The Gospel this week begins with Jesus’s spoken words that at first made me fairly uncomfortable. “Jesus said to his apostles: ‘Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’” (Mt 6:37). I understand that I am to love God more than anyone or anything. However, the tone of these words seems to imply that it is possible to love my parents or my children too much. This goes against every instinct that I have as a mother. But when I read the whole gospel several times, another meaning became clear to me. It is more about the choices we make in our life, and who influences them.
In 1987, when I was twenty-one, the doctor informed my husband, Bob, and me that we would not be able to have children of our own. We were living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the time, a whopping ten and a half hour drive from our hometown of Topeka, Kansas. We were devastated. My youth minister husband worked long hours, leaving me either to stay home alone or to tag along to his events. Neither option appealed to me. I missed my family, and frankly, I needed my mom. In the spring of 1989, Bob was offered a youth ministry job in Leawood, Kansas, which would place us less than an hour from family. Bob loved his job at Divine Redeemer, so he turned it down. I cried and flailed my arms a lot as I communicated my disapproval of his decision. Thankfully, he changed his mind and within a couple months, we were on our way to our new duplex in Olathe.
If one would analyze this decision from the outside, he or she would be outraged that we made such an irresponsible decision. We had purchased a house less than a year before in a market, which at the time, was pretty much dead. It would be nearly impossible to sell our house. There was no way we would be able to pay both mortgage and rent payments. Our parents must have thought we were young and stupid. Maybe we were. However, what prompted our decision was not just my will to be closer to home. It was as if God said, “Go.” We knew that the people closest to us would not understand this decision and would judge us harshly. We just knew that for some reason, God was calling us back to Kansas.
About six months later, a fellow parishioner approached Bob asking if he knew anyone considering adoption. Miraculously, five weeks later we were on our way to a Missouri hospital to pick up our newborn daughter. God needed to move us from Colorado to a parish in Kansas so we could be in contact with the person who would lead us to our baby.
The Gospel then says, “and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (MT 6:38–39). Infertility was a tremendously heavy cross to bear. Neither of us wanted it. In fact, at the time I felt as if I were living my worst nightmare. Bob remained faithful. For me, remaining faithful was extremely difficult. However, our obedience to where God called us rewarded us beyond anything we could have imagined. We lost the life we dreamed of when we were diagnosed infertile. But then we found a life that far exceeded our dreams.