Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Letter to Emma (and Her Mama)

Dearest Emma,

Your mama, she saw Ann  hugging Katie today, and she got scared again. Scared of you, dear. Do you know why she's scared of you? She's scared because she sees a girl so ready to let God wreck the young life she's living and by default, wreck her mama's. She sees a girl with a fire in her heart and the flames dancing in her eyes, big dreams, big hopes of faraway places and blessed feet bringing the Good News. And she wonders how to help you live where you are now, how to pour everything into you she wants you to have, how to connect you to home enough that you'll always long for it. So that when the time comes for you to run away with Jesus and wreck your life, and by consequence hers, you'll know who you are and where you come from. And you'll take it all with you and come back to it all when you need it.

And this is what I want to say you, darling. Let her. Let her your mama love you and teach you and lead you and guide you. Do the dishes when she asks. Camp out in the backyard with your brothers and laugh at their goofy jokes. Go on dates with your Dad. Share confidences with your sister. Plant a vegetable garden for you mom. Serve the poor in your own neighborhood until you know them by name. Do algebra and geometry problems with vigor. Read about history. Learn the lives of the saints and some solid theology. Make the waiting worth the while.

Because in all these things, the real lesson is this: Submit. Be obedient. Be faithful. And find joy in the ordinary. And do you know what, beloved girl? You're going to need to those lessons. If there is anything I wish, it is that I had allowed myself to learn them better than I did. We, the girls with the fiery spirits and drifting dreams and the wide eyes full of distant shores, we sometimes lose the forest for the trees. We sometimes forget that if we save the whole world and lose ourselves, it is all for naught. We drop the ball on our own sanctity in pursuit of the will of God. We worry so much about God's plan for our lives we forget to live it, to enjoy it. We strive so much for the extraordinary that we lose the grace of the ordinary. We forget that we serve a God who makes himself present to us in simple bread and wine. The greatest miracle in the most ordinary of things. And that we must live equally. We are hounded by the feeling of "not enough".

But, sweet Emma, whether God calls you to the married life, the religious life or the single life, living it will be all about those three lessons: submission, obedience and faithfulness. You will always be stuffing down the desire to do what you feel like doing in order to do His will. You will always be fighting the desire to rebuff wise counsel you know is right for the doing in the now. You will always be tempted to look for more, to want to be somewhere further doing something bigger, than to love what and who there is to love where you are in the moment. And the only thing that will keep you where you need to be is the daily discipline you have practiced over and over and over again of obeying the will of another.

Because you know what I want you to know, Emma? The mission field is more often like the drudgery of daily life at home than not. Only on steroids, Emma. The bathrooms stink more and more quickly. The dishes get dirtier and there is no dish washer. The clothes have to be washed earlier and put on the line and brought back in before it rains and if you forget to pay attention, you have to start all over again. And if you do that twice in a row, you find yourself at Mass in someone else's fuschia velveteen sweat pants and your husband's polo shirt. Ask me how I know, Em. Ask me.

You know what, sweet girl? Most days saving the world is a lot more like solving an endless string of algebra problems that it is like being Wonder Woman. Most days it looks a lot more like sore feet and itchy legs and toilet paper than needs to burned and someone at the door right when you were about to take a shower. And you have to have practiced a lot to know the order to put things in. To know whether to add inside the parentheses of your home first or multiply your giving first. To know whether to subtract time from chores or prayer before you divide yourself to serve. Know how many chapters to read and how many chapters to write and how many chapters to live in one day before you implode into emotional mush. You have to see the comprehension questions in the Word of God and know how to answer them, for the love. And you have to know when life demands a comma, a period, an exclamation mark or a question mark. You can't just live in all caps and never take a break.

And, Emma, your mama, she knows a thing or two about that. And she wants to teach you. Let her, sweet one. And don't regret a moment of it. Soak it all up. Because if God is doing in you what we all think He might be doing, one day you might be far away and full of the the world's pain and the love of Christ to the point of bursting, and you will want nothing more than a warm bath to soak it all out and someone to talk to. All you'll use the newest to gadget to send an S.O.S. to the world out there for a little love, a little encouragement to keep going and you'll hope and hope that your mentors and your friends will show up to cheer you on. And they won't, Emma, they won't. And your eyes will sting with the tears of loneliness and your whole body will hurt from the desire to just be held. And you'll have practiced. You'll have done your homework.

So you'll run to Jesus and you'll read His word and you'll sing His praise and you'll see Him in the simple bread and wine. And your faithfulness will be what gets you to other side. And your obedience will be what keeps you in the place He has you when you want to run. And your submission will be what lets you sit in that place and wait until He moves you rather than going your own way and screwing it all up.

And then, your little gadget will light up with a ray of encouragement to cheer you on. Someone will reach across the miles to be the balm your lonely heart needs. And do you know, what, Emma? 9 times out 10, it'll be your mama.

See this girl right here in this video? She is me at my core. She is who I always dreamed I would be. I'm forty, Em. Do you know how many of my days have actually looked like this? Only a fraction, my friend, only a fraction. But do you know what? Every time I get to live one, it makes the dishes and the mopping and the walking dusty roads and getting blank stares in return and the pain of loneliness and the suffering and the struggling so worth it. Do you know why? Because those things make me look like more like Jesus and less like me. They force me to give me up until He can shine through. And how awful would it be if I finally got to a day like this and brought them me instead of Jesus? I've done it enough to to know, Emma. It sucks. The pain of repentance is so much harder to bear than the waiting and the learning. Ask me how I know, Em. Ask me how I know.

Oh, and Emma, one more thing. Get ready, girl. Because after all that waiting, when He does finally move? Girl, it's like you don't what the heck hit you. You're all, "Wait, wait, wait a minute, Lord. I just need to get a few things together and catch my breath. I didn't finish Algebra yet!" And He's all, "Oh no, honey, we're going. Now." And all I can say is, hold on for the ride, Emma. Cling tight. Because it will be wilder and more glorious than you have ever imagined. And it will good, Emma. So, so good. And I hope I am  there to see it.

And, Em, if you're reading, will you let me make letters to Emma a regular part of my writing? I like talking to you. You help me think. You help get my thoughts together and get them out of my head where they're driving me crazy. And you know, Emma, I've got enough crazy to last me a lifetime.

With the greatest of Love, the peace that surpasses understanding and the highest Hope of all,
Mrs. Mitchell

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