Ben and I have created a holy habit in our home to pray at least part of a Rosary with our girls each night before bed; if we’re lucky and everyone is compliant and participating, we will be able to complete an entire Rosary. One such rare occasion included a moment I will never forget.
As I announced the Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Sarah proudly and innocently added, “It’s upon the impossibles, mom!” We all shared a family chuckle, then moved on with our prayers. But that word stuck with me, if only for its charm coming from a four-year-old.
The impossibles. Maybe the apostles were the “impossibles,” as Sarah proclaimed. Maybe we all are impossible. In fact, I know we are. At least I am.
I am an impossible, because I cannot do any good on my own: “For man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26). The apostles, too, knew their weaknesses. Each of them at times exhibited strong character flaws that only endeared them to Jesus all the more, I am sure. It is because Jesus is drawn to our misery. What is impossible for us because of our concupiscence makes us candidates for greatness.
Whenever I read about the apostles and saints, I am reminded that God chooses the weak and small to do wondrous things in this world for His glory. It’s easy to get caught up in the modern hype that more accolades, awards, bonuses, and promotions are what make us somebody important and worth knowing. Renown on its own does not reveal greatness, however. It is only when our weaknesses become apparent to others that God’s glory is fully revealed in our lives.
I say this, because there are many people who approach me – nearly all of whom I do not know well – and state plainly that they admire our family for the witness of faith we display. This is following Mass when Sarah is crawling under the pew and I have to scold her to stand up straight; Felicity is wiggling and looking behind her constantly instead of participating with the responses and singing the hymns; and Veronica has just spent the last five minutes fussing off and on for no apparent reason.
These comments also follow exchanged looks of exasperation and irritation between Ben and me, all precipitated by total sleep deprivation. They follow the harried hellos I manage to squeak out before dashing out of the pew while corralling my kids, desperately hoping we’ll make it to the van without a tantrum or squabble.
And that is when people I hardly know stop by momentarily with a tap on the shoulder to tell Ben and me that they are moved by the witness of faith we demonstrate. Sometimes they say they have been inspired by our family or touched profoundly in some permanent and meaningful way.
Ben and I are polite, albeit puzzled, in our reply to them. We scratch our heads, ponder in confusion about how this could be true when all we see are the public displays of our human weakness in all their grandeur.
I think it’s because people are more inclined to see God shining through our lives when they can no longer see us. They see past us. We, like the apostles in the Upper Room at Pentecost, are the “impossibles.” We’re impossible, because we are incapable of greatness without God. Of all our human efforts to appear put together, poised, and perfect, we still fall short and fail miserably.
But as we wrapped up that decade of the Rosary, I realized that being an “impossible” is what makes me a real ambassador of Christ. My miseries and mistakes become the blueprint upon which God makes His marks, gentle and persuasive, in my heart. He molds me, prunes me, and perfects me in a way that seems futile to the world. His marks can be painful. They often involve innumerable opportunities for humility by way of humiliation, and they make me hidden and invisible to the world.
I become rejected at times. I am scorned, mocked much like the early apostles were. I am a laughingstock. But there will be some who see past all of that muck and, beyond me, they will see God working in and through me. That is how God makes a masterpiece out of ordinary matter. He chooses me precisely because I am nothing without Him. And if He chooses to do great things in me when I am an “impossible” person, then others will necessarily see Him rather than me.
Living as an “impossible” to the fullest extent is the fulfillment of the gospel message from St. John the Baptist: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn. 3: 30).
I glanced over at Sarah as we completed all five decades of the Glorious Mysteries, and I was humbled by her profound revelation. When I saw her, I no longer saw her imperfections. As I smiled at Felicity, I didn’t notice her mood swings and dramatic flair. And I caught Ben’s gaze with a twinkle in my eyes as he returned a smile with his. In that moment, becoming like the “impossibles” seemed like a pretty useful way to bring God to the world.