concerned that Little Miss Free Spirit is fueled by what feels good at the moment, regardless of the consequences.

But it occurs to me that the people my daughters want to please – namely, others or themselves – are only, after all, people. And if I've learned anything in my twenty-nine years of life, it's that people always, always, always let us down. People are cruel, they tell lies, they break promises. And if we're really honest with ourselves, the cruelest, most lie-telling promise-breaker is the boy or girl in the mirror.

As a general rule, people cannot be trusted with our hearts.

But the other thing I’ve learned in the last twenty-nine years is that my heart is safe with the one who molded it and shaped it in my mother’s womb. My earthly mom may not have been able to prevent my every heartbreak, but my Heavenly Mom is able to pick up the pieces with me, to completely deliver me from the stuff life throws at me… or I throw at myself.

Yes, this Mother can be trusted, and She is so worth the time and trouble I spend trying to please Her. This is the wisdom and knowledge I want to impart to my daughters: don’t waste your life on you. Don’t waste it on others. You’ll be so much happier trying to please a God who is thrilled by the mere fact that you want to please Her.

I love how Thomas Merton puts it. He prays:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I can’t save my daughters from their personalities. I can’t save them from wanting something that might hurt them. I can’t even save them from seriously screwing up their lives. So my goal is this: to introduce them to someone who will not only save them, but will perfectly love them despite their faults in a way I cannot. I pray with my daughters, and read them Bible picture books, and sing songs with them that are old and kitschy – I do all this to place them in the lap of the Mother I cannot ever be. I want them to know Her: a God who will love them always, always, always.

1 comment:

  1. Being a mother of a boy is a bit different, I think, but I do find myself constantly worried about my mothering abilities of late. This is a beautiful reminder that none of us are alone on the journey, and that God our mother stands in our place to fill the needs of our children that we cannot meet. Thank you, Courtney.