“This is the great work of man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.”
+ St. Anthony the Great
I dared to shower, I dared to answer some work emails. Meanwhile my five year-old and my three year-old dared to destroy. A school library book and a fake plant. I asked, exasperated by the thoughtlessness of it,”WHY?”.
They said, one tearfully and the other with a barely-suppressed grin, “I don’t know.”
I can relate.
Why did I snap at my husband over a minor offense? I don’t know.
Why didn’t I pray instead of flinging myself at the to-do list, heedless of filling my cup before washing cups? I don’t know.
Why didn’t I listen attentively to my preteen at bedtime when it seemed he was down, because I was ready to be done for the day? I don’t know.
But I do know.
I know that I like to choose me over: you, them, that (obligation, responsibility, good). Sometimes it’s easier to choose the right way; sometimes it’s extremely difficult; sometimes I fail. Daily I have reason to pray “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Daily I have the absolute obligation to forgive others their sins as well; if I do not I cannot expect mercy myself. I am not a healthy person responsible for chastising the sick for their poor state; I am a sick person in need of a Physician, and I must help the other sick ones in my care to choose to follow the Physician’s instructions as well. Am I letting the Doctor address my illness? Am I following His treatment plan? Am I getting better and better? My children will see. My spouse will see. It is not enough for my words and beliefs to be correct; so also must my behavior, speech, and love reflect Christ, must honor Him, must spring from the healing He is doing in my heart and soul.
There is a beautiful hymn that I often have on repeat when I need a reset. It is good medicine for me, especially this part:
You Who did fashion me of old out of nothingness, and with Your Image divine did honor me; but because of transgressions of Your commandments did return me again to the earth from whence I was taken; lead me back to be refashioned into that ancient beauty of Your Likeness.
Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.
I am the image of Your unutterable glory, though I bear the scars of my stumblings. Have compassion upon me, the work of Your hands, O Sovereign Lord,
And cleanse me through Your loving kindness; and the homeland of my heart’s desire bestow on me
By making me a citizen of Paradise.
I certainly bear the scars of my stumblings. God’s healing and forgiveness does not take away all the brokenness from our sins. Some relationships never truly heal, some temptations will dog us to our deathbeds. But we do know that God’s love is great, warm, merciful, and powerful. He is meticulous and persevering in mending us, healing us.
The book and the plant will never be as beautiful and perfect as they once were; they look a bit shabby and patched-up, but they are no longer bound for the trash; that’s something, right? Mended things are a bit more humble, aren’t they? Wouldn’t we all benefit from a strong dose of humility?
I have this hanging in my kitchen; a constant reminder to remember my own brokenness and sin as I raise these dear children, as I interact with my husband, as I try to be a good friend, daughter-in-law, neighbor, and parishioner. May God enable us to heal, forgive, mend, be mended, persevere, and live holy lives “by humble love”.