I recently heard the gospel reading from John 15:5 – “I am the vine and you are the branches, without me you can do nothing.” I’ve heard these words hundreds of times in my life and would usually be susceptible to letting them go in one ear and out the other but this time, mercifully, I was rounding out a three day stretch of being driven up the parenting wall. Despondent, exhausted, grieving, frustrated, completely frayed… the fruit was ripe for the pickin’.
The priest said I am not the vine and I realized I’d forgotten.
You see, I’m a mother. And mothers are notoriously bad at remembering that we are not the root and center of life, because in so many ways it seems like we are. Our careful hands spin the plates, uphold the balance, and crack the ringmaster’s whip in the middle of this crazy circus. We do so much that we forget we don’t do everything.
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We dig and we plant and we water and we sow. Then we carry the weight of the growth on our shoulders, the weight that was never meant to be ours to bear. And every so often we buckle. Because our frame wasn’t designed for it. We are strong, but we aren’t that strong. We are capable but not that capable.
We worry and we learn and we read and we implement and we change. We advocate and we structure and we discipline and we nurture. We empty ourselves to help our children, and most of that is good but some of it’s not. Some of it just leaves us dry and shriveled and in need of a good watering ourselves.
Can I offer you moms a sprinkle today?
We do not have control over who our children grow up to be.
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Everything in me wants to delete that sentence because it is so incredibly raw and painful. I would rather deny it, or at least allow myself time before I really own it. But it’s Truth and I know that what my weary heart needs above all else is the Truth.
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They say it sets you free, and I think it will. Though maybe it’s the kind of freedom you have to return to over and over again. The kind that, if given the choice, you probably wouldn’t even choose. I’d choose control instead. I’d choose the formula: the assurance that if I do everything right my son will get better.
The problem with the formula is that I can’t uphold my end of the deal. And while we’re at it, the other problem with the formula is that my child is a human being and not a math equation. Even if I could do it right every hour of every day (spoiler alert: I can’t), there would still be no guarantee on the other side of that equal sign.
On this Sunday the priest told an anecdote about Pope John XXIII. Apparently, every night before bed he would pray, “Lord, I’ve done my best today to steward what you’ve given me. But she’s your church; you deal with her.”
I couldn’t help laughing because it made so much sense, and I feel like Christ is inviting me to pray that prayer over my children. That at the end of each day I might sincerely say that I did my best to steward them, but the truth is, they are His. And I can find joy and rest in placing them completely into His hands. It’s the very best place for them to be.
Shannon Evans is a wife and mother of two boys through adoption and biology. She enjoys hosing mud off children, scrubbing sticky furniture, and rushing to the ER to have nails extracted from small intestines.