The night I first saw the film Full of Grace is one I won’t soon forget. It was a night of extreme paradox. We were invited to the premiere by my parents, who had purchased tickets for me and my 14-year-old daughter. It being a school night, I wrestled with the decision to bring her, but the promise of good media about the faith outweighed the practical concern of homework completion. She seemed elated that I was allowing her a night off. As we left the house to meet my mom and dad, a spirit of joy and anticipation filled the space between us.
Within minutes of arriving, that joyful spirit had all but disintegrated. Unexpected circumstances sent my daughter descending into a spiral of teenage angst, complete with yelling. Surrounding us were people I knew from church. I felt sure they were watching our exchange and my inability to control the situation. I felt sure they thought I had no place at a film about the Mother of God when, at present, I was actively earning my title as “Worst Mother Ever.”
As the film was about to begin, she took off to find a seat far away from me. I wanted to leave. While stewing in this emotional soup of anxiety, embarrassment and self-doubt, I heard a still, small voice within that told me to stay put. Due to plain exhaustion, my usually stubborn self listened and stayed. It didn’t take long to figure out why I was meant to be there.
The film portrayed the Church, ten years after the resurrection of Christ, standing at a crossroad. The disciples were faced with new challenges and confounding arguments. All looked to Peter for answers, for leadership and yet he felt he had none to give. With the advent of adolescence in my home, I too felt myself to be at a crossroad. Daily I faced new challenges and confounding arguments.
I was supposed to be the mom with the answers, but I felt as if I had none and was entirely convinced God had chosen the wrong person for the job. When Mary enters the story, she is portrayed as an anchor of support, compassion and wisdom for Peter at this juncture. She assures him of her belief in him and her confidence in God who chose Peter to be the rock upon whom He would build the Church.
“You doubt yourself…you ask yourself if you have what it takes to lead the way. The answer is no, you do not, but you aren’t leading, are you? You are following. He has already gone before you. The path has already been set. Follow it. Seek Him in all things and failure will be impossible.” These words Mary speaks to Peter are a catalyst for a significant shift in his focus. No longer is the burden to lead the Church his. He must only follow the Way. Mary’s words prompted a realization that I too need to shift my gaze to the One who chose me for motherhood, rather than focusing on my inadequacies for the job. Seek Him in all things and failure will be impossible. By this point, God certainly had my undivided attention.
As she nears the end of her earthly life, Mary gathers all of the wearied disciples around her. “Do you think your doubts and fears are unique to you today? They are not. The question is not whether we will struggle. We will struggle greatly. The question is to whom do we look to in the struggle? She describes the moment Jesus was born, when He first looked upon her. With the reckless love of a mother’s heart, she proclaims how her soul rejoiced at His birth, for salvation was upon her. She felt more alive than ever, as if every day before that day she had been living in a sort of half-life. Everything about her world changed on that day. Mary then asks of them, “Have you forgotten the first time you felt His gaze? Do you not keep that moment in your heart? Do you not treasure it every day? You cannot let the weight of this world outshine the light that you carry within.”
Recently after a particularly difficult series of days with my daughter, I evoked these powerful words from Full of Grace. They inspired me to search for a photo of a younger version of my girl. I needed a reminder of the cherubic baby with whom I instantly fell in love. I longed to see the sweet, creative, outgoing girl whose sparkly and big blue eyes spoke of joy and a zest for life. I yearned to glimpse again her heart overflowing with love for her mom.
Nowadays it is hard to find this girl. She is shrouded by the adversity and tribulations of adolescence. Her sweetness and free spirit are weighed down with the realities of trying to do this life with a diagnosis of both ADHD and anxiety. Her heart now cries out to be loved unconditionally, even as she directs her pain at me and rejects my attempts to show love. Watching her suffer and not being able to comfort her in the ways she once allowed have been the biggest crosses to bear as her mother.
Mary’s last words were the ones I most needed to hear standing at the crossroad where I found myself. She said of her Son, “You were formed in me…our hearts beat as one together, never separated…my own soul has rejoiced, has been saddened and crushed, bruised, bloodied, killed and resurrected.” If Mary suffered so greatly because of her love for Jesus, why should I expect motherhood to be any different for me? Full of Grace served to point the Way to the path that has already been set for me. Will my soul be bruised on this journey of motherhood? Definitely.
Yet the promise of resurrection is mine. May it be done to me, according to Your word.