Failure and God’s Love

“All religions start with the cry, help.” I’ve looked for the original source of this quote since I heard it on a podcast and can’t locate it, but regardless, it is a line that spoke to me this week.

Today after I’d dropped my two older children at preschool for the afternoon and my six-week old baby slept in the back of the car, I said aloud the word, “help.” Nothing in particular was or is wrong, in fact, most is right, most is perfectly right, but I was overwhelmed, tired, full of doubt about my own abilities. I’ve learned to validate the difficulties that accompany parenthood, particularly motherhood, because for far too long I glossed over them as if they weren’t real (a topic for another post). My “cry” today was one of deep humility stemmed from my own insufficiencies, “please help,” spoken aloud and with a hope that someone might be listening.  That “cry” often seems to be the beginning of something useful in my life.one019

In my desperation for fortification at the beginning of a new week, my children wrestled (literally) through a few scriptures as I read to them this morning. I’d packed their lunches, gotten them dressed, fed them breakfast, took them to swim lessons, to play at the park, nursed the baby. In the midst of all that, I’d also been frustrated with the two older kids, even to the point of tears because it all seems so relentless and outright hard. Seriously, why are kids so unreasonable?

In the car on my own, after dropping them off at school, I thought about the scriptures we’d read: Lehi’s dream, where he and Sariah just wants their family to eat the fruit because it is beautiful. I’d told my wide-eyed four and six-year old that the fruit is the love of their Heavenly parents, that fruit most desirable above anything else, and as I explained it, I wanted them to feel the love of Heavenly Parents for themselves in that very moment, but probably they didn’t because then they were wrestling again and I think I was too annoyed and closed the scriptures and then the baby spit up and started to cry.

Maybe then, my feeble prayer for help in the car was much in part because I feel like I am one of their main opportunities to understand and know that love when they are young and far too often I fail them, or at least I feel like I do.

I don’t fail in large ways or even surprising ways. In the scheme of things, they are the most minor of infractions. I fail them in ways I imagine, or at least hope, most parents do: a criticism, a yell, an unfair expectation, a swell of impatience, a selfish motive. They are failures that are glaring and relentless in the rare moments that are quiet, leaving me to reflect, remember and feel my own small humanness. I think it is also then, my own difficulty in forgiving myself that adds to the desperation.

This era of my life, as I traverse motherhood with these three small children so nearby, I feel like I want to be like Lehi and Sariah as I’d read this morning, already at the tree with the full knowledge of God’s love, beckoning my children to come forward, but lately, I am deeply humbled to find that I am not there standing peacefully beneath those full, glowing branches. I am finding my way there again, to the base of that tree. I was there once, rather countless times, easily within reach of that fruit, but in circling this metaphorical tree of God’s love, I walk away sometimes and that’s not always detrimental. There is usefulness in the absence. Sometimes being a spiritual being is the absence of spirituality.

As it ever has been, the “start” or re-start of religion, is all part of the process. This new life where my husband and I have three children is both beautiful and hard and requires recalibration, an inevitable starting again. It is in this forested and often unfamiliar new landscape of parenthood, my current understanding and practice of religion is ushered in by my own cry, “help.” I would like help to get to that place where I feel God’s love, where I can offer it freely both to the people around me and to myself. I feel it is not far, I see glimpses of it often.

Ironically, I recognize even in writing this that I am not the one teaching and beckoning my children to come to the tree. Perhaps it is more like this: we are holding hands and dancing around it, like we did once for Midsummer’s eve in Sweden.   “Here’s a flower crown”, says my daughter. “I love it when you laugh,” says my son. I hold the littlest daughter close. I see my husband, they are calling for him to come dance too, and our family, friends, strangers. We are all imperfect. We are all failing in some capacity or other. We are all beginning again with the cry help. And still, God’s love is available to us. My children are immersed in it regardless of me, and that is maybe most humbling of all. They are not condemned by my failures, and they may even feel that love most when I do prove to be imperfect. Likewise, I am not condemned by my own failure, however small or large. The cry for help is the beginning, a vibrant answer of please come close will always be the eventual answering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I am in the exact same phase. Four children five and under. My youngest is four weeks old. And the last few weeks I have been overwhelmed by my inadequacies. Mistakes, criticisms and just plain grumpiness. I think back to the last year of pregnancy and I can barely stand myself. I am so inadequate. I have been acknowledging that it’s hard but have not been acknowledging that I am in dire need of help. Just wallowing in my failures. So thank you for this reminder that I can ask for help. And also putting words to the feelings I have been having the last few weeks. Here’s to hoping my kids survive me (grateful for a loving god’s help to do so.)

  2. I have often reflected that I am only half a step “ahead” of my children on the journey home to my heavenly parents. Most days I don’t feel ahead at all, just that we’re on the way together. So I really like like your imagery of dancing together around the tree: it feels true. Lovely piece.

  3. Jason K. says:

    I also feel inadequate to my circumstances, albeit for different reasons. Thank you for this post!

  4. Thank you for the sentiments and insights of this post. As a fellow adult with worries and obligations that can be tiring to say the least, I am heartened by your reflections. I had not considered Lehi’s dream in a long time. I very much appreciated the way you likened it to your parental journey.

  5. Beautiful, Ashley. Our limitations and failure bind us together beautifully if we let them.

  6. We feel so much pressure as parents–perhaps we only assist the angels. . .

  7. This is fantastic. It articulates well things that I’ve felt but haven’t been able to articulate myself. Peter sinking in the water is all of us.

  8. I guess I should have already known that parenthood is largely about coming to see my own flaws even more starkly, given the higher stakes involved in being responsible for growing humans. Posts like this from parents I admire are helpful.