What do you do with longing, the kind of longing that is an ache from your soul?
Typically, the word “longing” would bring forth romantic notions, but I speak of a parent’s deep hope and constant prayer for our children to know the Lord in His fullness, to have a relationship with Jesus that brings them peace and joy, to call church home, perhaps to just start with finding the healing love Christ offers.
I’m pondering this as I mother both young and adult children. As parents, we plant seeds of faith. We have in our heads a vision of what those blooms will look like. Each year we see buds come up, and we smile and rejoice at their beauty.
I remember the delight at watching my toddler carry our little Franciscan cross throughout the house. It was “his Jesus,” and it went with us wherever we journeyed, sometimes even into the bathtub. The cross has been broken, chewed on, put back together and is now one of my favorite sacramentals in my home.
Ahh, but those blooms, sometimes they get attacked. Weeds grow up around them. Pestilence attacks, and we must fight hard to save them. Pruning back something that you have spent a long time nurturing and growing so that it can flourish again is painstaking, and that, my friends, is where I find myself, and I have a feeling I’m not alone.
There is a part of my mother’s heart that watches a young mother chase a toddler during Mass or sees a mother set firm expectations in a grocery store, and it wants to engage with them. Hold fast to your words! Stay steady! Build that relationship. This is love.
But that might be a bit off-putting as we are strangers, but they are no stranger to me. We are mothers, parents, and we are formed to nurture. That is why this aches. As parents, we want only good for our children, and yet, when we look back on our own journey, is it only good that brought us to where we are with the Lord?
Most of us can speak intimately and still feel the moment we were struck off the horse blind on our own road to Damascus, and how we found our way back to Jesus. We all know every moment we wrestled with God and how He stayed steadfast in His love for us, but here’s the truth: He did not bend.
God does not say because this is hard for you, I will change this rule for you. No! The truth is, it is exactly that firmness that draws us back. God loves us enough to hold us accountable and to call us to our highest potential as His creations. He calls us into a relationship of love with Him, and that relationship is the fulfillment of all we desire.
I believe this and am still striving to live in it. If at 46 years old I still find myself here, how can I expect my children to be in a place where I am striving to be. Mercy, trust and patient endurance, as St. Teresa of Avila reminds me, must enter this story.
Children are born to question. I think one of the effects of original sin is that, like Jacob, we choose to wrestle with God. Why can’t we just love and be loved? God made it simple. We make it hard.
How do we shepherd adult children back to the faith? How do we love them in their journey and their relationship with Jesus? We need to love! We need to pray. We need to hope. What if St. Ananias didn’t help Paul when he was struck blind? What if he let his fear, anger or hurt dictate his actions instead of his identity as a Christian?
Our first witness to our Catholic Christian faith is in the family. Home, this space of mother and father, sister and brother, must be open, ready, waiting to love. It is that return that we hope for.
As I sit, write and reflect in the wee hours of early morning, I am grateful for the communion of saints we have within our Church, those friends in heaven whom we beg to pray for us on our journey. They are rooting for us. I think of St. Monica and her longing for her son Augustine. She was relentless in prayer. She was fierce as a lion, and she was rooted in trust.
This season, if you find yourself longing, perhaps join me in a holy hour, or light a candle and lift up those we carry in the depths of our hearts to the Lord. Let us entrust them to Him, for He is always working, always healing, always re-creating. He is a God of goodness and mercy.
I have been carrying this vision of the prodigal father in my heart, the feeling of utter gratitude and the look of pure love that must have radiated from his face upon seeing his son return home. For those we hold close, those we long for, those we entrust to the Lord, let our faces radiate this welcome during this season, and, in doing so, may they know Christ through us.
This article first appeared at The Catholic Times.