Monday, March 17, 2008

Faithful


I know exactly which floorboards creak and how to avoid them. I can get dressed in complete darkness. I tiptoe and hold my breath when sneaking past the children’s bedrooms but just when I think I’ve made it safely to the haven of my quiet kitchen, I hear two-year-old Mary yelling, “Mama, I hungry!” and I cringe. Whereas some might long for wealth or fame, I daydream obsessively about privacy. Throughout the last decade I’ve been touched, pushed, and pulled at least as much, if not more, than a turnstile at the entrance of Walt Disney World. All day long I go about my business while toting a toddler, grasping squirmy fingers belonging to bodies that want to cross the street all on their own, kissing scrapes, wiping noses, being yanked on and inundated with questions and outlandish observations. Locked doors are no deterrent for my determined bunch, “Where are the markers?” “Can I have a snack?” “Benji is bothering is me!” they yell every two minutes into the wood that separates us.

“Find your dad!” I shout back from the bubble bath I crawled into for relief from the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of being needed twenty hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.

It’s amazing that I still fall for it, the delusion that during Lent I will spend plenty of time reflecting and reading scripture on my own. I am always half hoping that the intrinsic stillness of a Lenten fast will permeate my household like a mood altering narcotic- instantly taming tempers, quieting outbursts, changing sleep patterns too light and anticipatory of a brand new morning to allow for the indulgences of a mother seeking spiritual enlightenment on her own terms. “If only I could hole up in isolation with a Bible and an icon,” I mumble to myself after scolding one of my kids for sneaking out of quiet time, again, and interrupting my attempts at noonday prayers, “then I could prepare myself appropriately for the death and Resurrection of Christ.”

I am always on guard this time of year for big and blatant temptations that if succumbed to, would absolutely put a cramp in my Lenten style. Let’s see, there’s envy, greed, gossip, gluttony, despondency …no wonder I’m frustrated! How am I supposed to find the wherewithal to overcome these ungodly vices if I continually have to make meals, clear the dishes, wash dirty clothes, and settle arguments? When on earth am I supposed to get out there and feed the poor, visit those in prison, and give aid to widows and orphans? I don’t want to be a goat, separated and cast out on the Day of Judgment for not tending to those in need. What a sneaky and devilish sucker punch: keeping me overly fixated on the letter and not the spirit of the law.

"And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40).” While searching “out there” for ways to purify my soul, to make a positive difference in the life of another, I somehow lost sight of the salvific responsibilities right here in my lap, draped affectionately around my shoulders, filling my time, testing my forbearance with their enormity. I got sucked into the idea that a mother of young children must retain her own identity, to separate herself, at least intellectually, from the subservience of her role as both a helpmate and a nurturer. “But where are my accolades? Where is the fulfillment that comes only from being recognized for my skills and artistic achievements?” If I’m honest, I’ll admit that that is exactly what I ponder when the weight of domesticity threatens to suffocate my individuality, when repetition starts to heighten my desire for some kind, any kind, of a distraction.

“Oh Lord and Master of my life take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.”
For procrastinating and avoiding the tediousness of housework at the expense of my husband and children, for the aching to be admired and my displeasure with anonymity, for the shameful habit of trying to dominate my kids instead of lead them by example, please forgive me.

“But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love."
Oh how could I be so foolish, looking everywhere else for my purpose, for an offering that would please You and, let’s face it, myself simultaneously? Where outside of my own home could so many opportunities exist for being stretched and for serving God by serving others? For the moments I feel ready to snap and have no choice but to beg for Your mercy, for the hundredth spilled cup of juice that I am able to wipe up without feeling tense and angry because the annoyance has finally been drained out of me, for the sickening sensation in my gut that comes from talking too long on the telephone or typing too often on the computer when I know I should be cuddling, reading to, or more consistently reprimanding my children, I thank You. For the reassuring peace that comes from unselfish acts of submission, I am eternally grateful.

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.”
This
Lent I am a mother to four little ones and a wife to a man working long and hard for our benefit. This Lent my prayers will be active and sticky with jam, syrup, and kisses. This Lent I will be held accountable for how effective I was at helping each member of my family to feel loved, honored and supported. This Lent I have my mercifully specific, Christ assigned work cut out for me. I beg of you most Holy Theotokos, our most perfect prototype of obedience, whose response to the Angel Gabriel was “Be it unto me according to thy word,” who emptied herself to be filled quite literally with Jesus, her son and savior, please assist me in staying true to my calling and in taking full advantage of the chances at my disposal to be faithful.

Click HERE to listen to this post. This is a service of Ancient Faith Radio.

13 comments:

Kelleylynn said...

Hmm...much to reflect upon, thanks!

H and S said...

I SO needed this post right now! Thank you.

Lucy said...

Wonderful post. Last night at the Presanctified Liturgy my priest actually gave a reflection very similar in theme - about how there is Liturgy in everything that we do, that how a regular liturgy lifts us up but how the prayers during the presancitified liturgy bring us into more awareness of our everyday sin and need for everyday salvation. I'm sure I'm doing a horrible injustice to what he actually said, but it was something like that. :)

Once again, you express my own thoughts, only much more beautifully.

Jilly said...

Thanks for that, Molly. I really think one of the biggest struggles of motherhood is to keep our thoughts captive and our hearts focused outwards. Its great to know there are others on this same journey with me.

Marfa said...

http://www.flickr.com/groups/655066@N25/

I started a Flicr group titled "People with icons," and would love to have you join!!!

Molly Sabourin said...

I SO need YOU all with your shared experiences and valuable insights! Thank you!

Thanks also for the heads up on the flickr site Marfa! I am definitely interested and believe you are the perfect administrator for such an undertaking.

Patty said...

I really resonated with this beautiful post -- although usually I'm trying to race my kids awake to get dressed and have a cup of coffee. Thoughts of prayer emerge in a few hours. Thanks for the thoughts and reminders, Molly.

jenny said...

This is something I think about all the time...wow...I would love to hear further discussion on this topic. Any ideas for good books on the subject? I am trying not to feel guilty when I can't follow all the 'ascetic rules' that others can, because I am distracted by the kids...and trying to not resent them!!
Thanks for the post!

Molly Sabourin said...

Greetings Jenny!

This topic has been foremost on my mind and heart for a long time now. I am actually in the process of writing a book on this very subject for Conciliar Press. Within in two short years I was married, converted to Orthodoxy, and became a mother. It took a awhile to process all of these changes, to come to peace with my new roles and the challenges that came with them to my faith. I sincerely hope it is an issue that will be talked about with openness and honesty in our Churches.

::Sevvi:: said...

What a beautiful post! This really hit home for me, I don't know how many times I've said to my children, "As soon as mommy finishes her work we'll..." or grumbling when I have to get out of bed to get someone a glass of water only minutes after getting into bed after feeding and putting the other one in his crib. This blog is a wonderful reminder of how truly blessed I am and how being a mother is doing God's work...Have a blessed Lenten season and please check out my blog at www.orthodoxmom.blogspot.com, I'd love to get your feedback on it!

Anonymous said...

Warm greetings from Poland. I am listening and reading with great pleasure!

Kristen said...

I found your blog, or should i say, God led me to your blog at just the right time!

I'm 41, my children are all, almost grown (youngest will be 13)....and I homeschooled. I've reached many goals in my life and now I'm not sure what to do with myself.

I find myself wondering how far short I fall in service to others...and wonder what God expects of me right now, and how much.

Your blog is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Thank you for your honest thoughts and your willingness to share them.

Kristen

Molly Sabourin said...

Dear Kristen,

I am thrilled that my experiences with raising younger kids feel relevant to you despite the fact your own children are bordering on adulthood. It is good for me to hear that the questions remain the same even as the exterior circumstances shift over time. I guess the goal, then, is to continually seek updated answers on a day to day basis from Christ through consistent prayer. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to share with me your kind comments!

Sincerely,

Molly Sabourin