Saturday, May 14, 2011

Profound Words

Richard Rohr has done it again. He has summed up my experience with his writing, this time about what he calls the “Maternal Face of God.”
“Sara Ruddick in her book Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace speaks of the attentive love of a mother.  In summary, Ruddick says mothers are characterized by attentive love.  They have to keep watching this new life; they have to keep listening and adjusting to the needs of the child.  It is necessary to recognize a new agenda with the growth of the child.  If the mother cannot transform herself into attentive love, she quite simply cannot be a mother.  She has to learn early on that life is about change, not about theological absolutes.  All growth is about changing and adjusting to what is needed at this moment by this child.  The mother cannot run to abstract truths.  She has to deal with this child, these tears, and this present moment with this child.

“The feminine face of God is helping us see God as Mother God.  Then we will be able to love and trust God in the maternal AND masculine forms.  Who would not love back such an attentively loving God?” -Adapted from The Maternal Face of God(available as part of On Transformation: Collected Talks, Volume 1 (CD))
That learning did not come naturally, to me. Coming from generations of people who had been raised by nannies, I wonder if that maternal wiring was short-circuited in some of us. In addition to that, the Christian Science way of attempting to live in “theological absolutes,” and to impose them on our individual lives, created difficulty for me as a young mother. Healing and wholeness (in C.S.) was thought to be found in those "abstract truths," and yet, in order to respond to my children, I had to learn to put maternal attentiveness before those abstracts. That transition didn’t happen overnight, but the more I was transformed into "attentive love," the happier I was as a mother, and the more easily our life flowed as a family.

I think that perhaps modern life has taught women that if we give ourselves to our family in a full and attentive way, we will lose touch with our selves, and our identity. This is not true. Giving unselfish love is not a loss. It is a sacred practice of presence - a kind of meditation. There is nothing more important than what is going on right here, right now. Where you are needed, you are called. Allowing myself to be totally given led me to my deeper self, not away from it.

Attentive love was absolutely necessary for survival in the hospital, and afterward. In fact, it may have been one of the most important gifts that I had with me. Katie’s cancer journey accelerated and deepened my maternal attentiveness - and somehow, that deepened my connection to God, and to myself, as well.
"Jesus said to his disciples:
'As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.' ” -John 15:9-17


Karen said...

Beautiful. The scripture you chose to parallel your thoughts, and Rohr's thoughts, was perfect. Such depth. Thank you for leading me to new ground, Karen

Jennifer said...

Your words brought me to tears. The phrase "attentive love" is so spot-on -- it is not an imposing love, a smothering love, a distant love. It is a love that frees as it embraces. It doesn't pull the child deeper into you, it settles the child into themselves, while held in love. It abides with the child. It SEES the child.

I have no doubt whatsoever that your attentive love, if it was not THE greatest gift you gave to Katie, was one of the greatest ones.

Before I became a mother (I have a little 18-month-old son), I had a difficult time embracing the idea of motherhood, or even picturing it. My own mother had a smothering love and fused me into her identity in an unhealthy way ... I felt, thus, that I didn't have a compass or a north star for how to mother. But attentive love? Attentive love is IT for me -- THAT is my compass. And, like you, I find that the more I give unselfish love to my little son, the more I grow into authentic selfhood, the more I find riches within, which allow me to move outward, into love, further and further.

You expressed all of this, as always, so beautifully. Thank you.


Jim said...

Karen this is a very profound yet very useful post for all of us! Attentive love......being present. It has come in handy for me in my care for my father recently. Giving him all that is needed at the attention, love, time and sharing of the moment has really helped me get through this time in his life.
Your posts are so inspirational. I thank you for the time you give us.

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is both beautiful and touching to my heart.
As always I ADORE this photo of you and Katie; the way she is grasping/squeezing your face....SO much love!!!!!