Jesus invites. He doesn’t impose Himself on us. Nor does He shut His door to us. Come and See. I think we have to model this a little bit in our own day to day. Our lives are not our own. It is easy to be holy all by yourself. You don’t have to be tempted to say something scandalous. You aren’t tempted to judge others. You aren’t tempted to uncharity. People make jokes sometimes about how great and holy we’d all be “if only we didn’t have to deal with stupid people every day…”
Thank God Jesus never thought this way. Thank God He got right down in the dirty mess of human lives. Thank God He didn’t spend all His time in the desert praying—even though that certainly would’ve been easier. Living life at room temperature is easy. Having faith in a vacuum is easy. Thank God, He never chose ‘easy.’ And neither should we. But where are all the people inviting us to “come and see.” What does that even mean?
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To me, it’s an invitation to authentic living. A calling to real life, warts and all. But we don’t like to share that. We like to share our cleaned up, sanitized version of our life, ourself. For example, as women, when expecting company, don’t we dash around for 15 minutes tucking away messes and tidying up tables before visitors come over? And we do it with our interior life too. We hide the ugly sides of our selves. How many of your friends know you have an anger problem? How many of your friends know you are lazy or condescending to your children or financially irresponsible? No, we don’t want to be vulnerable with people because we are afraid of what they’ll think. We want to show people that we are calm and collected. Do we really want them to come and see?
When I was a young mother, I remember looking up to the women in my church community who are exactly where I am right now, years later… with several children and approaching the teenage years in parenting. And I desperately wanted to forge friendships with them. Maybe not so much that… as I just desperately wanted to “come and see.” I wanted not only encouragement that there was a light at the end of the tunnel of darkness that is toddler and babyhood, but I also wanted to get a clue into the real working, daily life of motherhood in a big, Catholic family.
(I’ve written before how I think so many of us come into motherhood unprepared for this vocation. The domestic and relationship skills needed to survive and thrive in the demands of wifehood and parenthood aren’t taught in our world in an intentional way. We go into marriage with a kiss and a prayer, stars in our eyes. And the real, the gritty, the raw truth of how difficult it is can catch so many of us blindsided.)
Yet, very rarely are we invited to come and see. We keep up appearances. We may laugh about the Cheerios on the floor that the broom missed or the pile of laundry waiting to get folded on the couch with a friend, but very rarely, and to so pitifully few people, do we open our arms and invite them into our broken, mess of a life. We laugh with each other about how a shower is our only alone time, but we omit that sometimes we lock ourselves in our closet and weep at how overwhelming it all feels. We nod sympathetically as we express our struggles in trying to discipline our children, but we omit that sometimes we completely snap and shamefully yank their arms out of fury and yell in their faces. We talk about how marriage is all about communication and compromise but we omit that occasionally we feel resentful and bitter towards our men… afraid of what our friends think if we aren’t Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver.
We don’t really want to be vulnerable with the world. We don’t really want to invite others to come and see. And I wonder what the world would look like if we changed…
What if we were all real to each other? What if we made our lives accessible to others? What if we recognized that our lives are not our own and that human bonds are formed through the identification and empathy found in suffering… the one thing we all have in common all across the world? What would that look like?
I propose that breathing a bit of authenticity into our vocations would help prepare girls for what’s to come. We have the power—through offering the gift of living an open, authentic life— to form the expectations and preparations of young girls entering into womanhood. I’m not talking about hanging all your dirty laundry (literally and figuratively) out for the world to see, all day, every day. But I am saying that we ought to be courageous in our vulnerability. That’s right; I put those words together, courageous and vulnerable. Because that’s the truth. It’s easy to live in our comfort zone. It’s easy to sweep our messes temporarily under the rug while we entertain for a while. But the messes are still there… and really, it takes guts to be open. It takes courage to invite others to come and see how fallen we are, not for the depraved purpose of basking in our pity but for the sake of promoting true empathy, true authenticity and true love. Ironically, it is through the open manifestation of our weaknesses in daily life that the glory of God is demonstrated the most profoundly. How can others know how deeply we ought to praise Him, less they see His mercy and love reaching down to the lowest parts of who we are, calling us by name and making us new? That’s true love. True love is not some whitewashed entity that exists by living in the minds of others.True love has been defined and explained for centuries in many different ways. But ultimately, for all that love is and all that love isn’t, I think we all can probably agree on this: true love is inviting and it is real.