There’s something I’ve been thinking about, lately, and I doubt it’s going to be a neat and tidy blog post. My thoughts are a bit jumbled and I’m going to use this blog as an excuse to unscramble them.
At the first mother’s group I attended last week, the topic of “having joy while mothering” surfaced a lot. At first, I came away from the group a little disappointed that nothing really eye-opening was illuminated by the devotion and talk. But as the week wore on, I began to see that “joy” was an area of my life that needed a complete makeover.
I still find concepts that exist in my mind in their “pre-catholic state.” Vague, much-to-watered-down, cheerful soundbites that I have learned to spit out without them ever touching my heart or soul. Before I converted, happiness and joy were things I learned to proclaim that I had in the culture I was in. Much like when a baby learns to wave on command… That baby doesn’t really know that he’s greeting someone or wishing someone farewell… He doesn’t understand that concept, he’s merely imitating what he’s been taught for an audience. With that analogy, my faith life before 2013 sounds incredibly shallow. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely without Jesus, I just didn’t understand so much because of the culture of one’s spiritual life being very personal, and very individual… I didn’t know how to learn when I was left to myself. (Sure, I had quiet time, and I read the Bible, but understanding the concepts I was told to commit to my heart just didn’t happen on my own.) So I often just imitated what I saw others do in Church or talked how those around me talked. In my heart, I knew it was fake, but at least no one else saw the problems and I desperately reached out to God in my prayers to teach me what I didn’t understand.
One of those “cheerful faith soundbite concepts” that I never learned well was that of joy. To me, you threw around the words “blessed” and “Jesus” a bunch and focused on the positive things in your life. I’m kind of ashamed to see that written out, but perhaps I can learn some humility in this post too.
Anyway, when I took a look at that area of my heart after the idea of “joy in mothering” just kept coming back to me, I realized that my heart just hasn’t entertained true joy. I’m not sure I’ve ever really let the concept of joy enter my heart, it’s really only been in my head and coming out of my lips… How well can you understand a concept if you don’t open your heart to it?
I’ve been praying about it and thinking on it, and two Sundays ago, the gospel reading revealed some hard truths. The priest said, “if you don’t remember anything else from this homily, I want you to remember this question; where is your treasure?” It was then that I began to realize that my “treasure” was not in Jesus first, and that was why I wasn’t understanding the true concept of joy.
Joy isn’t a southern and spiritual cheerfulness we show off to strangers. Joy isn’t just the blessings we’ve been given. My husband, my child, my apartment, my faith even… Joy is what we are given when Jesus is our treasure, and no one can take it away. Sure we can give it away to anger, to jealousy, to fear… But if we KEEP Jesus as our treasure, it will stay.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to find joy, even though my cup is overflowing. I think the reason is because I just haven’t truly understood it until now. I know it will be a battle to keep those vices from sneaking in and muddying up my desire for Jesus, but I feel a lot better knowing now where my joy is, and that I can ALWAYS have it.
I feel liberated to be able to “enjoy mothering” while having joy in Jesus. It’s not that motherhood is our joy, it’s that we can HAVE JOY while mothering and be happy in our vocation. So as for the mother’s group throwing concepts at me that I feel I’ve already heard a bunch of times, I’m going to say, “keep on keepin’ on, mother’s group. I need it.”