I always thought when people talked about getting me to heaven it was going to be like having a little pep talk every day. Lots of, “You can do it!” “Thatta girl!” “Did you see how great you did just now?” and “Wow, you handled that better then you did last time.” “You’re doing great!”
That lasts about 5 seconds with kids. Or when I am left to my own thoughts.
There are times in this life where I feel like I’m being crushed. Not by those who are against me–that one I anticipated–I am blindsided when it comes from those challenging me to live a more virtuous life. The ones who are supposed to be lifting me up are doing it in a different way than I thought it would happen. Instead of lifting me up higher with lofty praiseworthy quotes about my awesomeness, they have laid a divine banana peel at my feet. And as I step on this slippery bugger, I watch as my seemingly good world is flung around me. As I lie flat on my back I no longer see my awesomeness but the ugly underbelly of my faults. I feel the pain of what being a fallen human being means.
It means I want praise. I want others to walk in and say,
“Wow! You look great! And your house is so clean! Is that a Liturgically/Biblically/Feast day themed dinner I see? And your children, they are so well behaved. Is your oldest singing the Our Father in Latin? Then there’s you, you did not just have a baby. You look incredible! I wish I had your life!”
But reality prevents this. My kids are wonderful. But kids don’t know the necessary compliments to lift their mother’s heart in times of distress. (Though the ‘I love you Mom’ ‘You’re beautiful’ and ‘You’re the best teacher ever’ make my heart overflow with joy and happiness I know that a tantrum is only a short time away). Kids only only know how to dig deeper. To force me to find a deeper resolve, a deeper level of giving, a deeper source of sacrifice and a deeper well of love. Whether it is to stand up in the face of their insistence that they are in charge and that they only like Dad now I know I must be stronger.
What is it that the Isaiah says, to ‘set his face as flint’. Yet, for me it would say, ‘her face was set as dry wood. One strike of a match and she would burn quickly.”
I know God is showing me my faults because I struggle with pride…a lot. I think that because I have a bachelors degree and a masters that teaching my own children should be a walk in the park. But the ugly truth is, I am afraid of not teaching them correctly, of failing them, of ruining their lives.
Fear and worry are painful things. Worrying about fear is even worse.
Instead of me teaching my kids about virtues, they are giving me a practicum in building virtue. They are teaching me that I am not perfect (despite all my justifications). That I have a lot of work to do to get to heaven. That I am weak. That I can’t do this on my own. And it is all true. With every tantrum I turn to the hidden chocolate cupboard. Hoping that the small dark chocolate and almonds will grant me one minute of reprieve.
But chocolate can only do so much.
Chocolate doesn’t strengthen my heart. It doesn’t give me the strength to face reality. When the bag is gone I’m left with one other alternative to draw strength from. God.
God is stronger than me.
He is stronger than my resolve.
He is stronger than my kids’ iron will.
He is stronger than my fears of failing.
He is stronger than my biggest weaknesses.
Yet, I fear going to Him. I know it makes no sense. Yet, God tends to be somewhat of a last resort. I mean, He’s busy and why would he want to help me with my kids? He’s got the world to deal with. In comparison, I should be able to handle a few toddlers. So, I figure I shouldn’t bother Him with my petty struggles. In fact, I would be stronger if I could show Him that I can do this on my own. I clean the house, do laundry, sustain the lives of my children and do lots of other things on my own. Why not this too?
This is craziness, I know. God is our loving Father and God is the one who tells us to “Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me and I will give you rest.” (Rest. *Sigh* Sweet Rest. What does that even look like anymore?) But He will also set me on fire, on fire for Him, for His love. The dry wood that I am is set to burn it just depends if I set it afire with my faults, failures and fears of if I let God set my heart ablaze with His love.
God does this on purpose. He makes us face our fears head on. But not on our own. Instead, He leads us. With our hands in His, He steps in front of us like a Father teaching a toddler to walk.
He sets the goal.
He steps in front of the fears that we see in the future so that we see only His face. He is who I am striving towards. With Him my path is set. And I know no matter how many times I fail, he will be their with his nail scarred hands to help me up. To tell me, “Be not afraid. Lean on me. I will help you. You cannot do great things without me. Let me help you.” Then like Mother Angelica said, with “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”