If you're part of the circles I am, you hear that phrase a lot. It's what we promise at the start of our marriages, it's what we pray about most every month of our married life until our child-bearing years come to an end, it can sometimes be the guilt that hangs over us if we choose to abstain for whatever reason, or the sorrow that plagues us if our openness is not fulfilled with a child.
In my own married life, openness has largely meant waiting. Whenever I have felt ready for a baby, I have waited...sometimes as short as seven months, or as long as fourteen months - still just small bumps in the road compared to those I know who are still waiting, years after they gave their "yes." Five years in and two babies later, I often feel we're on the "slow train" of openness to life...that if we had been given a child every time we said yes, we'd be one of those Catholic families with stair-step children in a row: we'd be in the trenches with those moms of large families, talking about all the awful things people say to us and pricing out 15 passenger vans.
But I'm in a different place right now. I have two small children that I endeavor to love and support through this cross-country move; two little beings that I try to be rock and soft place to, while we all mourn the loss of our home and find a new one in this place that is so different and so beautiful. It is requiring a great deal of me - sacrifices that I am reluctant to give. I am having to make peace with being temporary, when my role in this family is to provide a sense of permanence. I miss Florida and the surety I had raising my children in my home state. There was a strength I drew from its very soil, knowing that I was chasing diapered babies in the same land that my mother, grandmother, and so on did.
In my desperate attempts to find permanence, I sometimes cling to rigidity and mistake it for strength. God help me, it is making me more closed to my children - and here is where it comes in, again, that openness to life. Openness to the lives I have under my care, right now - that's a calling too, that's a promise I made too, when I invited God to give us life. Openness to teaching the same lesson, day after day, because learning takes time. Openness to a child's strong emotions and push back, without letting it ruin my peace and calm. Openness to silliness without mistaking it as defiance, to bluster without seeing it as rudeness, to a certain amount of chaos that I must be able to oversee and overlook with calm compassion.
In this season, the thought of another life is a bit intimidating - sitting here, in my 900 sqft apartment, with most of my things still in deep storage, and my heart still raw - but that doesn't negate my calling that already exists. I can be open to the life I have now and surely God can make this season one of fruitful waiting.
"The soul of woman must be expansive and open to all human beings, it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds; empty of itself, so that in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call."