She is a Catholic mom, who obviously cares enough to enroll her kids in religious education classes, with a baby on the hip and six more beautiful look-a-likes in tow. Based on appearances only, she struck me as quite a good profile of where I’ll probably find myself in a few years.
One thing I didn’t anticipate though: she was mean.
I’ll spare you all of the gory the details, except to say that she was very put out by having to fill out the paperwork required for the program for all of the children (which is tough when you have more than two, granted, but you know, that part is not really our fault or anything) and she practically slammed the binder out of a good nun’s hands as she wrote in it. But you get the picture: she was mean.
She was angry, no, livid, and she was going to let the other adults, know it. And she was going to do it in front of her kids right after catechism class where they just learned about becoming saints.
I have to confess, the tragic irony of the scene made me chortle as she stomped away closed fisted, with a set of small heads trailing behind her (but the best response award goes to the nun at my side who called after her cheerfully, “God bless you!”).
As is the case with most disturbing scenes that strike someone as just plain wrong, the incident stayed with me and forced me to pray. How could someone who professes to be so Catholic act so poorly?
Something a priest said from the pulpit has always remained with me: that the moment you dislike something about someone else, it’s because they are showing you something you don’t like about yourself.
I realized the incident affected me so much because, I too have been bitter and resentful and have complained about my crosses. Yes, I have critiqued parish catechism programs and bemoaned certain hoops I’ve had to jump through to complete them. In general, I too have been overly angry and behaved in a way that has embarrassed my children as well as my spouse. Yes, I have vented anger and harmed myself and my relationships with others.
In short, I have been that mean mom, maybe not in public, but at different times; in private, in prayer, to my children and those who I should love the most.
The whole week I struggled with the incident, “Lord, what was her problem? It’s not like anyone is forcing her to be in the program. It’s not like we’re the ones that made her have that many kids. Her crosses certainly aren’t heavier than all the other big families I know where the mom is actually kind hearted and nice to people. What a grouch, what a -, and those poor kids!”
As you can tell, I too was venting.
God’s classic response to me: “What’s your point, Marissa?”
You have to imagine it a bit like an Austin Powers moment, where you’ve just elaborated some important point in detail and were only met with a shallow, “And?”
It was perfect.
It forced me to consider: what was my point anyway? A mom was mean, so what? The lesson was simple enough: learn from her example, don’t imitate it, and move on.
And lastly, love her. This is God's response to mean moms and un-peaceful souls everywhere: love them.
This was also so eloquently worded by Mother Theresa when she wrote."People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.” I realized that dealing with one frustrated parent certainly wasn’t the last time I was going to encounter illogical behavior in my life…or even within that week. So I moved on. In all my venting, I really didn't have a point – but God did: love those who have no peace, and you will have found your own.
So I prayed for her and for myself and I was able to wish love and peace on that mom, in the end. And yes, in doing so, I was able to have peace myself. (And the good news is she did come and apologize later!)