My Huffington Post Piece on Five Lessons the Church Could Learn From a Mother

Fifteen years ago this week, I walked across the stage at Duquesne University to be hooded as a Doctor of Philosophy in Formative Spirituality. I had defended my dissertation on dynamics in the formation of motherly love about a month before. Since then those thoughts developed in three full years of wide research remained locked in the academic methodology required by that program.

A few months ago, friends encouraged me to submit a reflection related to Mother’s Day to the Huffington Post that would make those ideas accessible to all of us and apply them to the image of the church as the mother of the faithful. I sent it to the Huffington Post well in advance of Mother’s Day with the hope that this would give them plenty of time to consider it. And then, boom, on May 1, there it was for the world to see.

What the church can learn from mothers has relevance to the themes of this blog, I would say. It takes immense courage to embark upon the responsibility of being a mother. And the unity of the mother and child is an image that has been used in Christian tradition to capture the connection between the faith community and believers.

I am eager to see if you find these thoughts helpful as we move forward together as a church family and to hear your ideas about what we can learn from mothers to help us be joyfully together in Christ.

Here is a short excerpt from the post, which I encourage you to read in full by clicking here.

1. The Goal as a Mother: Be Good Enough

I had learned as a child, from home, school and church that my goal was to be perfect. But from a lot of failures and false starts I learned that perfection is impossible, especially for a mother. It’s also undesirable. As mothers, we are the world to our infant children — their experience of us set their expectations for the world in a way that would be difficult and painful for them to change later in life. I realized that since the world is far from perfect, showing my children that what the world does offer is perfectly good enough was important. It also made me realize that being good enough as mother was a worthy goal for me.

I see that the church and our leaders also feel deeply this burden to be perfect — perfectly loving, perfectly attentive, perfectly present. But this is no more possible than it was for me to be a perfect mother. And it is just as undesirable. We cannot transcend being of this world. We are beautifully flawed humans with weaknesses as well as strengths. What is most important is being good enough; nurturing our faith community and sustaining mission in service to our neighbors beyond us. Our present burden of perfection is too much to bear — Good enough is what God expects of us.

One Response
  • jean thomas on May 5, 2012

    Our first born was probably subjected to more strictures growing up than his younger siblings. But his response became “Well, nobody’s perfect.” So knowing that God also does not expect perfection is comforting.

Comment on this post