My mother is my compass. I am thankful to have many beautiful and sacred relationships within my family, but the deep connection I have with my mom is unique. I refer to my mom (Amy) as my compass because she is often used as God’s medium for helping me find direction, groundedness, and clear thinking. As a leader of high school boys, I understand how unusual this is, which I believe is why our encounters touch me so deeply and almost always move me to action. As I reflected on our relationship I began to see how much influence she has had over my experiences, though I have rarely asked the questions of journey and pilgrimage behind her depth, wisdom and faith that have affected so many people she has encountered.
As my mom and I discussed the story behind our stories, some of my observations began to make a lot of sense. When I was young my mother did all of the “motherly things” you would expect. She came to our activities, made us lunches, participated in school activities, worked part time, and focused on family. Though I know that those were fulfilling times in her life, I noticed as I entered college a shift in how she saw life and lived into new experiences. Clearly there was a sense of reflectiveness prickling up, and it caused her to see how the experience of being in relationship with God was not just about finding your sweet spot and living it out consistently, but that being in relationship involved remaining flexible to the stages God intends to take us through.
My mom framed her spiritual journey as an experience that is connected to how we grow physically and relationally. This brought up some interesting thoughts on how we can look forward and prepare for engaging God’s relationship by observing how God will change our bodies, relationships, and environments ahead of time. The conclusion being that by understanding ourselves well, we become more in tune with the ways God intends to use us.
Mom discussed a tension that I have experienced as well when trying to view faith as a journey. When I asked her if she had always seen life or faith as a journey or not, her words were, “In theory I would have always answered that question ‘yes.’ But as I have gotten to this age (53) I see the “journey” piece a lot clearer. I see how I’ve moved from one place to the next…” It is easy to say that faith is a journey, but to allow your life to experience faith that way, means putting more trust in God’s vision. If I can be more goal-oriented, or if I can base my faith around specific dogmas, or ways of acting that will always stay constant, it takes less work in submitting my path or pilgrimage to God.
My mom and I have had similar experiences of transitioning between goal-oriented approaches to faith (for lack of a better term), towards a process oriented experience. My mom explored the ways that goals work into her life now (after making that transition) in a way which helps me to stay obedient while attempting to trust God.
She talked about deepening relationship with God over time, and letting that patience dictate the pace and ways in which that goal is present in her life. She said she tries to steer away from measuring her relationship to abstract standards, by working to see herself as God sees her.
This way of thinking could be a major turning point in our ability as Christians, to allow God to take us on a never-ending journey, not just a dead sprint to the finish line. I can attest to the fact that I lose patience, trust and understanding for what God is doing over time, when I fail to see myself the way God sees me. The times that I judge myself, and hold to self-imposed standards which I cannot achieve, I also shift from seeing where I am in my spiritual journey and instead try to figure out the way to win at faith. Succeed at God. Dominate, at being Christian.
My mom is an example of patience and wisdom. Two things that I have found to be essential as God takes me places I do not want to be. Places I want to avoid in lieu of a more ‘Christian’ path, away from Jesus.