I know there are so many other moms out there like me, who have traveled a long, hard road to the discovery that home, kids, and, yes, even big hairy dogs that shed everywhere at the slightest provocation are the keys to happiness! It was not until I started seeking spiritual direction from a humble, joyful, and holy priest that I began to realize just how far away from the heart of my vocation I had truly wandered. After many tears and some very difficult self-examination, I have finally begun to disentangle myself from those things that have distracted me for so long. It isn't easy, but shouldering the cross never is! What has amazed me, though, is the joy that my new-found zeal for my vocation as wife and mother has brought! I was truly searching high and low for something that I had in my possession all along!
I now understand why, during all that fruitless wandering, I would feel so frustrated that I was not doing the best I could as a mother. Instead of abandoning projects and schemes that distracted me from my vocation, I delved even deeper into them and grew more and more miserable. Like St. Augustine, I too had to learn to bow my neck under the yoke of Christ:
But where had my power of free decision been throughout those long, weary years, and from what depth, what hidden profundity, was it called forth in a moment, enabling me to bow my neck to your benign yoke and my shoulders to your light burden, O Christ Jesus, my helper and redeemer? How sweet did it suddenly seem to me to shrug off those sweet frivolities, and how glad I now was to get rid of them - I who had been loath to let them go! (The Confessions, Revised, p.209)Unhappiness, it seems to me, is the surest sign that our road is not the one paved for us by Christ, but rather some rough path of our own fashioning. And while we might eventually find our way, through much undergrowth and tedious progress, to the Eternal Jerusalem, how much better is it to heed the Lord's call and follow in His footsteps?
If one considers the awesome responsibility that mothers (and fathers) bear before God for the raising of their children, it is a miracle to me that God entrusts them to us at all! These immortal souls in tiny bodies are in our charge, but they are not ours. They belong to our Heavenly Father, and a reckoning will be made of the care we took during our stewardship. Teaching small ones to know, love, and serve God in this world so as to be happy with Him in the next demands so much of us -- because how can we teach what we do not practice ourselves? So, having our own spiritual homes in order and fostering our marriage -- which gives us the sacramental graces we need to fulfill our God-given duties -- is so important.
So what do I mean to say by all of this? Simply that being a mother is the greatest honor one could hope for... and that living in the world's shadows lets us bask in God's sunshine!