Mary Poppins has been on my mind a lot lately. I think it might have something to do with what I read the other day about the “Ideal Woman”. You know how it goes: Suzy Homemaker, clean and organized, beautifully decorated home, hair done (with no oatmeal in it), nice outfit with matching shoes (They do make an outfit, after all!), a song and a smile on your lips, ever patent with your children, a nice, healthy, well-rounded diet…etc. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds “Practically Perfect In Every Way.”
I fall short of that.
Why exactly do we put so much pressure on ourselves? I don’t really know. Thankfully, my own desires and expectations for my personal womanhood are constantly and slowly being transformed. Recently, as I’ve been more aware of this transformation, I’ve realized how much I want to share that with other women. Deeply moved when I hear other women being hard on themselves, I ache to offer encouragement.
The vision we as women tend to have for ourselves, though good, is not always God’s vision, or is often only a part of His vision for us. That’s hard to accept at first, because we are comfortable with our vision, and we can see it in it’s entirety. God’s vision-that’s a little scarier. We can only see it partially. Maybe we can’t see the beauty in His vision. Maybe his vision is bringing us suffering that seems utterly unbearable. But, His vision for us and our womanhood is wonderfully perfect (Much better than “Practically Perfect”). It’s perfect for us. And, though He wants us to be perfect (“Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”), it’s in an entirely different fashion than most of us think…
As Catholic and Christian women we strive to follow the Blessed Mother Mary with her “…profound humility, her lively faith, her blind obedience, her continual mental prayer, her mortification in all things, her surpassing purity, her ardent charity, her heroic patience, her angelic sweetness, and her divine wisdom…” (St. Louis De Montfort).
And we fall way short of that-often becoming quite overwhelmed and disappointed in ourselves!!
But that’s okay. For one thing, God knows we are sinners and so does she. But the falling and rising again in striving to emulate Mary are still most pleasing to God. For another, Mary is not just a model or image. She’s our Mother! And, she’s a tender one at that. She even understands our messy house and our struggling marriage. She gave birth in a dirty, smelly barn. Joseph wanted to divorce her. Their child was not of his flesh. Can you even imagine being married to a man less virtuous than yourself?? And, let’s face it. Though she was perfect because she was sinless, her motherhood was still wrought with human weakness–She lost Jesus in the temple, and it took her quite some time to realize He was missing. As far as her example goes, we’ll always fall short. Yet, each of us as women of faith so beautifully reflect her. And she shines through each of us in different ways, so that when we look at each other with love, we see our Mother right there in the hearts of the women we are surrounded by.
The image of Mary Poppins is just that: an image! She’s not real. Yet, we so often set before ourselves ideals that are not only unattainable, they aren’t even real! And we can, and often do, fail to see other women as they truly are. It doesn’t stop there. We start to compare ourselves…to the false images we’ve made of them. I’m not exempt. I admit, there are times when I see other women, and I marvel that they seem a whole lot closer to perfection (internal and external) than I am. This is bad. It often leads to resentment that is ridiculously unwarranted, and I miss out on who these women really are. And therefore, I miss out on the gift that they are. Furthermore, I don’t give them a chance to reveal where they are broken, and those broken places are most often the places where God’s glory and beauty most radiantly shine through. And if that’s true of them, it’s true of us too: That we are beautiful in spite of our weakness and brokenness.
In fact, maybe we should make that our image of womanhood: Weak and Broken!
I was struck by the homily at Mass this past Sunday. It was given by a newly ordained priest. He offered to us his vision of his priesthood: That he can be like the Host he holds in his hands, the Host he consecrates. The Host that becomes really and truly Jesus Christ present in all His glory, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. That he can be weak and broken so that the power of Jesus Christ, the power that was perfected in taking on human weakness, can work through him.
There’s God’s vision for our perfection!! “Power made perfect in weakness!” (2 Cor 12:9) Let me offer another Mary we can look to, one who was very much weak and broken…
A great sinner, yet she became a saint. A woman not necessarily of high ideals, but full of passionate, passionate, passionate love!!!! Love which “covers a multitude of sins”!!
If you find yourself struggling with brokenness and weakness, with feelings of inadequacy, not able to keep up with the demands life places on you (material as well as spiritual), overwhelmed by your sins and shortcomings, struggling to keep going-to keep working at deeper intimacy with Christ, take heart. You’re not alone. You have two, beautiful, compassionate, LOVING Mary’s to turn to. You have Mother Mary! You have Mary Magdalene!
And, I’m rooting and praying for you too. 🙂