“I love you!” “I hate you!”
“Come here.” “Go away.”
“You’re the best mom.” “You’re so mean.”
“Thank you!” “I don’t want this.”
Life with five kids has me feeling a bit beat up lately. Our household seems very up and down, but with too much drama for my taste. Everyone seems very needy and with my husband working crazy hours, I feel inadequate to be present to them all. I have been noticing how everything is a battle: homework, bedtime, extracurricular activities, prayer time. I feel like a ping pong ball, bounced around to deal with everyone’s issues or defiant moods. Why can’t we be kind to one another? Why all the poking each other, teasing one another? Why can’t everyone be in a pleasant mood all at the same time, at least for a few minutes or so?! I feel like my kids can be extremely disrespectful one minute, but then completely loving the next, acting as if our conflict never even happened – like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Last Saturday, it was our turn to host some friends over from our parish. We meet as families once a month for faith-sharing and a meal. We had planned an activity for the children about the fruits of the Spirit. My daughter and I went to the market and picked out twelve different fruits: pineapple, kiwi, strawberry…etc. and labeled each one with a different fruit of the Spirit. As we were preparing for the activity I couldn’t help but notice how lacking our domestic church was in terms of the action of the Holy Spirit. Gentleness? Self-control? Patience? Not lately. Two days later it seemed no coincidence that my daughter’s prayer book of daily reflections addressed the fruits of the Spirit. Even my kids noticed the same theme. So, we prayed for openness to these fruits, acknowledging our weakness and need to beg.
Later, I was reflecting on this blatant reminder to be open to the Spirit. At first I was sad about the missing fruits in our home, feeling that I was the primary cause, as a leader in our home. But, in our spirituality of living in Communion with our Blessed Mama, why should I be surprised? I so often treat my Blessed Mama the same way my kids treat me: begging Her to be with me one moment, and completely ignoring Her the next. I am grateful for my entrustment on the one hand, but then I am resuming reliance on self the next.
I can see how very much I am in need of the fruits of the Spirit, but instead of feeling discouraged, I can rejoice in the fact that our Blessed Mother is the Holy Spirit’s spouse. Instead of being frustrated, I can stand with empty hands. Yes, our domestic church is lacking the fruits of the Spirit. Yes, we lack self-control and are practically suffocated by our pride, but that is the very reason we must stand with Her before our Lord, with nothing to give except our misery. We cannot take any credit for any virtue, but perhaps with our ugliness before our eyes, we can grow in humility. Maybe then, and only then, will the Holy Spirit descend upon us and surprise us with His gifts.
“It is good for the rich man to acknowledge his poverty…Let him recognize that his hands are empty so that God can fill them.” St. Augustine
Our gesture of showing empty hands can be directed toward God not only in spiritual matters….but it can also indicate our attitude of awaiting everything from God. It should accompany us in everything we do in life: in work, in raising our children, in our influence on others, and in prayer. The gesture of empty hands should also accompany us when looking for the greatest of God’s gifts to come – the gift of Himself for He is Love that embraces us and in which we are immersed. (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 40.)