Books

To Be a Priest

Wrapped in dark on the dawn of Advent, with fog thick outside the window, I read a paragraph that stays with me long after the sun rises and work descends. I decide to unwrap it on this Tuesday because Emily invited us to share on this ordinary day when life happens.

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What happened this morning as I read the words of author Barbara Brown Taylor, is what keeps me opening book after book.  It’s the true power of story, this discovery of another part of myself through the thoughts and eyes and hearts of those dedicated and talented enough to pen them to paper. The stories of others lead us to identify and name our own.

In Leaving Church, Barbara records an up and down story of a search for God that brought her to and through priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Shauna says the way to become a better writer is to read good writers. I’ll be reading much more of Mrs. BBT for sure.

These are the words on which I chew today:

“In my lexicon, at least, a priest is someone willing to stand between a God and a people who are longing for one another’s love, turning back and forth between them with no hope of tending either as well as each deserves…To be a priest is to know that things are not as they should be and yet to care for them the way they are. To be a priest is to suspect that there is always something more urgent that you should be doing, no matter what you are doing, and to make peace with the fact that the work will never get done. To be a priest is to wonder sometimes if you are missing the boat altogether, by deferring pleasure in what God has made until you have fixed it up so that it will please God more.”

Why do these words echo such a familiar ring in my soul? I’ve been to an Episcopal Church exactly two times and the only priest I know is Father Tim from the Mitford series.

I took a pause and for some reason I re-read the words, substituting “priest” for the word “mother”. Recognition sprang immediately. This is what I’ve spent the last 20 years doing. Every action included in every sentence reek with the joyful scent of motherhood.

To be a priest is to name motherhood.

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Teens have replaced toddlers and I’m breathing a slight bit easier, the strength needed not so much physical as mental. Mothering these days is almost to a point of the wisdom of hindsight versus blind trial. And I am stunned with the knowledge that I may actually survive this gig, when at times I questioned sanity and survival.

My mother-priest duties are changing and I’m learning each day what that looks like with each new season. I wish I had made this priest/mother connection years ago.

Our brother and sister-in-law are expecting their third soon. They spent Thanksgiving week with us, along with our 9-year-old niece and 20-month-old nephew. Oh, the weariness of that season of parenting! The constant vigilance, the neediness, the sheer relentlessness of raising children. Even when you are just chilling on a holiday, you have to be “ON”.

Lindsey, these words are for you! You are a priest! Ordained to stand between your children and God ever pointing them toward Him, never feeling quite qualified. Stay strong for you are doing Kingdom work. I hope this definition redefines your days, shifts your paradigm for those hours spent in the minivan and on the bathroom floor and in the aisles of grocery stores.

Desperate Mamas group, this is for you! You are priests! May you find peace in balancing the pleasure of motherhood with the tasks that require so much sacrifice.

Don’t miss the boat sisters by fretting about having it all fixed just so. The truth is you won’t. Someday, when those babies are out of diapers and traveling the world, you will realize your job as priest was nothing but an unending fountain of grace given and received.

May I, and all the incredibly beautiful mothers I know, rest in peace before the Lord this Advent season.  As a royal priesthood charged with laying our children before HIm, let us feel Immanuel, God with us.

3 thoughts on “To Be a Priest

  1. Love that. How I wish I could sit and pick your brain about motherhood on a regular basis. I miss getting to talk to you. Thanks for the wisdom!!

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