Lent is here, and I’m trying to keep up with our busy life of teaching and taking care of our seven children. I’m trying to pay bills and schedule doctor appointments on time. I’m trying to keep track of who needs a bath, who needs a haircut, who needs their nails clipped—trying to remember that I am on the list too! I’m trying to get exercise and to have relaxed moments with my husband, whose love language is “quality time.” I’m trying to keep my spiritual life on track and continue our family prayer life. I’m trying to make sure the kids get an education, learn life skills and virtues, while also having opportunities for fun and memory making. I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying.
Most of all, I’m trying to surrender to God’s will when I feel like I’m failing. It is so easy for our plans to fail. A child throws a fit that makes us late. Shoes and toothbrushes constantly get lost, which temporarily halts all progress. Illnesses happen. Messes are made—I forgot to add messes to my schedule! I should definitely schedule at least an hour a day for the cleaning up of messes.
Now add Lent to the mix. My husband and I decided on a family penance as well as trying to go to Mass on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent. We all made it to Mass on Ash Wednesday. That’s an accomplishment! But on the evening of the first Lenten Friday, I remembered we were supposed to at least try to go to Mass that day. I could easily think, Look, we’re already failing! But I chose to look at it another way: I got the big grocery shopping trip done in the morning which I really didn’t want to do. Then I was exhausted and not feeling well, so I took a nap. I believe God decided that was enough effort and penance for me that day. God doesn’t want us to make ourselves miserable, or to push ourselves too hard. “Thank you, Lord, for the reminder that I am not Super Woman. I can only do a little. Lord, I trust that it is enough.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “God does not call you to be successful; he calls you to be faithful.” We didn’t make this life; God did. All the obstacles, inefficiencies, and failures are part of his plan for us. When life throws us for a loop, which it does to parents several times a day, it’s another opportunity for us to practice humility, patience, and trust in God. Surrendering what we want and what we think is best for our families, and trusting in what God provides instead—this is the path that will give us peace.
God sends little reassurances that we are on the right track, little rewards for our faithfulness. My eight-year-old daughter whispered to me after Communion, “I changed my mind: church isn’t that bad.” My son who loves junk food asked for steamed Brussels sprouts as a late-night snack. We can’t be failing while miracles like these are taking place! Focus on the little miracles. They provide encouragement and hope for the times we are tempted to focus on our perceived failures.