I’m going to let Jane Knuth speak for herself today. Here’s an excerpt from Love Will Steer Me True: A Mother and Daughter’s Conversations on Life, Love, and God.
Both Ellen and I are seeking answers, but we are not asking each other. At this moment, a world apart, the parent-child relationship is no longer the sweet sharing of victories, losses, and endless questions. The questions have stopped somewhere in the middle of my valuable advice, my thoroughly reasoned apologetics, and my avalanche of nagging. I have spent decades glimpsing Jesus in the writings of saints, in the mystery of forgiveness, in the ancient dialogue of liturgy, and in people who are suffering. This sheep-herding carpenter shows up when I need his strength, and waits patiently by when I muddle around with my unhelpful schemes for making myself and everyone else perfect.
Ellen doesn’t read the books I give her, she doesn’t attend Mass or go to confession. She is still the loving, giving person who will bend over backwards to cheer a person who is glum, who will make each new acquaintance into a friend, and who never clings to a grudge. She talks to Jesus, she acts like Jesus, but she doesn’t often want to come to his house. Jesus seems to be telling me not to worry about that too much, but I ignore his advice because he never worries enough for my taste.
There are no more chances to brace Ellen for a universe created of troubles and difficulties. I can no longer warn her against the creeping disaster of a hardened heart. She refuses to hear me telling her to guard against too much wanting and getting. Dean and I are left watching from a distance as she pulls away from us and—our biggest worry—away from God.
“Do you remember when I told you,” I begin slowly [talking to Dean], “how Ellen has been restoring that Buddhist shrine on the school grounds?” [Ellen is teaching school in Japan.]
“What do you think is going on with that?”
“I think she grew up with St. Francis in the backyard.”
I glance sharply at him. “But St. Francis and Buddha are not the same thing.”
“Shrines are a place to pray. . . . It doesn’t seem that different to me.”
“Sure it’s different: Mary and Francis are Christian, and Buddha is . . . Buddhist. Plus, the trees around the jizo have some kind of Shinto spirits attached to them.”
He nods. “You know what? You’re right. We need to create some balance on our side of the planet. One Francis is not enough to counter a jizo and several Shinto tree spirits. I’ve been thinking that it’s long past time for me to nail some theses to the front door—that should help.”
He grins at me sympathetically. “Don’t worry, Jane. Pray. Worry and prayer aren’t the same thing.”
“Okay, I’m trying. Anyway, I don’t like the way worry makes me feel.” For the next few miles, while Hail Marys chant through my head, I ponder the differences between worry and prayer. One thing I know for sure: I like the way prayer makes me feel. I like it a lot.
- When have you felt uneasy about the endeavors of an adult “child” in your life?
- Where have you found support as you pray—and try not to worry—about young people you care about?