I have really struggled with the word “like” throughout my life. “You’re just like a daughter to me,” a few women married to my father have told me. And I have felt the weight of all four letters, observing how much “like” and “step” have in common. I have stabbed myself with the word over and over, wondering how I travel the long road from simile (“You are like a daughter to me”) to actuality (or at least metaphor) (“You are my daughter”).

One of the things I cherish about being Catholic is that I am no “like” a daughter, a woman, a mother, to anyone. I am. Mary is not like my mother; she is my mother. Jesus is not like my brother; He is my brother. God is not like my father; He is my father. I am not like forgiven, I am forgiven. I am not like guilty; I am guilty (and the confessional stands waiting).

I have major trust issues, and I could spend a lot of time telling you why I think I do. But it really doesn’t matter. I trusted enough to marry a man who holds my hand and reminds me, gently and constantly, that he loves me. I sit at the feet of a Savior who holds my head in His lap, strokes my brow, and assures me I am His. I am surrounded by companions on the journey who call me friend, daughter, mother, darling – and they mean it in the actual sense, no matter our relationship.

It was when I was stewing over my mother-in-law frequent “You are just like a daughter to me,” that I came across one of my favorite Old Testament stories: the story of Ruth. Ruth was not Naomi’s daughter, and she had no reason to leave the familiarity of her homeland, but she did. She did it based on the word “like,” didn’t she?

Then there’s the case of Joseph, who’s such a special saint in my life. He wasn’t really Jesus’ father. He was “like” a father, wasn’t he?

There’s glory in the role of “like,” honor in the service we can render when we are “like,” and joy in the gift we offer God.

I might have a chip on my shoulder, a sore spot in my heart, a semantic burden to carry, but the word “like” usually isn’t the sword I have seen it as all these years. It’s usually intended to be more of a pillow to cushion the fall or a ladder to boost you up. While I’m still not a fan of being “like,” I’m at peace now with the weight of my “like” roles. I’m in good company, company that can bolster me when the going gets tough (or when it gets “like” hell). I’m surrounded by a host of angels and saints who pray for me, and there’s a Guy who will whisper in my ear and guide me, if I let Him.

I guess “like” isn’t so bad after all.