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, March 6, 2016

Ambassadors for Christ

This has really been a grace-filled week for me.  I mentioned in my last post that being awake with my baby in the nighttime helped me to recognize my own need for conversion, to handle those situations I think I can't handle with my older children.  That feeling of "I can't do this" plagues me not just in the middle of the night with my sweet baby, but also (and honestly more profoundly) with my five-year-old, who continues to act very high strung and babyish.  I find myself short tempered and very impatient, in no small part due to the fact that he has two other "babies" behind him.  I get overwhelmed when the full size (and volume!) of him is bouncing around, pulling on me, rolling on the floor and shouting like his two younger siblings at times when I need everyone to be quiet, and the fact that my attention is divided already between a toddler and a baby compounds the pressure for me.  Nowhere is this more true than at Mass.

Mass with this little guy has been a trial for me for some time, because he only wants me (as do his two younger siblings).  If I get to the point where I can't handle things and ask my husband to take someone, whoever that person is will surely start screaming, which means asking hubby's help is something I do only if I'm at my complete wits' end.  We've tried splitting him up from me at the beginning, talking to him before and asking him to sit with Daddy, rewarding and bribing him but it never works.  I've tried toughing it out and being affectionate with him, but it always seems to progress from him cozying up to me to him completely bowling me over in a manner of minutes. He's like one of those trick snakes all coiled up in a can that is just vibrating inside the can waiting for the lid to be cracked open before bursting out, a complete mass of compacted energy waiting for an opportunity to bust out!  He is loud, and physical, and active, and big - all things that make him exhausting to sit next to with two other little ones also crawling all over me. I have been spent for a while now, and have said more times than I can count that I can't keep doing this.

Being up with David in the night really convicted me about my disposition towards Aaron, and I knew God was telling me I needed to be softer towards him. So when the opportunity to go to daily Mass presented itself not once but twice this week, I braced myself and took everyone, trusting God to get me through this impossible task. Both times I could feel the tension bottling up inside of me as my dear little guy bubbled with energy that threatened at any moment to turn itself loose. I recalled walking my sweet baby with the chubby face, drowsy from fighting against sleep for so long and secure to drift asleep against the backdrop of the rosary and mother resigned to prayer for how many hours God asked it of her. I knew my Kindergartner was no different - that he was just as innocent as my baby, and that God was asking the same thing of me.  To forego my own comfort and consolation, and be there for him. On our way to Mass I decided to no longer make after Mass treats conditional on behavior (which would hopefully reduce the back and forth dance between threat and reward that more often than not ended poorly for my boy) and focused on keeping my body language toward him soft and gentle, speaking in quiet and affirming words, loving and kissing as I corrected, and praying for God to get me through without giving in to the rage that threatened to explode just beneath the surface.  I left both Masses confident in God's mercy that indeed He does answer my call for help, and my little guy was confident in his own worth as a good boy who is just as deserving of love (and treats!) as his siblings are.

The second reading for today really spoke to the heart of what God is doing for me lately.  For so long my prayer for this boy has been for God to help me to love him the way he needs to be loved. Of course a mother always has love for her son, but I know the tension, anger and frustration that has gripped our relationship over the last year or so has not shown my boy the kind of love I want to show him, the kind of love he deserves. In this reading St. Paul says, "So we are ambassadors for  Christ, God making his appeal through us." And that struck me to the core, that I am an ambassador of Christ to my family - that they know Him through me.  I often think of ambassadors or missionaries as people who go to faraway lands to tell people about Jesus, but in reality I think that the family is the first mission field and parents are missionaries - ambassadors that are our childrens' links to their Heavenly home, the direct line to Jesus on their behalf.  It was an even deeper call to continue to be open to the conversion God is beginning in my heart, so that I will be willing to do those impossible things with love - even when my comfort is at stake. Even when I feel like a zoo sitting in the pew with three children crawling all over me, even when one of them is twice the size as the others and should really be old enough to sit still and listen, even when every eye in any church is already on me anyway because of how many children we brought with us and I'm just hoping their behavior is good so that people's impression of us is positive and not negative, even when once - just once! - I'd like to hear the readings or the homily (or both!) from start to finish as a series of complete thoughts that make sense...even still, I am an ambassador. 

This is mission territory, and I am the one Christ sends to bring His message of hope, to be the link to His everlasting love.  Can I do this?  Absolutely, I must. Because God does not call me to do a job He has not equipped me for.  But I need to know where my help comes from.  To deny myself and rely on Him and the tools He gives me to carry out His work, so that in time others will be equipped to help me.  Which is the ultimate goal of family life, and the reason we come to Mass in the first place - not to fulfill a duty, but to help each other grow closer to Christ so that together we can live the fullness of His plan for us.  My children are not jobs or burdens, they are co-travelers on this journey.  And someday after all the hard work of these years has passed I will note with joy that I am no longer dragging people against the current, but enjoying the trip together beside children who walk with me.  And then (if not now) I will see that these years of tremendous effort have been worth it.  Christ is a real person, and my kids deserve to know Him.  I pray that I will be a good Ambassador to my kids, so that as they grow they come to know Him for themselves - not just because Mom said so, but because in me they recognized and knew Him.

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