I had hardly put my kneeler down when I had to sit back and separate my six-year-old and three-year-old who were fighting over a book and then give my nine-year-old the “mommy eye” for giving his brother the stink-eye. Mass had not even started and I already wanted to leave.
Since we had a few moments before Father would begin, I took each kid out and had a little pep talk about why we were there and how I hoped they could behave…or else.
I spent most of the first part of Mass shushing, eyebrow-raising, and whispering “reminders” to each child about appropriate behavior in Mass. I was feeling frustrated and emotionally exhausted as I tried to listen to the readings and focus on the prayers but all I could think about was how distracting and annoying my children were acting.
Why, Lord, why does it have to be like this? I mean, I do love them and all but why do they have to be so difficult?
These were my inner thoughts and prayer as we stood up to hear the Gospel reading for that day from the book of Matthew:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Ahhh, ok, ok I hear you, Jesus. Thank you….but, well sometimes it sure doesn’t feel like my burden is light and when exactly does the “rest” part come?
Then, Father started his homily and I almost laughed out loud when he said, and I paraphrase,
“Sometimes, we may feel like our cross is too heavy, we may wonder why? Why, Lord, did you have to give me this cross?”
Ok…apparently Father has the gift of reading minds now!
He went on…
“We may look at other’s crosses and think they would be easier than ours and wish we could trade. But…in the end, we would probably come back to our cross and realize he gave us our cross to us for a reason. ”
Ok, ok, I hear you LOUD and CLEAR now God.
I smiled to myself knowing that Father was right. He gave these children – as challenging as they can be – to my husband and me because he knew we would be the best for them and that they would, in turn, be the best for us.
All children bring different challenges and different gifts, some days it’s just really, really hard to see the gift part hidden behind the challenges.
It’s easy to look around at other moms and families, at their children and think that maybe they don’t have it as hard we do. Sure, it’s true there are some children who may have more obvious – or not-so-obvious challenges than others, or at least their challenges may seem more intense than others. But the truth is, every child has their own struggles and their own strengths.
Every parent also has their own weaknesses they are trying to overcome with their own unique strengths and, like a good friend reminded me later that day, we all have our good days and our bad days.
The thing is, we are all very, very, good at hiding our weaknesses and struggles to the point that others may have no idea what we struggle with or that we even struggle at all with our children or with ourselves.
So when Jesus says that he will give us “rest” and make our burdens “easy and light,” why doesn’t it feel that way?
I think one reason is that we misinterpret his meaning. (No one ever does that, right?)
Maybe we think he means He will come and take away all our challenges and make our children magically behave perfectly and listen and obey us always and basically just do parenting for us so we can catch a break…or at least a nap.
We think Jesus is going to come and take our cross away from us, when in reality, what he’s offering is to help carry our cross with us…not just for us.
God did not give us our children so that we could see them only as a “thorn in our sides,” who only exist to make our lives difficult. He gives them to us as gifts for us to LOVE. By loving our children – their strengths and their challenges – our hearts stretch and expand and, when that happens, God is able to fill us with more LOVE and more Grace.
This can be so much easier said than done, especially in moments of extreme emotional distress. But, pay closer to attention to what Jesus says in the Gospel,
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart… (emphasis mine)
The answer is in the humbling action of asking – ask for help. Not asking for the cross to just go away, not asking for our kids to just “be good” all the time, or for our lives to be painless and without challenge. Jesus comes to us and offers us His help. All we have to do is accept that help and let Him help us carry the cross we have. And then…we “will find rest” for ourselves.
Thank you for these children you have given to me to care for and to love. Help me see their gifts and their strengths. And when I can’t, help me love them anyway.
Copyright 2016 Erika Marie
Image copyright 2016 Erika Marie. All rights reserved.