Tag Archives: Stubborn

Hard Ass Mama

A few years ago, one of my higher-ups insinuated that I would be less qualified for my job once I gave birth.  This person seemed to believe that being a mother would make me less fit to do the work I enjoyed so much.  It broke my heart and made me question my identity.  I spoke with one of my sister clergy, a mother too, and I remember her telling me that I would be a better priest for being a mom.  And not because I’d become more nurturing or motherly–not because I’d offer better pastoral care–but because I’d be a better administrator, better leader, and stronger voice.

I thought back to that conversation last night as I held my inconsolable 7-week old daughter.  She is not a colicky baby.  But she does have the occasional night when she will do nothing but cry for an hour or two.  She won’t take a pacifier or bottle, she won’t nurse, she won’t be rocked or bounced–she’ll just scream in my ear.  All I can do is walk back and forth in her darkened room, sush-ing and patting, walking and walking until there’s a worn path on the rug.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Knowing that she will at some point tire of crying and fall asleep, but I can never tire of loving her.  I may not like it.  I may feel like she’s yelling at me and wearing me down.  But I can wait her out.  I can be stubborn and unrelenting.  I find new strength I didn’t know I had.

And then I remember my colleague’s encouragement, and realize I am indeed becoming a better priest by being a mother.  That these few hours of pacing are teaching me the persistence I need in my profession.  That being a mom has taught me I can carry more than I thought I could.  That I can put up with more than I ever imagined–and what I won’t put up with.  That intuition is a leadership skill that can only be realized or discovered–not taught.

I know a lot of moms who feel like their career–one aspect of their vocation–has to take a back seat while their children are young.  I feel that sometimes too.  And it’s hard because I’ve always been driven and I love my work.  But every once in a while I can see the “professional development” that my children bring me.  It may not be notable on a resume, but it’s meaningful and true.

If in the years to come I am a more persistent prophet, a more valiant lover, a more courageous and thoughtful leader, a wiser authority and a more savvy administrator–you can thank my children.  Because moms aren’t all softness and kisses.  We are hard asses.  And we will do the work.

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I got to keep on movin’

Preached on the Second Sunday of Lent at St. Matthew & St. Timothy, New York

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Oh, how Jesus laments for God’s chosen people.  He cries out in both frustration and love.  Ah!  Jerusalem!  I love you!  I want to care for you!  But you make it so hard!

For several weeks now, Mother Carla has been asking us to consider where we picture ourselves years from now—what we will be doing, who we will be with, how we will be spending our time and our talents…and then to consider where Jesus desires us to be.  Is it the same place?  Do my desires for myself and God’s desires for me coincide?  Or is there tension between how I want to spend my time and how God might be calling me to spend my time. 

Is Jesus calling out my name in frustration and love?  Is he calling out yours?

I have a confession to make.  I am a very stubborn person.  And I’m also someone who worries about what others think of me.  I want to be liked, to earn the approval of others.  Several years ago, I was living in Benin, West Africa as a missionary.  I had intended to live there two years, but it soon became clear that I just couldn’t cut it.  I had to go home. 

And with that realization came the fear of how others would perceive my decision.  Would they think I was weak?  A quitter?  A wimp?  Would they think my faith wasn’t strong enough?  At some point, I knew in my heart that going home was the right thing to do, that God would care for me despite the many unknowns, and who cares what people think?

After figuring out this whole—you’re going to be ok, God will care for you, don’t worry about what others think—revelation, I got a little perturbed with God.  I said to God, “Really?  Did you have to bring me all the way to Africa to figure this out?”  And in my heart, I could hear God’s response plain as day: “Yes, Lauren, you’re just that stubborn.”

It’s true.  I’m stubborn.  And sometimes God has to go to great lengths to teach me something. 

Like Jerusalem, we are God’s people.  During baptism we are “marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever.”  We use Christ’s name to identify ourselves as Christians.  And Like Jerusalem, we too can cause God to call out in lament and frustration. 

Are you familiar with the term “face-palm?”  It’s when one smacks their palm to their forehead—like so:

Here are some Jesus face-palm moments I can imagine:

When Westboro Baptist Church holds up signs reading, “God hates Gays” at the funeral of a fallen soldier.  Face-palm.

When a priest apologizes for participating in an interfaith memorial service for the children of Newtown.  Face-palm.

When a church tries to cover up clergy pedophilia.  Face-palm. 

When I am too self-absorbed to make eye contact with the homeless man sitting outside the seminary gate. 

When I gossip about a peer because it makes me feel more secure. 

When I ignore a call from a friend or family member because I’ve got more important things to do. 

Face-palm, face-palm, face-palm.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  Christians, Christians!  You!  Me!  Us!

And even in his exasperation, Jesus longs to care for us.  “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”  It’s as if he’s shouting, “HEY!  Let me love you!”

Gosh, we can be stubborn.  The good news is: Jesus is stubborn too.

Jesus is traveling in much of Luke’s Gospel.  From chapter 9 to chapter 19, Jesus is making his way from the region of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem.  I imagine it takes him as long as it does because he is so busy healing people.  When the Pharisees tell Jesus he needs to get a move on because Herod is coming to kill him, Jesus says, “Tell that fox I’m busy healing people and casting out demons!”  And then he reminds us that he’s on a journey to Jerusalem.  Jesus knows what to expect in Jerusalem.  He knows he’s journeying toward death.  But dying is just as much a part of Jesus’ ministry as healing people and casting out demons.  Indeed dying is integral to Jesus’ ministry—he’s got to die if he’s going to conquer death.  And so he keeps journeying, keeps healing, keeps fighting evil despite Herod’s threats and Jesus’ impending death.  This is a stubborn Jesus.

Here’s why I’m talking about stubbornness and journeying.  Because we too are on a journey to Jerusalem.  And we too know what to expect—a dying savior.  During this season of Lent we think about the sacrifice Christ made in love for us—He stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross.  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” 

We are preparing ourselves to accept God’s love for us.  We are preparing ourselves for the life that Love calls us to lead.  We are on a journey.

And this preparation, it takes time.  Habits are hard to break and make.  30 days remain in Lent.  Is God calling out to you?  Do you hear frustration?  Do you hear love?  Perhaps both? 

What will it take for us to let God’s love rule our lives.  What will it take for us to live risky, messy, Christ-like lives.  What will it take for me to align my plans with God’s plans as Mother Carla has challenged us to imagine.  You may be stubborn like me.  But Jesus is stubborn too.  And we’ve still got 30 days. 

Lets make them count.  Amen. 

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