Saturday, April 04, 2009
Close To Home
I may be the only Protestant who writes about Molly Sabourin's book Close to Home: An Orthodox Mother's Quest for Patience, Peace, and Perseverance. You may be wondering why I would read it, since I'm not Orthodox. Molly is my beloved sister-in-law - married to my brother.
I am also so glad Molly wrote this book. She bared her soul in this book, detailing her journey as a wife and new mother. In the prologue she provides charming introductions to her family, which my older children loved and laughed and marveled over. (Did Benji really fall out of a two-story window? And caught his clothes on fire? And bump his head on the radiator? Yes, he did.) Molly ends the introductions with this comment, "And while the stories are distinctly mine, I pray the underlying fears, frustration, bliss and hope are universal."
Those underlying issues are universal. I found myself nodding in agreement many times throughout Molly's book, thinking, "Oh, I remember that... Oh I felt that same way! You are absolutely right!" Yet, also found myself nearly equally puzzled, wondering at these Orthodox traditions she holds so dear.
I have to say again, I am glad, glad, glad that Molly wrote this book - because I feel like I understand her, and perhaps in some way, my brother and sister a bit better through Molly's honest struggles in her faith. I have some inkling as to why the liturgy of the Orthodox church would appeal to them, why Molly would somewhat regret not getting married in the Orthodox church (although I am relieved that they didn't), and maybe, in a very, very small way, why they venerate the virgin Mary.
I especially identified with this quote from page 61, "There are many days you will feel totally and utterly incapable, and you will look around the room for backup, for someone else to step in and let you take the break you so desperately need. When you realize there is no such person and your kids are still hungry, or sick, or tired, you will dig deep and pull up a tiny reserve of strength you didn't know you had. This, my dear friends, is growth. No other job in the world is more effective at chiseling you into a stronger and more competent person." (emphasis mine)
That expresses my experience of motherhood, for the first six years especially - when I had four babies in five years, all a thousand miles from my family. Yet, I could never express it in just the way Molly did.
As I've thought about it, I realized that as a new wife and mother, being stretched beyond my limits, I searched for something outside myself and my circumstances to provide meaning and purpose to my life. It wasn't work, because I kept doing the same things everyday - wiping noses & changing diapers and if I was lucky getting laundry done and my family fed. I had my faith, went to church every Sunday, but longed for something... something more.
Molly found that meaning and discipline within the Orthodox church. I found it at Bible Study Fellowship - a nine-month, in-depth study of the Bible. I was accountable to read and study the Bible every week. I talked (uninterrupted!) with other mothers who knew me as a woman, not a mom or a wife, about deep spiritual issues. And I learned that the Bible is relevant today, to my life. I learned that just as Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he can calm me in the midst of the storms of four children all crying for lunch NOW, four children down with the stomach flu at the same time, or whatever similarly mundane circumstance that feels out of control at that moment in time. The awesome thing is that God cares about the little things, Jesus knows how I feel, and the Holy Spirit reminds me of all that when I feel like I might just go crazy if I hear one more fight over Legos.
Molly, thanks for putting into words emotions I hardly knew I felt, and reminding me of the things I've learned over the past eleven (gasp!) years of parenting my God-given blessings. I love you!
Let us pray for the wisdom to cease trying by our own strength, and start crawling out of our same old tired ruts by surrendering our weak and fragile wills into the hands of God. Amen, and amen!