WHAT. A. WEEK.
My mother-in-law, Yaya, has been here since Monday. She came up here to show me the error of my potty training ways, only to find that she met her match with my children (one of them in particular). Also, she and I see the world different ways — we have different views on whether or not ice cream is one of the four food groups, different levels of tolerance for potty training accidents on the carpet before giving up in defeat, different perspectives on which live insects make suitable toys for children — and these differences occasionally led to some tension throughout the week.
Yesterday afternoon, it reached a boiling point.
It wasn’t anything she or I did, just the facts of the situation. With all the urine- and feces-related accidents and the chaos of trying to potty train two toddlers at once and the suffocating heat and our limited ability to leave the house, this week has been like being trapped in a hot, noisy septic tank with a loud television that plays outdated “potty time” videos from the 80’s over and over and OVER again.
Sometime after lunch, we were both about to snap. The situation was going down the toilet (PUN INTENDED). I didn’t know what to do. I’d tried everything to make it better: I’d wallowed in self-pity, complained to my mother-in-law, sent multiple emails to my husband about how frustrated I was — nothing was working!
Finally, when prayer time rolled around, I did something I almost never do: I asked another person to pray with me. Given my background, this is not something I’m used to at all — especially with my mother-in-law, since we almost never talk about faith. But, having exhausted all my options that involved ignoring God to handle the situation on my own, I finally clued in that there might be a better way. I asked my mother-in-law to join me in praying the opening Psalm for Matins.
“Jesus, we really need your help today, ” she said as I crossed myself. “We ask you to be with us.” We both said a heartfelt amen. And together we prayed Psalm 55.
It’s funny what happens when two people spontaneously stop to turn their eyes to God in the midst of a stressful situation. She is a lifelong Southern Baptist. I am a Catholic, a recent convert from atheism. Our backgrounds and worship styles could not be more different. And yet the words of the anguished Psalmist united us; the act of humbling ourselves before God (and one another) to admit that we needed help changed everything. When we were done, there was an unmistakable feeling of peace. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit had accepted our invitation to enter the room.
Prayer is always an act of humility, and even more so in a situation like ours yesterday. Praying together forced us to unite as Christians and daughters of God, and to share in our mutual need of his mercy. It made us remember that that situation was so much bigger than our different views on diapers or reward systems or the origin of that brown stain in front of the couch. Amidst our differences, it reminded us of something on which we were in agreement: that this situation was nothing more or less than an opportunity to love and serve God; and that the best way to do that would be to love and serve one another.
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