Both of my daughters’ birthdays arrive early in the year and as a result spring is when it becomes difficult for me to avoid noticing their march toward adulthood and independence. This always prompts me to do a little soul-searching about how I am doing as a mother. Becoming a parent is an enormous leap of faith and I think we all wonder if we will be able to pull it off and do a decent job. So this time of year I always end up giving myself a little mom performance review and, without fail, I mostly think about the ways that I have failed.
That is what was on my mind one Sunday a few weeks ago when we heard the gospel about Mary of Bethany using the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and Judas’ objection to that. The underlying assumption of Judas’ objection was that Jesus or, more specifically, Jesus’ feet, were unworthy of the love that Mary showed; that her love would be better spent elsewhere. Putting aside whether or not Judas was sincere in his objection, one of the things that was meaningful to me about this reading was Jesus’ willingness to accept that love from Mary. And that the acceptance of that love was a gift from Jesus to her.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with a friend who is the mother of girls who are the same age as Fiona and Molly. She and I like to dissect our mothering skills together in the hope of doing a little better. We talked about trying to find the balance between home and work and navigating the teenage years, always looking for the constantly shifting line between being supportive and being intrusive (and never getting it quite right). At one point she said, “You know, my kids love me unconditionally and sometimes I think it would be so much easier if I would just let them love me instead of always thinking about why they shouldn’t.” I was struck by the truth of that and I have been thinking about it since then. So when I heard that gospel I thought about not just the importance of loving, but of letting yourself be loved.
Like the poor in the gospel reading, failure will always be with me. At times I will always fail both as a mother and as a Christian. But if I can remember from time to time to let my children love me and to let God and my fellow Christians love me, even though I have not managed to be perfect, I could be more content, struggle a little less, and be renewed as a mother, a person, and a Christian.