Sarah has a great article up at CatholicDaily.org where she asks, “Did Mary have days like this?” Not only was it refreshing to hear that someone else was having one of those days, but I’m thrilled to add the word “Toddler-tron” to my vocabulary. She writes:
I don’t have a good excuse. No sudden death, news of great tragedy, or personal fall-through. The clock just met 4:00, Toddler-tron started with her customary late afternoon ranting, and it all unraveled from there. Somehow, the everyday things – the weight of my worries, the onslaught of my duties, the trial of just getting through the rest of the day – were more than I could handle.
Ooooh yeah. For me it was getting caught in a sudden rainstorm with a cart full of kids and groceries, a cashier who forgot to scan a coupon, and a teething baby who finds yelling to be the most efficient way to communicate these days, but yeah — I’m right there with her.
Except for when it comes to how to handle that sort of situation.
Sarah tried the interesting technique of turning to prayer. I, on the other hand, went for my standard coping mechanism of having an imaginary conversation in my head with my husband where I dumped all the details of my rotten day to him, including an aside with my conspiracy theory regarding the forgotten coupon.
So how did Sarah’s technique work out? She writes:
Then, on my drive home, I remembered that I didn’t finish my rosary this morning. I felt myself calming down as I worked my way through the last four mysteries. It was like someone was hugging me, holding me, comforting me. There’s no doubt in my mind who that was.
Oddly enough, my technique of narrating every moment of my frustration during my imaginary conversation with my husband in my head did not produce such fruits. Once I started that ball rolling, it picked up speed. And for the next hour or so every little thing just seemed so irritating.
It actually occurred to me at one point to turn to God, to use this as an opportunity to seek his will at every moment (as I’ve been trying to do lately). I thought for a brief moment about what, theoretically, God would want me to do in this situation, and shrugged when I came up with nothing. The baby was crying again and I had to get her in out of the rain.
What I did not do at any point, however, was to stop and pray. Not even for five seconds. Once again, I was trying to rely on myself. I turned inward to come up with the knowledge of what I should be thinking or doing to get through this situation gracefully. I elbowed God aside while I tried to recall what I’d read about how I was supposed to be following his will.
Sarah’s post helps me realize that what I should have done is stop, even for just a second, to humble myself before God and open myself to his help. To turn towards God through prayer, instead of taking a step away from him and withdrawing into myself.
Sarah offers some great thoughts on this:
Could it be that days like this are just part of the human condition? Could it be that Screwtape and his band of tempters are hard at work to make perfectly good days look like days like this, just to get us to slip up, maybe strangle our kid (oh, I came so close!) or yell at our spouse or take a step back away from God? And you know, once you’ve taken that first step, however small, what’s another one? And really, who needs God and all his restrictions anyway? Who needs the laws and the parameters and all that hooey?
Those last few sentences about those small steps we take away from God are an eerily accurate description of what I’ve experienced throughout my spiritual journey. It is so easy to let bad habits build on one another. “Small” things like being short with my children or husband on the grounds that I’m having a tough day lay fertile ground for more self-centeredness. As Sarah writes, what’s one more little step?
So this is going to be my latest challenge as I bumblingly learn to seek God’s will at each moment: when those frustrating moments come up, stop (actually, physically stop) and turn to God. Don’t try to intellectually analyze what it was the Church Fathers wrote about seeking God’s will or what that latest book by Pope Benedict said on the subject. Just pray.
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