When did This Mother Superior Pass Away?

Because I am a mother and a pastor, my children used to call me, “Mother Superior”.  As a matter of fact, that is how my youngest son would address my birthday and Mother’s Day cards.  Who was I to correct him? By the way, did you know that my middle name is Pope.  That is a fact.

For a Mom, so often torn between parenting and pastoring, that name “Mother Superior” was my favorite gift.  It was a dozen orange roses. It was breakfast in bed and a foot massage.  It was a home cooked meal prepared, served and cleaned up by somebody else.

In fact, Chris’ construction-paper cards addressed that way were his wink with a kiss.  I felt like it was his way of saying, “You’re no Mother Theresa, but your love for me is superior”.  I didn’t need anything else.  Then he grew up.

When Chris turned seventeen, things changed.  He began to separate from me.  He barely spoke.  He forgot to share his calendar. No longer did he have time for a shared meal.  I get it.  Self-differentiation is the work of adolescence.  Yet to say it wasn’t a struggle for me would be like saying that the Rock of Gibraltar is just another pebble.  Am I the only mother who went through this?

At some point, this Mother Superior passed away.  I don’t remember the exact date.  All I know was that I wasn’t even invited to the Memorial Service.

Before that, Chris and I would go out many Sunday nights.  It was just the two of us.   He would finish his homework, as he ate.  I would simply eat and offer my assistance if required.  I would take deep breaths after a long week.  Basically, we would re-connect after too many over-scheduled days.

However, during his senior year of high school, he did his thing; I did mine.  We barely spoke.  I don’t remember heated arguments.  I just remember silence, blank stares and the question quota.

That’s right. He thought I asked too many questions.  Can you imagine a mother doing that? Well, he thought I did. So, he imposed the question quota. I was only to ask so many questions before he shut down.

In my defense, I was still interested in his comings and goings. I wanted to know with whom he rode.  I wanted to know what he was thinking.

I didn’t ask questions out of suspicion, most of the time. I was genuinely interested. Looking back, I realize I was still craving the long talks. I craved his need for my help. I missed the invitation to scratch his back. Yet, he was growing up and growing away.

Chris is now 21.  He is a stellar son.  He is in college, figuring out his core values and passions.  Though I wish he called more, he participates in required family gatherings. For instance, this past Easter Sunday, he came to church for worship and the annual family photo. He didn’t growl or grumble. He was on time!

Yet, under his breath during Easter lunch, he muttered something about going to Europe in a few weeks. “whhaat”? I wanted to shout? Instead, I chose to be thrilled.  I refrained from asking ANY questions. I simply said with great joy, “tell me more”!

I said, “Wow! Clearly, you’ve been resourceful. It sounds like you’re pursuing one of your dreams”. I expressed pride in his initiative. Then, he showed me pictures and shared more details.

Yesterday, while I was at church, Chris called me from Barcelona, Spain.  With great animation in his voice, he shared some of the highlights from his travels.  He called ME.  He didn’t ask for money.  He simply wanted to share some of his comings and goings.

Maybe this Mother Superior had to die for a new relationship to rise. I hate to admit that. It was a slow death. The good news, however, is that the pressure has been lifted. These days I’m satisfied to be Mom.

What does partnership really look like?

I am sad to say that my partner in ministry for the last nine years, Pastor Tom, is retiring at the end of June.  We have been a great team: yin and yang, extravert and introvert, female and male. To say “it has been a great ride” is an understatement. At times, he has been my calm in the storm. At times, I have been the match that lit his feet on fire.  Tom has been my colleague, my pastor and he will forever be my friend.

A few weeks ago, Tom sent a letter to the congregation announcing his retirement.  It was well received. We are now busy trying to create a celebration worthy of his impact, yet subtle enough for his approval.

Shortly after his letter went out, I got an email from a church member.  He was sad to receive the news of Tom’s retirement, but ready to join the celebration for his ministry.  It was a supportive email and I appreciated receiving it.  It was the P.S. that made me chuckle.

He wrote, “P.S. after Tom retires, maybe you’ll get to be the Big Cheese”.

On paper, I am the Lead Pastor.  At first, I wanted to chalk up the confusion to sexism or age-ism.  Tom is older than I and has accumulated more years of service.  Still, I wanted to huff and puff, then burn my bra!  I immediately heard Helen Reddy’s song in my head, “I am woman, hear me roar”. It was followed by the chorus of “We shall overcome”.

Then I took a deep breath and decided to look at the comment from a different perspective.  Once I did that, all I could do was be grateful.  The truth is, I aspire to be a team player, NOT the Big Cheese. Let me explain.

I am an identical twin.  We are hilariously competitive and the very best of friends.  Growing up, she was the short stop when I played second base.  There was nothing sweeter than making a double play.  It was about knowing each other so intuitively that we had a rhythm that was successful most of the time.  Of course, there was the occasional over-throw and the dropped ball.  Let’s tell the truth. No partnership is perfect. Yet, isn’t that the kind of relationship for which we’re all striving?

Years ago, I was on Match.com.  Yes, I admit it.  I wouldn’t say that from the pulpit, but this blog is different. I intend to get real.

On my profile, I wrote, “I am looking for a short stop to my second base and a lifetime of double plays”.  It was pretty descriptive. Don’t you think?

You see, from the very beginning, I was created as a partner.

All of this is to say, I am sad to see my colleague retire from our partnership though I promise to love him forward.  It is also to say that I am proud that the lines of our titles were blurred.  It doesn’t matter who did what.  It doesn’t matter who got credit, or who specifically got the rare blame.  What matters is the partnership of symbiosis.  What matters is the mutual respect and the appreciation of each other’s unique strengths. What matters is nine years of double plays.

Do me a favor.  Look at the partnerships in which you are involved.  Do you have symbiosis?  Are the lines of leadership sometimes blurred?  Are you equally satisfied to lead and to follow?  Do you have mutual respect and the ability to forgive the occasional over-throw or dropped ball?

It’s time to look at partnership in a new way.