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Letting Go Of Preconceived Notions


Editor’s Note: Returned missioner Claire McGarry reflects on learning to embrace life for what it actually is instead of getting caught up in what she thought it would be. 

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”  Matthew 11:13-14

I led an adventurous life before kids.  I backpacked Europe and South America for months on end, served as a missionary in Guatemala for three years through Franciscan Mission Service (FMS), and worked a plethora of interesting jobs. But all along, what I wanted most was a family: eight kids to fill my home with laughter and love.

When that dream started coming true, it wasn’t the vision I had at all.  Like the missions and the military, I knew motherhood was the toughest job I’d ever love.  However, I wasn’t prepared for the mind-numbing repetition, years of interrupted sleep, and the endless list of demands.  Moreover, I wasn’t the mother I always envisioned I’d be.  I always thought I’d be more fun, more spontaneous, more patient, a million more “mores.”  I had only three of the eight kids I had wished for, yet I was still struggling to get through the days because motherhood was not what I had expected it to be.

Similarly, John The Baptist was not the Elijah people expected him to be.  When they envisioned a prophet, they saw someone well kept, finely dressed.  Instead, when they looked with their eyes, they saw a scraggly man dressed in clothes made of camel hair, eating locusts and wild honey: not a match for their preconceived notions at all.  Therefore, they missed hearing his message, missed being led to Jesus.

The only ones who could accept John as the “Elijah who was to come” were those who looked with their hearts.  It’s the only vision that sees beyond preconceived notions to what truly is.  Consequently, John was able to point these people to Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Time and hard earned wisdom has shifted my perspective.  I eventually learned that I had to let go of my preconceived notions of how I thought motherhood should be.  Now grace allows me to look at my life through the lens of my heart, to see it as it truly is: a life filled with three beautiful children who are my very own little prophets.  For when I am open to it, their unconditional love and right vision lead me closer to God than I have ever been.

Reflection Questions:

  • How does my life look different now from how I envisioned it would be?
  • Have I accepted my life as it truly is?  If not, can I pray for the grace to do so?
  • If I look through the lens of my heart, who are the prophets in my life pointing me to God?


Claire McGarry_headshot

Claire McGarry is a former FMS missioner, mom of three young children, and the founder of MOSAIC of Faith: a ministry through which she offers evening retreats and monthly groups for moms, service projects for kids, and a weekly mommy-and-me program.  She posts weekly at “Shifting My Perspective” where she writes about how Scripture always gives her a new way to look at the challenges in motherhood, and life in general, to see the gifts in their midst.  You can visit her blog at www.shiftingmyperspective.com.

*Featured image: adaptation of photo by Pixabay user Wokandapix – labeled for reuse

Franciscan Mission Service often invites guest writers to contribute to the blog. Contributors often include board members, formation leaders, Secular Franciscans, Franciscan friars and sisters, and other friends of the organization. If you would be interested in contributing, please contact info@franciscanmissionservice.org.