“You know what they’re doing to us, don’t you?” my husband asked after a particularly trying day with our six children. “They’re making us holy.”
My husband then proceeded to tell me what a priest once said to him after learning that we have several children. “How wonderful!” this wise priest said. “So many opportunities to grow in holiness. Your children force you to focus on others — to not be self-centered.”
I’ll admit that there are times when my day is swirling about me, multiple voices are simultaneously calling for my help, a myriad of household chores remain undone, and I daydream about entering the religious life.
Time for solitude! Time for prayer! Silence! Simplicity! Maybe my vision of the consecrated religious is a bit gilded — but I bet they at least get to go to the bathroom by themselves!
But after hearing that wistful comment from a priest, I’m trying to appreciate my “opportunities to grow in holiness” more. I’m not saying that my children don’t give me joy and happiness — they absolutely do.
But I think we can all admit that motherhood is hard.
Cleaning up a puddle of throw-up shortly after your child insisted he felt good enough to eat a whole bowl of Spaghetti-Oh’s is not exactly a joyful experience. Monitoring screen time, taming temper tantrums, and trying to feed a pack of ravenous children becomes wearing day after day. And why does it seem like someone is ALWAYS awake?
Our family has had our share of serious challenges and tragedies in the form of miscarriage, job loss, and a newborn heart defect requiring open heart surgery, but I’m realizing that the little trials of daily life don’t diminish even under the glow of a larger trial successfully endured.
Motherhood is our vocation. It is a path to holiness. It is our “religious life.” And so we must expect to experience the persecution of judgmental observers, the scourging of endless laundry, the crown of anxious thoughts, and the crucifixion of our own wants and needs. Whether we have two children or ten, God has placed us exactly where we need to be to grow closer to Him.
Holiness hurts. But sprinkled throughout the difficult days are hints of God’s love and presence. Two tiny arms wrapped tightly around your neck, the light of joyful innocence shining from four-year-old eyes, a spontaneous I love you from a teenager, and, yes, sometimes even the gift of some unexpected solitude.
These are the good moments that crowd together with the bad into God’s timeless journey for us — His way of finding His place into our broken humanity and our stubborn free will — His way of loving us at our most unlovable — His way of showing us that even the bad moments work for our good.
Perhaps these were some of the thoughts that provoked a smile from that priest when my husband told him about our family. Maybe he was even wishing he sometimes had more people around to hold him accountable for his own descents into selfishness. God doesn’t force us to do anything, but He is always there, present in our children and working through them.
And it is in this way that our children may be just the ones who “force” us into sainthood — if only we allow them.
Copyright 2018 Charisse Tierney