While you're reading this I'm seven (but who's counting?) states away from home moving my daughter into college. My baby girl who I just gave birth to yesterday...I mean... almost 18 years ago is moving out and starting a new journey. Apart from me.
"It's a new beginning!" "How exciting for her!" "This is a good thing!" My friends and family say to cheer me up. Yes, they're correct. Yes, I'm excited for her future. But there's also a little girl inside of me wanting to hold on to my baby girl and not let her go, which brings me to the title of this reflection, What if Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a helicopter mom?!
I know it's a crazy question. Let me bring you back to last spring when this question first popped into my head. I'm sitting in the pews of my childhood parish, St. Catherine's, on Good Friday during a re-enactment of the stations of the cross.
I'm so sad knowing my daughter is probably about to choose a college far from home and this will be the last Easter with her for a long time. With a heavy heart, I start watching the stations of the cross through Mary's eyes. I try to feel Jesus' crucifixion through Mary's heart and try to connect with her strength. From the honest and heavy corner of my heart, that little girl inside of me tearfully whispers to Mary,
Did you ever let the fear and sadness get the best of you?
Did you ever want to say, 'Don't be out too late, Jesus, I need you here with me.'
Or, 'Don't say that, you'll offend someone and get hurt.'
Did your momma bear instinct ever feel tempted to hold Jesus tight and never let him go?
All of a sudden I think, What if Mary was a helicopter mom?
According to Wikipedia, the definition of a helicopter mom is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. For the record, I don't like the phrase because it's one more term for moms to use against one another but while I was sitting in my sadness during that Good Friday service that's the term that came to me.
At first when that question popped into my head I kind of laughed but then I decided to go deeper into reflection with it. What if Mary was controlling (and if it was a time when she could have the power to be controlling) and she never let Jesus out of her sight? What if Mary held onto Jesus for herself and didn't want him out teaching? What if she was too scared to let Jesus go and never allowed him to develop into all God called him to be? What if she made sure he never suffered?
We know the answer to those questions. And because of the answers to those questions, we can draw strength from Mary's letting go. Her letting go meant there was a lot of vulnerability, fear, heartbreak, and suffering but it also meant there was a lot of new life, new hope, new meaning, and new growth.
Mary had to let Jesus live his own journey apart from Mary. If she kept him close to her for her own needs, he would have never developed into all God created him to be for us. I'm not trying to compare my daughter to Jesus but I am trying to draw strength in all the beauty and life that comes from letting go and empowering someone to be all they are created to be. As I let go of my daughter, I know that I'm creating a space for her to grow and thrive. And I know that growth has to be done apart from me.
Here's another exciting part to all of this that you'll like if you're struggling with letting go of someone or something in your own life: As I let go, I'm making room for new life to take root in me and I'm looking forward to that as well. Is there something you're ready to let go of so you can make room for new growth in you?
As I'm writing this I'm staring at a picture of Mary above my desk. She has a look of quiet strength and unwavering trust with a knowing eye that seems to look past the here and now. It's a trusting gaze towards a future that holds new life. Through that knowing eye, I see humility - an understanding that God is in this place right here with me and I'm one small part of a bigger picture. If I can let go and allow things to unfold new life will surely bloom in my daughter and in me.
God, help me feel your comfort and strength as I place my baby girl into your hands. I know she was always yours but I haven't always acted like it. Now, I'm ready. I can let go because I know you're with me and I know you're with her. I'm ready to witness and experience this new life unfold. Amen.
Are you dealing with a life transition? Whether it's a divorce, a job change, or the loss of a loved one, getting through change is a process that takes time and effort to move through. It's important to have a safe and nurturing space to reflect. I hope you'll join me for my day retreat and online retreats starting September 30th, Life Transitions: Finding God in the Center of the Unknown.