Thursday, January 12, 2006

The price of being stubborn

I have three living children, and a number of babies in heaven. Despite my miscarriage problems, about which I could have done nothing, I have sometimes wondered how delightfully large our family would be if I had not been so stubborn in my youth and young adulthood.

No, wait ... an amendment. In my youth, I was ignorant. When I gained some knowledge, I became stubborn.

The ignorance came from a childhood that was without religion, other than the cultural trappings of Christmas and Easter and a generic mealtime prayer. But, as I grew up and began to ask questions about religion, the stubbornness crept in.

No, I will not be submissive.
No, I will not buy into Christian myths.
No, I will not enter the Catholic Church, which is patriarchal and oppressive.

Sigh. (Why hasn't someone invented an icon for sighing? I'll pay for one.)

My stubbornness kept me away from Christianity for a long time, and then away from the Catholic Church for an equally long time. What if I'd been more open? What if I'd let my guard down, and just tiptoed in that much sooner? What if I'd been open to children before the age of 30? (I talked a little about this in the "I'm so predictable" post.) While it's true that I probably would still have had miscarriages, who's to say what else would have happened in my 20's?

Two thoughts, and two previous writings, come to mind. One is that we can never judge a good Catholic family by the number of children. I'm not saying here that God punished me for my stubbornness. But, I am saying that there's a consequence, for good or for ill, for all of our actions and choices. One consequence of my early stubbornness is that my family is smaller than it might have been. That's a simple fact.

Which brings me to the second thought. Saying, "What if?" is not only not very helpful, it's often counter-productive. What I'm saying here is not that I'm wallowing in the "what-ifs" of my life. They do cross my mind, yes. But I'm not despairing. I'm simply recognizing that choices have consequences. I have paid a price for my stubbornness, and the blessing is that it makes me examine my current life choices all the more carefully. It forces me to think, pray, and act, rather than presume that "there will always be time."

For me, the time to homeschool is now. The time to be the best mother I can be is now. The time to pursue the closest relationship I can possibly have with God is now. The time to write is now.

I'm done with being stubborn. I've found freedom in submission to God, and it's a freedom I could not have believed, imagined or described when I was bound by my stubborn ways. But, describing the paradox of "freedom in submission to God" is another post, and I'm out of time for today. I may stubbornly want to stay here writing and reading, but God, Anne, Betsy and Ramona have other plans.


  1. I have three living children too, and three in my heart, all since our youngest was born. We had always hoped for a fourth, at least, and pondering life with six children on the farm brings a wistful smile.

    For me the "what if" is what if we had gone to the specialists in the big city and tried harder for baby number four. But with our life here out in the country, it would have meant moving our focus from the three children we do have to the one we hoped for; if I'd been even five years younger, we might have considered it harder. As you write, for me the time to be the best mother I can be, and to homeschool, is now. No regrets, now, though I still love to hold friends' babies.

  2. Ah, we all have the what ifs. What if I hadn't turned away from that booklet on joining the Catholic Church when I was 20. What if I had paid more attention to the Protestants like Mary Pride who were urging openness to life. What if I'd tried harder to urge my husband to have just one more try at having a baby instead of listening to advice from a family member?

    Well, who knows. But you are right, Karen, all we have is today. We will never know the what ifs. And for today I'm going to focus on no more procrastinating and no more resentments over other people's past decisions.

    We all pay the price for sometimes making God shout at us instead of listening when He calls with the still small voice. He was calling me to the Catholic Church from the time I was a little girl, I just didn't recognize it for the longest time. There did come a moment, however, twelve years before I finally became Catholic when I had an aha moment. I admitted to myself that eventually all serious Christians were going to have to be Catholic because all the other denominations were bailing on important truths. It made me angry because I didn't want to be Catholic. I misunderstood so much.

    So for today I'm trying to listen to the still small voice, I'm trying to pray for the children I have and the ones who are kids of my heart with parents of their own. And I'm also encouraging all of them, my own and the kids of my heart to do things God's way (unfortunately some of them are every bit as stubborn as some of us were).

    As for writing at the moment other than responding to blogs and continuing to whip one mouse tale into shape, I'm trying to begin several pot au feu type files with beginnings of random things, in hopes that one of them will ultimately begin to collect enough to amount to something (the Madeleine L'Engle approach to writing).

  3. Karen,
    Thank you for such a thought-provoking and real post. For me, the thought that the Holy Spirit keeps plopping into my lap in my reading and in family discussion is the truth that there is freedom in submission. That's so counter-cultural, isn't it?

    I'm also specially glad to be reminded again to look for the blessings in situations as you did when you say that the blessing is that it makes you examine your life choices more carefully now. My oldest is 12, but I'm already beginning to think in terms of "only 6 more years" and I want to continue to examine the choices I make as a parent.

    Thanks again for a great post. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your blog!
    God bless,

  4. Karen, from a recovered stubbornaholic (new word) this was great!! Very thought provoking! I'm totally loving all the Ramona humor, Beverly Cleary is at the Top of my 9 yo's list right now. She reads about 2/day or more if I leave her alone, lol! She's Violet on my blog. Keep writing, it's awesome!
    Hugs, Happyheartsmom

  5. Karen, this really touched me. Everything you write does, but this especially.

  6. Karen, I'm one of those people who, in my enthusiasm for large families, is probably insensitive to those with smaller families. I am so sorry if that is the case.

    The thing is, that I regret wasting time in my 20's too. Maybe I would have more children now had I not squandered those years.

    God Bless you and your very sweet family.

  7. Bridget,
    You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. God bless you and your family, too.