As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not Worthy

As the parents of many children, at any one period of time we find we're having one or more issues with one or more children.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming (and they're still little - I can only imagine what it will be like when they're bigger!) And sometimes you feel defeated, like you're just not up for the task.  This week, God has really helped me to take a look at that and be thankful for the the crushing weight of this burden, and the realization that this is a job that's bigger than I am.

For starters Jeff was home at the beginning of the week, and had some really great encouragement and support to offer in dealing with one of our children that I've been having trouble with. I always find he offers such great insight, because he's not involved to the same degree of intensity as I am (because I'm dealing with these things all day, every day).  He often brings clarity and logic that I can't see myself, because I'm so emotionally strained from the fight of it all, and seeing him in action with the kids (and how they respond to him) gives me the encouragement I need to stick it out and not despair.  

I mentioned earlier this week that we had a Mom's meeting to plan our upcoming homeschooling year (yay!) during which a friend shared a reflection that has also stayed with me all week, and provided great comfort.  She said that God knows we're not perfectly equipped for this job, but that's what makes us perfect for it, because we have to rely on His grace.  Later in the week another friend of mine, who is the mother of a severely disabled 11-month-old and is expecting her second child in a matter of days, shared similar thoughts on her blog:

"When ever I fear that we’re not up to the task, I’m always reminded that Gemma’s first year has been the hardest year either of us has ever experienced, and we’ve survived. By God’s grace, we got through it, and by God’s grace, we’ll get through the second year and all that will come with it, too. Knowing that we are completely inadequate and incapable of living this life on our own strength is sobering, but also reassuring. It means that God won’t abandon us, and that we know He won’t. He knows even more than we do that we can’t do this without Him. Saint Teresa of Avila says that we pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him, so everyday we will continue to ask great things of Him. The fear isn’t gone, but we know that the help will come when it is needed, just as it always has."

As we attended Mass with our kids today, I kept these words on my heart.  Mass is such a trial lately, mostly because my youngest two (ages 4 and 2) spend the entire time fighting over me. My four-year-old reverts almost completely to a baby stage at Mass, and since he is 45 lbs and very big for his age (and I am often holding his 35 lb sister) it's both physically and emotionally hard on me when he climbs, jumps, summersaults and throws himself all over me, trying to paw his way over his sister to get to me.  Any attempt to separate either of them from me results in an immediate and loud protest, so I usually only do that if I am at my breaking point, because I know there will be a price to pay.  The other children, probably keen to the fact that Dad and I will be busy trying to keep the little ones at bay, tend to not always be on their very best behaviour at the best of times, and silently tormenting each other until one of them screams in protest at the worst of times while we're distracted with babies.  It is an emotional roller coaster to be sure, not unlike the rest of our daily life, but perhaps heightened a little bit by the environment of Mass and our desire not to be the biggest distraction while we're there. 

All of these thoughts came to a head for me at Mass this morning just before Communion when we said the words, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the words and I shall be healed."  Today was a very grace-filled day when my four-year-old was responsive to me, and while not being perfectly quiet and attentive, still acted more like a typical four-year-old than an overgrown baby.  The bigger kids responded in kind by being mostly well-behaved, and the baby was quite pleasant.  There were no loud or obvious power struggles, and things were generally peaceful in our pew.  I remembered how often at that exact point during Mass that my heart sank at those words, because I know how painfully unworthy I am.  How many times I just lose it - even at Mass!  The times I'm afraid to make eye contact with the people behind me because I'm afraid they saw me clench my teeth, or caught the death stare I gave my children.  I am so, so unworthy and yet - what a grace!  Because the fact is that everyone has something in their life that seems bigger than they are, that seems to take more than what we have.  An impossible task, except it's not - because God is always there, and we find in our despair a reason to turn to Him.

Steve Bell, paraphrasing St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul writes:

"I bless the starless night, a night by far more lovely than the dawn

Oh happy chance!  To discover in the barren dark
The One I know so well."

This darkness, this despair that causes us to cry out to God that we don't know what we're doing, is such a gift, because it beckons me into the place where I will find the One I know so well.   What a good and gracious God, to have made us in such a way that the job I am made to do, I cannot do alone.  When I stop fighting that darkness and take the first steps into that night, I find that He is waiting there for me.  The struggle is not gone, and in fact, it should not be.  Because it is the struggle that causes us to set forth in search of the One who can help us. It's not always easy, there are many hard points along our journey.  But when we realize how very unworthy we are on our own, then we can open ourselves up to the love that God has for us to sustain us on our road.  Then, like St. John of the Cross, we too may say:

Oh, happy chance!

Please join me in praying for my dear friend Mary, whose blog I quoted above, as she and her family prepare to welcome their son in the next few days via induction.  She and her husband Matt are parents to 11-month-old Gemma, who has a severe form of Cerebral Palsy, and are understandably fearful of what life will be like with a newborn added to the mix.  They live their life with incredible faith and their story is one of true trust in God in the most unpredictable of circumstances. You can read about their beautiful family here.  


  1. THanks for your reflections Natasha. I had a parent recently tell me they are really considering staying home and not attending Mass because their two and four year olds are such a handful. What should I tell him? Any tips? THanks for your words, and sharing the struggle. THis in itself provides encouragement.

  2. Thanks Fr. Aaron! This question has such a big answer to it that I'm writing a new post about it, haha! Those are hard ages, and when I look back to the days when my oldest was four and it trickled down from there (I had a 2 and a 1 year old also at that time) it all came down to just doing it, even if it was hard. I had to believe and be confident in the fact that this was good for them and for me, because it sure didn't feel that way! But Jesus is the same whether my kids are rowdy and wild, or calm and attentive, and what a beautiful thing that I can bring them to meet Him in the flesh than at Mass. That's the reason we press on, because we know that no matter our state in life, Jesus is there. It's hard, but worth it, like almost all of the good things we do as parents :)