Parenthood has made my life fuller. It has brought more chaos and more joy. More activity and a lot more love. Unfortunately, it’s also brought more worry and anxiety.
Some days it feels like I do nothing but worry. Are my sons safe? Are they happy? Are they healthy? Are they eating the right things? Are they in the right activities? Are they learning what they should? Is that thing one of them just did normal or should I worry more about it? Most of this stuff centers around me–what more can I do? AM I GOOD ENOUGH?
You’ve probably heard of that psychology trope developed by Donald Winnicott, the good-enough mother. She’s the one who responds to your needs, but not immediately, at least not all the time. Some psychologists say that the good-enough mother is the best kind of mother to have because such parenting prepares us for real life.
But for me, and maybe for you too, the idea of the good-enough mother is not, well, good enough. I don’t want to be “good enough.” I want to be the best mother. I want to do everything right for my children. I want to help them become everything God wants them to be.
And so I deal with that urge to be perfect in this imperfect world by worrying. Over things I can control but mostly things I cannot.
This is craziness.
What I really need is something that I haven’t experienced as much as a parent: peace.
Peace like Jesus promises in John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
I am not very good at this at all. I am terrible at it, in fact. This peace may be available for the accepting, but I have a hard time accepting it.
So what can I do?
Oddly, what comes to mind, or rather, who, is fourteenth-century mystic Julian of Norwich. As an anchoress who lived a cloistered life in a cell attached to a church, Julian didn’t have any kids, but she certainly had plenty to worry about. Julian lived in a time when the plague was decimating Europe and war was a omnipresent reality. Joy is not what first comes to mind when thinking of this period of history.
Yet Julian’s writings are thoroughly permeated with joy and a sense of peace. She is the one who wrote the famous “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and absolutely everything shall be well.”
She writes confidently of resting in Christ: “I understood that God does not want us to dread that which is unknown but instead to rest in love and joy. Divine love is so great that it reveals to us all that we need to know, that which enriches us and makes us grow. And even that which is kept secret is still revealed to us in guarded glimpses, so that we will trust in God’s endless kindnesses, rejoicing in all that is revealed and in all that is hidden. If we do this with determination and humility, we shall find great comfort, and we shall receive God’s endless thanks.”
In other words, we are in good hands. We are safe. I may only be a good enough mother, but God is more than good enough. God is perfect, and that’s what matters.
But I also love the last part of this passage of Julian’s, which hints at something that speaks deeply to me. Namely, that this resting in Christ is something we must work hard at–that we must do it with determination and humility.
In another place, Julian puts it like this: “God wants us, even in the midst of our pain and sadness, to hold on to peace with all our strength.”
I love this concept, that peace isn’t always something that settles over you passively, like a blanket someone spreads over you while you’re sleeping. Rather, it’s something we can seek, remind ourselves of, something we hold on to, even something we can share with others, as when Jesus sent out his disciples and instructed them to first say, “Peace to this house!” whenever they entered a new place (Luke 10:5).
So, the peace of Christ be with you. And with me. And let’s hold on to it with all our strength.
Note: The Julian translation referenced here is All Shall Be Well: Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich, written in modern language by Ellyn Sanna. Anamchara Books, 2011.