Do you know about St Bridget of Sweden? If you don’t and you are a mom, you want to get to know her. Here is an excerpt of her biography:
“In fact, nothing [St Bridget of Sweden] set out to do was ever realised. She never had the pope return to Rome permanently, she never managed to make peace between France and England, she never saw any nun in the habit that Christ had shown her, and she never returned to Sweden but died, [a]worn out old lady far from home in July 1373” (full biography at Catholic.org).
Don’t you love her already? I do. How much of motherhood feels like failing at everything — only to die an old worn-out lady! The dishes are piled up (again), the house is a mess (again), I yelled at the kids (again), I didn’t pay a bill on time (again), I forgot to even ask my husband about his day (again) … the list goes on. I’m not the only one, I know, who occasionally feels this way: the phrase “mom fail” has become commonplace in our culture. You know, how you sum up the story to your friends about the time when you earnestly praised your oldest child for his generosity of spirit, sunny attitude, and helpful nature — only to end by calling him the full name of the wrong child. Mom fail.
Today I was sitting in the church mulling over the “both/and”-ness of Catholic theology. (This is a topic for another post, but you will get the drift in a minute.)
I am nothing (who am I that the Lord knows my name) and yet I am Everything (to the one who loves me so completely that He died for me).
I am nobody (one of billions) and yet I am Somebody (an adopted daughter of the God who created all things).
I am insufficient (brimming with faults and inadequacies) and yet I am Enough (willingness to cooperate with His grace being the only requirement).
So much of what I have tried has looked like failure. Various groups I have started, certain friendships, my little blog off in the corner of the internet. Even motherhood can feel like a failure at times, motherhood which for me has had a way of exposing the depths of my temperamental deficiencies. I feel often — not always, because there are those occasional Supermom days — like a failure. Most days I am so quick to become angry, so preoccupied with my own thoughts as to brush aside an eager child’s slo-mo replay of a football move, so lazy as to ignore distasteful household chores, and yet so busy as to forget to read a book to my little kids.
There I sat in the church talking with God about this topic, and when I raised my eyes, I saw Him on the cross — a cross which, it struck me suddenly, sure looks a lot like failure. What about the cross looks successful? Without the eyes of faith, nothing. There were those three days before the resurrection when the cross, far from looking like part of a divine plan for success, looked like the very depiction of defeat.
Motherhood can feel like living in those three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. In other words, I have the hope of resurrection. I have the hope that these things I do daily — cleaning, feeding, loving, hugging, teaching, listening, holding, tending, training — will end in victory. But for now I live in the moment when they look like failure. It’s precisely in this interim wherein resides Hope.
I hope in the Lord, not in myself. If I were to hope in myself, my family would be on the Titanic. Instead, I hope in His mercy and in His grace, and I entrust everything — even what presently looks like failure — to the One who can and does redeem all things and who transforms what looks like failure into an eternal victory.
So I love St Bridget of Sweden because she reminds me that the world’s vision of success — implementing something productive, known, used, or profitable — is not God’s definition of success. Someone who failed by every worldly metric is, in fact, a saint.
So what is success in God’s economy? We learn from Our Lord that obedience to God’s will is the very definition of success–even if the results look to all the world like failure. We have a saint to remind us of that, and should we forget her, we need only look at the cross.
Copyright 2017 Amanda Woodiel