One of the things that stood out is that a few of you referred to me as having “that” house — you know, the house in the neighborhood where all the kids hang out after school, where there’s a constant flow of people in and out the door, where mom always has some yummy munchies on hand. I told my husband about all the great comments, and said in disbelief: “People seem to think that I’m ‘that’ mom with ‘that’ house…and I think they might be right!”
I know I sort of touched on this in my last post, but let me just say this again: nothing could be more unlikely. [People who know me personally are nodding vigorously at their computer screens right now.]
Back when my husband and I first got married, we lived downtown and had a very, umm, “downtown” kind of lifestyle. If I’d had to guess what our future suburban neighborhood identity would be, my best guess would’ve been that we’d be “‘that’ house where the parties always end in police involvement” or “‘that’ house where the socially awkward wife turns red and gets uncomfortable when neighbors try to make conversation with her.” Under no circumstances would I have ever guessed that I would not only have a bunch of kids in my house but that I’d warmly welcome their presence; not just because I didn’t have any experience with anything like that but, honestly, because I would have thought it wasn’t possible — and, in a certain sense, I would have been right.
Let me give you a bit of background: I’m an only child. None of my good friends growing up had more than one brother or sister living at home. I don’t think I ever knew anyone well who had one of those houses that are full of noise and chaos and kids coming in and out all the time. I’ve seen such a thing depicted in movies, but never in person. A while back I took a Birkman test, a personality inventory renowned for its accuracy, and on a scale of 1 – 100 with 100 being most extroverted, I was a 1. One. Uno. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like people, but that being around others is exhausting for me. As the test administrator put it, “You need introvert time where you don’t have to be ‘on’ like normal people need air.”
All this is to say: I would have made a great desert hermit. I simply can’t have the kind of house where a bunch of kids are in and out all the time. Shoot, for that matter, I’m not even well-equipped to have more than one kid of my own. And yet, here I am, with three children ages three and under, regularly setting out snacks and drinks for a stampede of high-energy pre-teen girls whom I don’t even know very well. Most surprisingly of all, it’s working.
How is this possible?
This situation is Exhibit A in: God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. As I said in my last post, this situation has God’s fingerprints all over it. I found out recently that all of these little girls had begun dabbling in the occult with some seriously creepy results only a short time before our paths collided (anyone else think that’s more than just a coincidence?); and I was in desperate need of some help, and of learning how to ask others to help me (you were all spot-on with your suggestions that the girls might be happy to help out around the house). As much as we may have needed each other, however, I didn’t have the skills to bring everyone together and make it all work. I was not equipped.
So God equipped me.
Not only is the situation working, but we’re all thriving. I am honestly delighted by these children’s company, and they seem to be pretty big fans of being over here. I somehow haven’t fallen behind on the things I need to get done; I keep finding unexpected pockets of time to recharge and relax to make up for the times that they’re here during my kids’ naptimes; it’s almost eerily easy, in that certain way that can only come about when God has been invited to be involved.
This situation is just one example, but there are many others. I once read that when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was confused about what it meant to consecrate her life to Jesus, she had a vision in which she heard this answer:
You think of me; I will be the one to think of you. You look to my needs and those of your neighbor; I will look to yours.
I have found this to be true over and over again. Not that I do this nearly as much as I should, but whenever I seek to serve God by serving others, whenever I practice the act of loving others even when I feel that I have no love to give, God begins to act noticeably in my life. Things work out that shouldn’t work out. I have strength I shouldn’t have, that I’ve never had before. If I need some time for myself, an unexpected opportunity pops up at just the right time; if I need an encouraging word, one comes out of the blue; if I need rest, I suddenly great a great night’s sleep; and so on.
For me, this has been the most surprising aspect of Christianity.
After a life of atheism, I began to seek God only because I was curious about the truth. God was the answer to a question, a concept to be pondered. I didn’t think I needed or wanted anything from this “God” that the Christians were always talking about; I was just interested to know if he was out there or not so that I might pass on the correct worldview to my children.
I don’t know when it started to happen, but somewhere along the way, things began to change. At some point, I began to seek God with my heart as much as my head. Little did I know, the more you open your heart to God, the more he will enter your life in a perceptible way. This “God, ” who was supposed to be just a distant concept to be pondered from the pages of a book, was now real; to quote John C. Wright, in some ways he became more real than reality.
This morning as I made up my store list, I smiled as I wrote down what I was going to get for the girls — R. likes popsicles, V. doesn’t care for that orange tea, M. and G. love pretzels — and it occurred to me that this is really what the Christian life is all about. I thought of what you all wrote in the comments to my last post on the subject. Those of you who responded by saying something along the lines of “God is good!” had it exactly right: this is all God. The only credit I deserve is for finally (after dragging my feet for months) asking the children to come in when he sent them to my door. In that moment, I opened a door not just in my house, but in my heart as well. And God took over from there.
Three years ago I imagined “being a Christian” as a series of things you did: you went to church, you talked about Jesus, you read the Bible and thought “I agree with that, ” or something like that. Now I realize that what’s stunning about the Christian life isn’t just what you do but what you become. A force external to yourself begins to move, and you are taken places you never thought you could go; sometimes you’re taken places you didn’t think you wanted to go. You find yourself, even if you weren’t looking.
On my own, I’m the cranky introvert whose interactions with the local children would probably be limited to telling them to stay off my lawn. Through Christ, however, I think I am becoming “that” mom. And I am as delighted as my little friends are to have “that” house.
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