For many years I found inspiration and consolation from passages in the New Testament. The stories of Jesus’s wisdom teachings, helped me along the way. For example, Matthew 6:25-34, provided me with encouragement, reminders to not be afraid, and to not worry about tomorrow.
But here’s the thing…
Now when I read this passage, no matter which translation or paraphrase I try, I get stuck on the language – OK, and some of the concepts too.
Specifically, I struggle with the idea of God as person. It is said that this is because we are created in the image of God, but surely it makes more sense that our idea of God has been created in our own images because that’s all we know. And of course there is the masculine language, God the Father, Son etc. It is past time for that to change. I also struggle with the idea that God is an intervener – a rescuer. When those who are saved from peril give the credit to God, I always wonder: What about those who were not saved?
A few weeks ago, as I opened my Bible(s) again for the first time in ten years, I wondered if I could use this passage in Matthew 6 as inspiration to write my own words of inspiration and consolation for my life as it is in 2020.
Collaborating with my friend Anna, we came up with the following eight posts. I hope you find them to be words of inspiration, consolation and encouragement too.
Living for Today – part 1
Inspired by Matthew 6:25-34 (…consider the lilies of the field)
What kind of life do you want?
Are you willing to trust in the goodness of the Creator?
Are you willing to surrender your relentless pursuit of perfection?
Are you willing to stop imagining all of your possible future troubles?
Today will unfold as it should, and so will tomorrow, so why not let go and enjoy the ride?
Better than Best, better than best, best is better, better than best
Being better, being best, being the best I can be…
“If you aim for nothing, you’re sure to hit it!”
Give 100%, no give it 110%!
An A is good but an A+ is better.
Is that the best you can do? I don’t think that’s your best work.
Cream of the crop, top of the class, teacher’s pet….
Being good, being better than good, being the best….the best that you can be!
This is the only way to be chosen, to be selected, to belong to something or someone important, exclusive, elite, distinguished, set a part… set apart for only for the best!
“Gifted and talented” programs
Sports tryouts, dance auditions, piano lessons, highschool musicals
University entrance applications, keep that GPA high, 4.0 is best but 4.2 is better
Youth group, camp counsellor, student leader opportunities – show them how perfect you are!
And make sure you look perfect while you act perfect – perky, cute, sporty… not too drab but not too sexy. Don’t cause those good Christian boys to stumble now. But show a little leg...
Hope Chests, purity rings, sign this chastity contract promising you will not engage in premarital sex, sign the Christian University contract promising you will pretty much not do anything including drinking alcohol on or off campus, dance on campus and of course no sex before marriage… “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” now there’s a book popular with the good girls suggesting no dating or even kissing before marriage…
Be the good Christian girl, suppress your urges, suppress your anger at having to suppress your urges… work harder, think of someone other than yourself! Stop navel gazing. Blessed to be a blessing! You have so much, how dare you question this cardboard, cookie cutter existence you have been sold. Sponsor a Child! Volunteer at the homeless shelter. Don’t be so self focused, serve others. WWJD? (What would Jesus do?)
Don’t be yourself! Be good, be better than good, be the best you can be. Be better than best. Best is better and better is best.
I slowly waste away internally. While I’m still looking “my best” on the surface, all my energy has been consumed by the enormous weight of propping up the approved “good girl” facade. I no longer have the strength to bear its weight and my emaciated soul collapses underneath the brutish armour I was led to believe was the path to safety/there to protect me.
I definitely am a member of ‘The Good Girls Club’ – growing up (and until recently) mired in the mantra “if I only tried/worked harder, everything would be fine”.
I realized that mantra actually never helped me achieve my goals or dreams – it just led to exhaustion, confusion (“after all I’ve done for you”), disappointment and eventually resentment – and not just my resentment but those I’d tried so hard to help and do right for.
It’s so interesting that it’s not until you let go of things that you actually end up with more!“
On reading this post complete with the illustration of the girl in the Catholic school uniform I could relate entirely. i have been weighed down by perfectionism for years and only recently has it let up somewhat because I am more conscious of the harm it causes. This phenomena was promoted in the Catholic school system of my youth because I was trying so hard to be good to avoid the consequences of sin. I also got a dose at home. My mother was a perfectionist who swept her lawn, tended to her white carpets and would not tolerate mistakes from her children. Oh dear this is such a huge topic Perhaps I have just scratched the surface. May we all be free of perfectionism It takes away the joy of living!. We are already perfect and could use a little improvement but not the heavy burden that the good girl imposes on herself.
(This is Deirdre’s grade one class photo. That’s me in the center of the middle row, with the short hair. What a serious little face! BTW Sister Mary Jerome was an angel.)
I know a few graduates from this school…(notice the Catholic School tunic)
I have just finished Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Here’s my favourite quote, regarding perfectionism:
“Perfection is a 20 ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us. When, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”
That got me thinking about the way I grew up. I wanted nothing more than to be a Brownie. I wanted to earn all those little badges, and wear them proudly on my Brownie sash. Evidence that I was clever and…worthy. Alas, it was not to be. Perhaps I should be giving my mother credit for not allowing me to join. She said it was a para-military organization,( and she needed me at home). When life around me was chaotic and scary, I was the princess of trying harder – If I do everything just right then I will be loved, worthy – and safe.
Are there any other graduates of the Good Girls School out there?
The other day Pat and I were talking about some of the challenges of being mothers of adult children. We pour ourselves into their tiny lives, nurturing and guiding every step and every word. We are needed so intensely! Then, 12 or 13 years in, we somehow become an embarrassment. Some one told me once that God made the teen years difficult so that we would be willing to let go of our children. Hmmm, thanks?! If we are lucky, we eventually work ourselves out of our job and we become auxiliary rather than essential. Oh- but it can be painful…
Here are Pat’s reflections on our conversation about this challenging transition:
Transition for the Crone
The crone, who is a parent, gives birth to her children, (no small task) and then devotes years to their growth and development.
Then comes the day when the children become adults, independent, making their own choices, and living their own lives. It seems that, for the most part, support and mentorship from parents is no longer needed or desired.
For me this change in our relationship has been difficult. Recently this has hit me like a sledge hammer.
The Monkey Mind’s commentary goes something like this:
“How long has it been since you called, dropped by or initiated a visit with us?”
“You spend a lot of time with each other but never include me etc. etc.”
To quote Tina Dayton from her book, Daily Affirmations for Parents, “I experience the growing up and going away of my children as a kind of death of my little family – which it is. But this is a healthy loss that will give way to new exciting possibilities if I let it happen.”
The thing with transition is that the old form has died and the new form is yet to unfold. My crone growth right now is to engage the process of grieving and letting go.
Malcolm Forbes said, ”You have to let your children go if you want to keep them.”
In the last page of Tina Dayton’s book on parenting, the entry for Dec.31, she writes about her children:
“So no matter what might happen between us – no matter where your life might take you – you will live within me as a hidden treasure. Nothing can ever take it away. A part of my heart will always be dedicated to you.”
Although tears welled up as I read this passage, I also reflected on “the other parts of the heart”, on which she did not elaborate. The potency of the other parts of the heart that are not caught in the grip of abandonment or loss – those parts are the grist to move forward.
The guidance, the wisdom, the nurturance bestowed on my children are inherent in my essential nature and do not evaporate after they leave the nest. By connecting to these spiritual qualities I open to giving birth to myself; to a larger life of universal love, creativity and service to the broader community.
Paradoxically, no longer hanging onto my children, I am more grounded in my own life. I trust that a new and healthier relationship will evolve with them.
Pat, who describes herself as an “evolving crone”, sent me the following contribution. She has been taking an on-line course from Abby of the Arts. Here are her thoughts on crone-ship and her poem about the healing power of nature.
The crone does not sit on her laurels of wisdom and experience, instead she has the humility to be open to growth and learning until her last breath. She recognizes that it would be so unfortunate to rigidify into the posture of the “know it all.”
May I hold my crone-ship lightly to allow for a wider perspective toward myself and others.
I have been revisiting the Christian path from an online course based on the book Earth as Monastery. The small God of my childhood was found in the dogma of the Church and a certain interpretation of the Bible. The theme of this book, developed by the author Christine Valters Painter, is that the Holy Mystery is found in the awe of Nature.
One exercise for the group was to write a poem, referring to the healing power of Nature, beginning with the phrase of “When I despair”. Of course my inner critic reared its gavel to say that I was incapable of writing a poem. The crone’s new growth was to release the superego and just let the poem appear without evaluation. What flowed was a direct experience of how Nature does heal my despair.
When I despair I feel a gentle breeze, the compassionate wind inviting me to let go,
When I despair I notice how the sun’s rays illuminate the tree’s leaves, a cue for me to lighten up,
When I despair I go down to the sea and experience the pounding surf, the ocean an immense container dissolving my small grief,
When I despair I see my two dogs fighting over a bone to teach me to be here now, no longer fretting about the past or future,
When I despair I do mindful walking on the Earth which holds me up no matter what is going on in my internal world.