Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Chaos Theory

Well, life here is getting crazy. The timing seems about right: school has been back in session for about a month, the weather has turned a bit chilly, and the activities seem to keep piling up. Add to that a touch of the cold going around, children wanting to stay up past bedtime (knowing that wake-up time doesn't change) and you have a lot of weirdness and, not just potential for, but actual conflict. So crazy have things been at our house that last night and this morning have seen meltdowns a plenty. Lest I seem too detached and objective, I made my contribution to the chaos by having a meltdown last night about 8:30 pm. and chastising a whining child this morning. My point? Family life and parenting in particular are not for the weak and we need God's grace so badly to live this vocation.

The good news is God gives us what we need, even when we fail to live up to our own ideal of what a parent, a spouse, a friend, a Christian brother or sister should be. Besides, our ideals are often misguided fantasies that easily lead us astray. They become clubs we use to beat ourselves and others who don't conform to our ideal. The question remains, while we know we can rely on God, are we giving the grace we receive in a true movement of loving God and, not even our neighbor, but our spouse and children, or brothers and sisters?

If we receive grace, which by its very definition means we do not earn or deserve it, we must not only be gracious ourselves, but, like God, we must be gratuitous. At times when we are swamped by the waves of life, the best way to give grace is by forgiving and, when we've clearly been in the wrong (spouses, parents, and older children all know what I am writing about here), by saying we're sorry and asking to be forgiven. Humility is difficult. We all like to nurse our grudges and store up our grievances for use later on, or just to make ourselves feel morally superior. Our faith in and desire follow the Lord Jesus disallows such strategies. Those simple, yet difficult, things make all the difference in the world to a marriage, a family, a friendship, a parish, or church. To paraphrase Leo Tolstoy: "everybody thinks of changing the world, but nobody thinks of changing himself".

So, this morning, for all you parents and spouses out there feeling swamped and overwhelmed by the ordinary, we're all in this together. In the old Catholic formulation, let us "offer it up". Offer what up, you might ask? Our suffering, anguish, and, yes, our anger. By the way, don't forget to laugh at your own overwrought reactions. I think most of us have a penchant for ridiculous at times.

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