Thursday, February 11, 2010

Something That Will Last Forever

"Best Friends!" Her sparkling blue eyes looked up into my face with delight. "Best Friends," I replied and snuggled her in a little closer. At two, Anna is taking off with language and is beginning to understand the warmth and depth of love. Toddler love is so pure; conflicting emotions have not yet set in to muddy the waters.
No doubt, being a mother is my life's greatest joy. But it is hard. Very hard. Labor does not end with birth. Some days I must labor to give birth to a kind word or smile. Everyone knows that staying up with a sick child is exhausting. Cleaning up incessant messes, wiping snotty noses, listening to tattles, all the inconveniences and frustrations of motherhood certainly tire out the best of mothers.
I would venture to say, however, that these are not the frustrations that weary most mothers. I was reading in my Magnificat the other day something that St Augustine wrote: "There is what you have to get hold of, brothers and sisters, and it's certainly little enough.We are striving for great things; let us lay hold of little things, and we shall be great. Do you wish to lay hold of the loftiness of God? First catch hold of God's lowliness. Deign to be lowly and humble on the same account, yours not his own. So catch hold of Christ's humility, learn to be humble, don't be proud."
I have thought a lot about this the last couple of days. It occurred to me that motherhood is so hard because it requires a tremendous amount of humility: the humility to serve our children day in and day out, the humility to go about our days with all the infinitesimal details of raising children and not feel the work is beneath us, the humility to realize that wiping a fanny cheerfully is just as sublime as teaching our children to write a Sonata.
All my reflections on the importance of humility in motherhood came to a head this evening. I was putting the children to bed after another long, snowed-in day. I was nursing the baby to sleep, with Sam lying next to me. Tommy came in and wanted someone to cover him up and tuck him in. As I couldn't easily get out of bed, I asked Sam to please tuck his brother in. Sam was quite cozy himself and did not want to get up. Meanwhile Tommy started whimpering and getting frustrated. I have to tell you that at these moments I feel like I am on the last leg of a twenty mile race. I got upset with Sam because he wouldn't just do this little thing to make life easier for me! I expected him to jump out of bed and do the mothering. Yes, it would have been nice for him to do that. And on many nights he would have.
Unfortunately, I gave into my frustrations. I huffed out of bed, muttering something to Sam about his not helping me. I covered Tommy up and huffed back into bed. Sam, our sensitive little guy, was really upset by this point. I apologized to him, and we had a fruitful discussion about the whole episode. We then went on to read and the evening ended peacefully.
At that quiet time of night, when all the children were bedded down, I was reflecting on what had happened with Sam. I realized that this was one of the hundreds of little exchanges that happen throughout the day that require humility. In this situation I could have put Anna down for two minutes to give Tommy a tuck and hug. She would have been perfectly fine, and the situation would have been resolved peacefully.If I recognize my true calling in Christ to serve others with love, then I should never tire of serving my children heroically.
Josemaria Escriva puts it so well: "Good gold and diamonds lie far down in the depths of the earth, not within every one's reach. Your task of holiness-your holiness and that of others depends on your fervor, your cheerfulness, your everyday, obscure, normal, ordinary work." He goes on to say, "In our ordinary behavior we need a power far greater than that of the legendary King Midas, who changed all he touched to gold. We have to change, through love, the human work of our usual working day into the work of God: something that will last forever." My prayer for us, dear mothers, is that we are able to take the labor of our days and with God's grace fashion it into something beautiful for Him. I'll leave you with one final thought from Escriva:" Your life cannot be the repetition of actions which are monotonously all the same, because the next one should be more upright, more effective, more full of love than the last. Each day should mean new light, new enthusiasm for Him!"