There have been times in my life when my faith overwhelms me. Some days I can look at a Crucifix and feel so close to Christ that my body trembles and my eyes brim with tears. Sounds a wee bit dramatic, I know, but it’s happened.
Unfortunately, most of the time I’m waiting for the tears of joy and the absolute belief that Christ is my friend and is truly with me as I go about my daily life.
Lately I’ve not only been longing for lightning bolts – I’ve simply been hoping to be able to say a prayer without my mind wandering or without a toddler telling me she has to use the potty. I long to have a day where I am filled with the Holy Spirit instead of just fumbling through my day, picking up crushed Cheerios from the carpet I just vacuumed or changing the seventeenth blowout diaper while wondering where God’s promised graces are hiding as I lose my patience again.
During a recent phone conversation with my mom, she overheard crying. It was my 3-month-old, who was gnawing on her fist apparently famished despite having been nursed about an hour ago, but Mom mistakenly thought the sobs belonged to my toddler Madeline.
“Is Maddy okay?” she asked.
“Probably not. Not after the way I treated her yesterday.” I burst into tears.
I proceeded to tell Mom about an all-time low I reached in the trenches of motherhood. After a long day when my husband was on call and no reinforcements could relieve me, I lost it with Madeline and was reduced to a screaming mess. Without delving into too many of the dirty details, my hollering was in response to a potty accident that involved a long trail of poopy footprints.
“Mom, I was so scared by the suddenness of my rage. I’ve never been like that,” I whispered, afraid to say this admission too loudly.
“Sometimes it’s good to be scared. Maybe God wants you to need him more.”
Maybe God wants you to need him more.
Hours after our conversation I couldn’t stop thinking about these words. Perhaps I’d become too self-righteous in my mothering role. Whenever I expressed doubts about being a good mom or about being open to life when I felt like a mess just nurturing two precious souls, fellow Christian moms assured me God would give me the graces I needed to answer his call.
So I put my trust in these wise women and went through my days just expecting God’s graces (and I’m referring to his special graces, the little “favors” to live out our calling, not the habitual grace that’s permanent and sanctifying in us all) to fall down upon me without really opening my heart to Him.
But without prayer we can’t really expect to be receptive to God’s gift of grace. That’s like expecting to land a dream job without any effort. Maybe you’ll get lucky and a headhunter will call out of the blue, but most likely you’re going to have to polish up your resume and start networking to get hired.
Truth be told, I’m often too tired to find time for real prayer. I frequently collapse into bed in the evening without so much as a passing prayer for the graces of motherhood.
So maybe this really is why I hit an all-time mommy low. Maybe God wanted me to need him more.
God doesn’t expect me to never fail, but he does expect me to never fail to try. So try I must. I can’t simply expect to have limitless patience or to feel profound peace simply by catching a glimpse of a Crucifix. Yet, I can and must make time for prayer. I must open my heart to God’s graces and I must always remember that my faith, while not always certain or unswerving, is a gift to continuously be cherished and cultivated.
This essay was originally published in Canticle and was written during Kate Wicker’s second pregnancy. She has just celebrated the birth of her third child and continues to pray for the graces of motherhood.