Lately it seems that everywhere I look, I see the carelessness of my children: broken closet door, ruined ipad cover, ripped books. The croquet set has been abandoned and left out in the rain, and my children yank out towel racks from the wall as they practice their monkey bar skills.
“What were you thinking?” I criticize. “Why don’t you respect our stuff?!” I grumble. Not only does it take money that we don’t really have to fix, to replace, to restore, but also, I am not a handy person. My husband surely is, but his time with our family is worth its weight in gold. I hate to see it “wasted” on repairs.
As I sit back and reflect, I see that my Father surely loves me. For just recently, I decided to remove my first and only shellac manicure at home with acetone purchased from the drugstore. I had never done this before, but figured it would be quite simple. I laid out some paper towels, soaked my fingertips for ten minutes, and gently dried them on the paper towels. Piece of cake! As I went about cleaning up, I had to tug on the paper towels. No! But, yes. The paper towels were stuck on the black laminate of our new-to-us kitchen table. In at least 3 separate spots, the wood is damaged and the paint worn off. I couldn’t believe it, and quickly started calling myself an idiot and apologized profusely to my husband. My husband is a gem, and told me to stop calling his wife an idiot. He laughed as he explained that now he’d need to sand it down and paint it. He pointed out that it was only “stuff”. Who cares? Stuff doesn’t last forever.
I went upstairs so disappointed in myself, just as I am so often disappointed in my children. But how blessed was I to see God’s mercy through my husband?
In the arms of Blessed Mama, I see this humiliation as a gift. I fell into the same weakness that I was previously judging someone else. In the Our Father, I pray that I be forgiven my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me. In my situation, God was so merciful to me, gracing me with an outpouring of mercy despite my failure to be merciful to my children. This humiliation encourages me to be less judgmental of my loved ones, and to be grateful for my undeserved gift of God’s mercy.
I now see the “distressed” kitchen table as a reminder to be gentle with my children, who are really God’s children entrusted to me. This incident has helped me see the value in being an instrument of God’s mercy. The kitchen table is the focal point of our family life. Our days come and go around this table all day long. This humiliation is in plain sight, and lucky for me, I am reminded rather regularly of God’s merciful love for me.
This Lent has been successful in that I see my need for my Redeemer. I have struggled with my own perfectionism and my high expectations of my loved ones. I was not strong and faithful in my attempts to pray more, give more, fast more. But I have seen time and time again my helplessness and weakness and my true, desperate need for my Savior.
Some think that to be holy means to feel like you are perfect. In reality, however, it is entirely different; a saint see that he is pure ash, pure sin. Saints most fully recognize their own misery, and they have the most complete image of Jesus tormented by their sins. A saint see Christ suffering and considers himself the greatest sinner, the only perpetrator of all of His wounds. He knows that even if he were the only person to ever have lived on the earth, Jesus would still have had to suffer as much as He did.
On your way to holiness you too will see more and more clearly Who loves you and whom He loves. On this path, there are no prospects that you will be able to consider yourself perfect one day. On the contrary, you will be convinced that, if God did not hide the truth about you from others, then everyone would turn away from you, from such misery and lack of faith. Only when part of this reality begins to get through to you, will you begin to see better how unusual this Love, who pursues you, is. This Love is really the Only Love on whom you can rely. He is your only support.
(S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 96-97)
I pray we all have a very blessed Holy Week, full of great anticipation for the Joy of the Resurrection!