I have spent the last 21 months becoming Jesse’s mom, and what a journey it has been. Prior to receiving God’s invitation to welcome a sixth child into our family, I was happily engrossed in many good things and receiving such an invitation was the farthest thing from my mind. Because of this, I spent most of my pregnancy, his first nine months of life, in panic mode, wringing my hands, vacillating between apprehension, sadness, and even anger about the changes that would need to be made in order to welcome this new little life. I wish I had been more emotionally open to life when I received God’s invitation, but I knew that a new baby would demand a personal response from me, as it had five times before, and worry consumed me. I just couldn’t fathom how to mother six kids spread over 18 years and yet still maintain the relationships and activities I already had, and desired to have, within my family and with outside friends, too.
A good priest friend listened to my anxieties and quietly advised me to pack up all my worries and put them aside until after the new baby was born. He said that, in his experience with other moms expecting late-in-life blessings, once the baby was born all anxiety quickly changed to absolute joy. Now, as much as I respected this man of God, it was clear to me he had never walked in my morning-sick moccasins, and therefore didn’t really have a clue, so I quietly shelved his advice and clung even tighter to my worrying.
Well, I’m here today to tell you that I set aside the wrong item. What I had forgotten and my devout friend remembered (perhaps because he wasn’t experiencing morning sickness?) is that it’s not ideas about people, but relationships with them that transform us. While it may be possible to be in love with or not in love with the idea of parenthood, actually becoming a mom or dad is about being in love with, and responding in love to, the specific needs of a precious individual. Having now become Jesse’s mom, I can only barely remember what I was so worried about before he was born, and that which I can recall, I will gladly deal with for his sake, as I have already done for each of his siblings.
Here is where I must turn the tables and play the role of my priest friend for you. Christmas is near, and with it God is sending you an invitation to welcome a baby into your life. His name is Jesus. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever should believe in him would not die but have eternal life.” God’s plan for our salvation begins with an invitation to enter into a relationship, not with a rulebook of how to be and how not to be a Catholic Christian. So what is it that is holding you back from accepting God’s invitation to know him personally?
Before I meet Jesse face-to-face, I fretted about the whole idea of having to get up every single time the baby cried to be fed, and having to follow his inconvenient schedule of needs. If you haven’t yet had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus, perhaps you’re fretting about the whole idea of going to church every single Sunday and having to following all those inconvenient rules. Before welcoming Jesse, just the idea of being the older mom among the group got me upset, because, hey, I had always been the younger mom! Perhaps just the idea of becoming the “Church Guy (or Gal)” among your friends has got you upset, because, hey, you’ve always been the Party Guy (or Gal)! Frankly, I don’t know what’s holding you back from embracing Jesus personally. I have not walked in your moccasins. But this much I now know: it is not ideas about Christianity, but a relationship with Jesus that will transform you.
The invitation has been sent. Your response is required. Wouldn’t this Christmas be a good time to shelve all your ideas and worries and embrace the living Son of God, the Baby Jesus? Trust me, abundant joy will follow.