Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican
Bathe me, Jesus Lord, in what Thy bosom ran
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.
Adoro te devote, Saint Thomas Aquinas
The pelican in her piety is a beautiful ancient legend of a mama pelican pecking at her breast to feed her own flesh to her chicks in the face of a famine. In Catholicism it became a symbol of Jesus giving himself to us in the Holy Eucharist, but I also find it comforting as a mama. I’m weak in accepting the responsibility that’s been offered to me. I’ve fought so hard against doing this on my own. I’ve wasted precious time looking over my shoulder for someone to step up and take accountability. When I look at her, I feel I can almost grasp what the courage of a single mama looks like.
It is, at it’s core, the courage to make yourself the lowest person in your story…to the point of bowing out if you must…a virtue also known as humility.
But how far will I be asked to go?
To the nth degree
And if no one ever catches me when I fall?
Get back up. And do it better. Harder. Stronger.
As a kid I was terrified of everything; roller coasters, airplanes….any situation I wasn’t in control of. I watched from the sidelines while my friends ran through haunted houses and rode bikes down ginormous hills, happy to observe others doing brave. In marriage I left major decisions to my husband. I didn’t have the courage to decide where we should live or what kind of car we should drive. He always seemed so certain about what was best for us. I never had a clue.
But then there was no husband.
And no one to do brave for me.
And one Saturday nearly 4 years ago I’m in my car in the grocery store parking lot fighting for air. Bills from surgeries and doctors’ visits to fix my baby girl’s broken arm erased the small cushion we may have had…and the cashier tried her best to politely tell me we could try my card again. And I’m thinking of a few months before that day, at a different grocery store, when the same thing happened to a woman in front of me. I had a solid 3 seconds to decide if I would help her.
I chose no.
Because single mamas raising babies alone get a pass…right?
Hadn’t enough been asked of me?
How foolish and childish I was.
And back in that parking lot, I didn’t feel panic or fear as that woman likely did. Because I had a mama and a daddy I could call if I had to. And friends who would help if I just asked. I felt pure, unadulterated anger. So I did what any irrational, immature person would do…I called him. And through tears and anger I screamed and begged and pleaded with him to be a father. To help us just this once.
It’s easy to express to anyone who will listen how we think the world ought to be.
Much more difficult to live how we ought to live.
There’s no courage in telling someone how they ought to be living.
So that day, after I hung up on him and felt my life spinning away from my grasp, I swallowed my pride and called my mama and said “I need help”. The world didn’t come crashing down. No one thought I was a terrible mother. Was it how I thought it ought to be…two parents taking responsibility for their children? No not really.
God had a different story.
And slowly, over the last 4 years, as I’ve let go of my need to bend life exactly how I think it should be, it’s gotten easier to surrender my will and become lower in my story.