This afternoon, I spent three hours trying to put my daughter down for a nap. (And she didn’t end up sleeping at all.) This is a common occurrence in my daily routine and I usually spend the hours lamenting my wasted time. But today, I chose a different approach: I spent the time contemplating how this particular struggle can bring me closer to God.
Recently, I’ve begun to embrace the struggles of marriage and motherhood. The sweet, tender kisses of a toddler, the late night laughs with my husband (usually over a bowl of ice cream), and picturesque fall days spent together as a family are wonderful. They remind me of God’s love and care, his beauty and blessings. But they don’t challenge me. If anything, they make me complacent in my faith. When everything here on earth seems perfect, I stop striving quite so hard for heaven.
My husband and I recently lost a child to miscarriage. The singular most difficult experience of my life, it has brought me more understanding of God, and my relationship with him, than any other event. I realized that I did not need to wait for another life-shattering sorrow to grow deeper in Christ; in fact, I had been wasting the opportunities presented by my daily sacrifices to move closer toward heaven.
When I was first introduced to the concept of “vocation”, I understood it to mean the path God planned for a person that would bring him the most happiness. I saw the process of discerning one’s vocation as the process of finding one’s “happily ever after”. While finding the vocation intended for you may bring you the most inner joy, I now think of it less as a road to happiness than a road to suffering – the specific struggles and sufferings that will bring you closest to God.
Each vocation has its own struggles and God, in His infinite wisdom, knows which of these will bring you closer to him. When He created you, He created you as a whole person, a unique individual with specific gifts and temperaments that are best suited to confront and conquer the suffering you will face in your specific vocation.
In my own vocation of wife and mother, I’ve’ve noticed three ways I am being brought closer to the Lord.
1) I have a greater understanding of the heart of God. When it is difficult to show love to my husband because of a petty argument over a cardboard box, I understand the true greatness of God’s unconditional love. When my daughter gets on my nerves after she yells, “mommy, mommy, MOMMMMYYYYYY!” one too many times, I am humbled by God’s inability to tire of us. When I struggle to love and my patience wanes because of the smallest things, it is only then that I begin to realize just how small I am and how big and good our God is.
2) I learn to be more like Him. Marriage and motherhood have shown me just how impatient and unloving and selfish and downright crotchety I can be. But it’s also a constant, day-in day-out opportunity to improve. I get a do over every day for the rest of my life. Snapped at my husband today? I’m sure he’ll do something again tomorrow that will irk me and that’s my chance to respond with love and become just a bit more like Christ. Bristled at my daughter for the twentieth potty false alarm of the day? Tomorrow, mama, you have another opportunity to do it again and you have the ability to respond with selflessness and patience. Or not. It’s up to me, but through my vocation, God put me in the position to be able to choose to be more like Him.
3) I realize that I must depend on Him. That little bit under #1 about me being so small and God being so big? I realize at least twenty times a day as I live out my vocation that I am nothing, I am so very pitiful and lowly compared to God. I lose my temper over crumbs on the couch while God loves sinners! It quickly becomes glaringly apparent that I am not capable of anything at all save with the help of God. I am unable to fully love my spouse or daughter, but if I let Him, He will channel his love through me.
Does this knowledge make it any easier to put a toddler to sleep? Not really, but it assures me that in those daily labors, I am serving God exactly how He intended me to.