And I wonder how I, not yet a mother - and we never know these things, maybe never will be - manage somehow to compare the mom I think I might be against the moms that I see around me. Against the mom I would ache to be. And feeling just a hair shy of paralyzing anxiety at the thoughts.
In my mind, I already don't measure up.
In my heart, I am terrified of this: failure to love well.
Perhaps because, the older I get, the more aware I am of how much I don't have this thing called life down. Of how often my love is petty, selfish, small and weak. Put a child in my womb, drawing its very life from me, and then in my arms, and I'd like nothing more than to believe what I hear - that this fierce maternal love just takes over and I'm forever ruined - but I'm so afraid that I'd be the exception. That loving would be a daily struggle, a daily defeat, a daily falling down and rising up and pressing forward, time after time after time.
I'm not strong enough, I say.
But I've said that about marriage, too, and here I am in all the glory of my weakness and daily falling down and rising up and pressing forward, still married. Lord, if I'd known how hard it would be, I might have high-tailed it in the opposite direction in cowardice. Thank God in his grace, we don't know in advance what will play out in our stories. It's true that marriage is like holding a magnifying glass up to yourself - your soul, really - and that most often what stares back is not pretty. How much more is that true being a mother, I ask, and could I bear that marred reflection intensified?
I know that's fear talking, and I know what to do with that voice, but I have to release this. Because I don't want to tune into that voice any longer, and yet, it's not easy to silence.
Isn't love - married love and mother love and any kind of true sacrificial love - all about this daily falling down and rising up and pressing forward? This bloody, skin-kneed love; this wrap someone in your arms especially when you don't feel like it love; this continual choosing someone else over me love. I don't care what any mother says, this kind of love cannot come natural. It cannot be instinctual. It must, even as a mother, be chosen. It must, also, be received humbly as a gift.
Because the other side of this perpetual stretching thin and never having enough to go around, never being enough, must be where the miracle awaits. The gift of daily bread, multiplied to be enough. The gift of daily grace, unwrapped by those poor enough in spirit to recognize they will never measure up - and they needn't even try. This liberating truth that we - not you or me, not mothers or singles or marrieds without children - are not designed to ever be enough. Even though we want to be. It's a built-in grace disguised, a limp that causes us to lean into the only one who can ever be enough.
And I have to believe that God can work with that, in me - now - and if I'm ever a mother, one day down the road, too. It is, after all, his specialty.
Linking up with the brave and beautiful Emily for Imperfect Prose today, writing about the theme of "mother."