A Joyful Dream
My heart’s deep desire is this: I want my son to remember that he had a joy-filled mother. But there is one obstacle to this desire: I do not feel joyful. I am not happy. At times I struggle.
I struggle with the fact that I am no longer in control of where my life is going. My circumstances are very different from what I had planned. My family moved countries when my son was 4 months old. I had plans and I had to come to terms with putting them on hold, even letting go of them altogether. I absolutely love life as a mother with all its new sets of challenges but the move was very destabilizing for me. It felt like I moved planets, from being an independent and active woman to one that is dependent and confused. I felt lonely, even more so when the people closest to me seemed surprised that I did. That made me feel even more isolated, utterly and completely alone.
I struggle with the feeling of not being productive. I simply do not feel productive. I know I am raising a young man. I am doing one of the most important things I can be doing in my life, and his. Believe me I know! But I still do not feel productive. I am tired and bored. I have to come up with things to do to break the repetition and the routine, things that would boost my sense of accomplishment. Very well-intentioned people, especially back in Lebanon, ask me what I do all day with my son. Let me tell you once and for all, that is a very hard question to answer. Any answer I give goes against every notion of modern lifestyle efficiency. Who can say how many times in a day a mother gets on all fours to pick up all sorts of toy pieces from under her couch? Can anyone really measure how much time it takes to cook, clean, iron and do everything else that seems so unconventional for modern middle-class Lebanese mothers? And how often by the end of that same day do you look around exhausted and wonder what you were so busy doing all day?
I struggle with feeling joyful, because I live in a world where my God-given identity is much harder to discern and embrace. Even among Christians whom I value and respect, God’s standards are often mixed up with the world’s. One should be a good mother, have a successful career – or have at least good career credentials –, and simply be perfect in every possible way. And whether you agree with that or not, these standards become your standards, and falling short gets to you. Deeply.
As I look back at how God has dealt with me in the past, I stand in awe again as I remember the lessons he has taught me. One of them is that I should not count on a change of circumstances to change things in me. I do not need to go on a gap year in a different country in order to pray more; I need to start praying right where I am at home. I do not need a new laptop to get my life organized. I do not need a new notebook or a prettier journal to start writing. What I need is to make do with what there is, and other things would be added if and when they are needed. It is not a change of circumstances that will change my life. My life is what is happening right now. This feeling of instability will haunt me all the way home if I do not make peace with God’s purpose and plans, though I may not understand them here and now.
A few dear sisters prayed with me when I turned 30 this year. One of them said I was like a clay vessel, one that has served its Lord well and according to its purpose. And though it may have cracks now, it is not useless but being transformed for another use. The empty cracked vessel is now a candle holder, and the light will shine through the cracks themselves. I may have grown used to serving my God in one way, but He is now being served in another. It is simply a different kind of use.
You see, I do not always feel joyful, not the way I did when I was in my twenties. But with the eyes of faith – ironically the only thing that makes sense – I am convinced that though I do not feel joyful, I am joyful. It is simply a different kind of joy. It is a joy that is solely reliant on Grace, not on the excitement or wonder or energy that so naturally bubbles up when you are in your teens and twenties. It is the joy of all those long nights that Jesus spent in prayer, the deep joy of a life that is purposefully well spent. I do not spend my nights in prayer, not at all. The more I sleep the better. But when I do turn my thoughts to my heavenly Father during the day, even at random and brief moments, I can breathe and keep going. I become, quite unexpectedly, content with my frustrated plans, not because of the frustrations themselves, but because I have a wider perspective as a result. They are just the means to an end, just as our entire life is: a pathway to beholding the throne of Glory.
I would not trade the time I am spending with my son for the world. He has taught me to stop running after the wind, to be grateful for the little things that might easily go unnoticed. He squeals with joy when he recognizes me. He gets absolutely radiant when he recognizes a song or a word or anything familiar that his wonderfully created brain is learning. His utmost radiance is usually when we repeat the song for the 34th time. I tire easily of the repetition (as far back as the 2nd time). It is as if I get used to the first chemical dose that makes me happy when I discover something new, and it wears out quite easily. Not so with him. He delights in repetition and routine. And although I still struggle with repetitions, I still marvel at his reactions and pray that wonder never leaves him. He teaches me what joy really means.
I have already found the treasure and bought the field. I am already enjoying the pearl of great price. But when I became a mother, I also found my dream; the kind of “dream that will need all the love I can give, all the days of my life, for as long as I live”. That may be exhausting, but it is worth it. It is definitely worth it! With that perspective in mind, I still want my son to remember that he had a joy-filled mother, but my heart has a deeper desire still: What I want most is for my son to remember that he filled his mother’s life with joy.
By Maryse Karam Baz
Maryse Karam Baz is married to Salim, and they are the proud parents of two year old Elias. They are originally from Beirut, Lebanon but are temporarily living in London. Maryse loves playing and singing songs with Elias, as well as building Lego shapes for him to undo. She is delighted and encouraged by reading all the other moms’ contributions to the Lois Project.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
- G. K. Chesteron, Orthodoxy