I wish I could blow this picture up to take up the entire screen. This is the story of my life:
I recently went to confession and the priest asked me, “What do you think is at the root of your sins?” I knew instantly what it was. The answer lodged itself in my throat. I didn’t want to say it out loud. I was afraid that if I did the tears I had been struggling to hold back would break free. But the fact remained. The root of much of what holds me back spiritually is rooted in one little word. Failure.
God has given me great missions in this life i.e. being a wife and mother. Two of the highest callings He has to offer me. And I fail at them. Constantly. This concept is new to me. In school, I was one of those students who never really had to work hard. Most subjects came easy to me and those that did make me work were the ones I was most passionate about so I wanted to do the extra work.
Parenting isn’t a college course.
There is no textbook to reference or physical tests. Yet, day after day I fear that if God could hand me a grade on the amount of virtue gained by myself or imparted to others, the growth in knowledge of Him, the openness to the heavenly graces He has to offer in prayers and the sacraments, etc. my paper would have a big fat ‘F’ on it.
At the end of the day the moments of failure stick out as glaring beams in my spiritual eye.
I wasn’t patient.
I yelled at the kids…a lot.
I failed to impart more knowledge onto my kids.
I spent half my day putting away the same ten toys only to have them left on the floor because I got too tired at the end of the day to pick them up again.
Regardless of my intentions it was leftovers for dinner again.
I dreaded the painful demands of my children’s voices resorting in hiding in the bathroom for ten minutes.
I had mental fights with my husband before he ever came through the door.
Yes, yes, I used the t.v. as a babysitter to check Facebook and have some quiet.
No, the laundry isn’t done…or the dishes in the sink.
There are times I wonder if there is someone better out there, better equipped than myself to be in this state of life.
When I was younger this person was always my older and closest sister. As good as I thought I could do, she always managed to do better. You know that phrase ‘the grass is always greener on the other side?’ Yup, she was the other side of my fence. I would look longingly at her patch of grass and sigh. Why couldn’t I be more like her? Think like her? Look like her? Do what she does as well as she did it?
It came to one simple thought: I was not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not creative enough. These thoughts drove me to other things that I thought I could succeed in writing, theology, work, etc. Anything that seemed like I could have relatively easy success in to feel better about myself. But one by one each of these areas slipped through my fingers.
Deadlines passed, theological knowledge once vivid in my memory faded behind the story books of my children (I can’t tell you about all the Kings of Israel after the divide of the kingdom but I can recite Bubbles Bubbles on demand), and all the work I performed was not enough to receive the affirmation I desired that…drum roll please…that I was enough.
As I contemplated the graces of the sacrament on my drive home God’s heavenly dump truck ran smack into me.
“By what standards are you measuring your success?”
In my mind I admitted to myself that I had given up success on the eternal level awhile ago. Always looking into other people’s spiritual fields I would see lush green lives full of joy and innocence in their love of the Lord. Whereas mine has been killed under the hot sun of self-scrutiny. The truth still remained, I was not enough. I had to make something of myself in order to be wanted, to be loved and to be a saint in God’s heavenly court.
I know I am not alone in this. Many in the Bible and the saints have thought that someone else would better fit the missions given them by God. Moses told God that Aaron would probably be a better mouthpiece and leader for God’s people. St. Juan Diego thought perhaps a nobleman would be a better messenger of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s messages. Even Mother Angelica wondered why God would choose her to fulfill His mission for a television network and religious order in the southern United States.
There is a gaping difference between these people and me. They, like me, were well aware of their weaknesses, ineptness and failures. This was not seen as a crippling blow to their missions. Instead, they persevered and come through the other side of holiness. Not on their own accord through God’s grace. In regular terms, they said, “God, if you want this to be done and me to do it then you are going to have your work cut out. Direct me and I will follow. Show me and I will go. Tell me and I will act.” They were completely reliant on the grace of God to overcome their weaknesses. And He did.
Now, it is my turn.
“You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope?…Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to him and do not be afraid!”
~Pope Francis September 2015