The Scourging at the Pillar
Fruit of the Mystery: Purity of Heart
We Learn to Mother by Mothering
by Mandy Mazzawi
When I was a young mother I was naive, selfish, self-centered, prideful and struggled daily to put the needs of my child before my own. I had left a good job back in D.C., it made me feel important and as though I was doing important things. So I just didn’t get this whole stay-at-home life that so many talked about through their rose-colored glasses.
It didn’t help that I was going through the very real and crushing burden of undiagnosed Postpartum Depression, which made me doubt myself at every turn and put me on a roller coaster of guilt and anger. During this time I was alone in rural Upstate New York, and barely knew a soul while my husband worked long hours as a campus minister. It was a lonely time, and not one I’m particularly proud of but a time where God held me so close while I struggled to mentally and emotionally survive.
Over the years, as we’ve welcomed more children, battled the grief of receiving a life-long diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy for our eldest, mourning the loss of one we never held as he went to join our Father in heaven, and struggled with the loneliness of being a special needs parent, I’ve learned the immense truth that the journey of motherhood is like a kind of scourge, slowly, at times painfully, cleansing me of my selfish, self-centered ways. Teaching me to lean heavily on a Father whose Love is so deep as to envelope all of my pain, whose Love is so rich and soothing to be a balm to my wounds, body and soul.
There has been great Joy too, on the heels of all this pain and grief – this scourge. Joy is often intertwined with grief I’ve found. Joy in seeing our oldest jump with both feet off the ground after a life-changing surgery, and the battle to get him to that point. Joy in knowing we have a child experiencing the Glory of God and praying specifically for our family. Joy in seeing God use this special needs journey for His Glory and the edification of so many who are following in our footsteps.
As I reflect on the second sorrowful mystery I think how fortuitous that the fruit of this mystery is Purity of Heart. Free from all burdens of selfishness, all self-centeredness, all pride Jesus went obediently to the pillar, offering up his body for us. His heart pure of all our earthly struggles.
He gifted himself to us, not just on the cross but in every step leading to the cross.
Not unlike the journey of motherhood:
The giving of our skills, talents and resources daily.
The giving of our sanity and “me time”.
The giving up of career moves and income.
The giving during exhaustion and pain.
The giving during frustration and loneliness.
The giving of our very bodies for our children and our family.
Looking back on those early years of motherhood, I realize just how much they have shaped me, how the scars have left me re-molded into a new person, heart exposed and experiences laid bare. Through these scars, slowly and steadily God has been purifying my heart. Showing me my selfishness and self-centered ways, teaching me instead how to be obedient and selfless through examples of holy women He has placed in my life through the years. I have no doubt those women went through a similar scourging and through their Purity of heart, their obedience, I learned.
I learned the beauty in simple moments that pass by too quickly, a giggle or a look of wonder flashing across my child’s face. The Joy in a cup of coffee with a friend who ends up pouring their heart out to you, seeking connection to anchor them as their world wildly tilts. The Love that can be found in forgiveness, not just of others but of ourselves, freeing us from years of guilt and anguish. I learned that being humble is so much more than thinking lowly of yourself but is in recognizing that without God we are nothing, truly nothing, yet with Him we are made worthy – we are deeply Loved and sought after by Him. I learned that struggling is okay and sharing that journey with others is better than okay. I learned that this journey of motherhood, this journey that stretches our hearts to their limits, is exactly the journey God called me to.
It is a daily struggle and this scourge is by no means done, perhaps that is where the naivety has finally worn off, but through this purification of my heart I’ve found the beauty between the ugly moments, I’ve found the value in taking things step by step and in trusting God to lead the way. I am by no means free from being selfish or prideful, I daily try to offer up my weakness, my prideful nature and ask the Lord of all creation to redeem them for His Glory as Jesus redeemed us on the cross but I fail as often as I succeed, maybe more so.
It’s in my failings that I think of this quote by St. Francis de Sales “You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so you learn to love by loving.”
And just so, we learn to mother by mothering, we learn Purity of Heart by journeying.
About Mandy: Over the years Mandy has worn many hats, from helping assemble reports on science policy at the National Academies of the Sciences, to working on the board of a special needs advocacy group, and becoming a children’s advocate for abused children, but by far her favorite role has been being mom to her 3 children ages 10-4 and wife to her loving husband, Joe.
You can find her @mustardseedsandwildflowers on Instagram writing about her experiences as a Catholic convert, life as a special needs Mom, reflections on God’s Love and finally accepting, with Joy, the most important vocation He has placed in her life – becoming and raising saints.