Costumes, delicious food and old and new friends made for a delightful All Saints Day party that my kids and I enjoyed earlier this month. But as soon as I walked in the door and saw my husband—who didn’t come with us—still at work on his projects around the house, I was a little piqued.
He should have been there.
Other dads and husbands were there, demonstrating the importance of Catholic feast days to their kids, celebrating together as a family. It was true that my husband and I had already discussed the reasons why he needed to complete his projects while I took the kids, and I had been OK with those reasons. But something about seeing other Catholic families doing Catholic-y things together made me feel cheated and resentful.
I couldn’t celebrate the goodness I saw in those other families without sticking it to someone else, because our life doesn’t look like theirs. I began a campaign of guilt-inflicting words toward my husband.
Fortunately, I’ve been through this cycle— of becoming supremely dissatisfied with my life because it is not what I imagine it should be—enough times to recognize my triggers.
What is it that instigates violence in my heart? What is it that causes me to lash out at the people I love? It is when I take issue with the reality God has designed for me, when I imagine that somehow the family in which he placed me, and the particular salvific pathway each of us currently walk, is a big, raging mistake. I act in violence—in word and deed—when I question the sovereignty of God over my life and start redesigning things according to my preferences.
I’ve been thinking about the Incarnation lately, especially as we approach Advent—how the Word is made flesh through Scripture and in the Eucharist and how on a smaller, but also profound level, the words I say and the words I receive from others all have some physical effect in my life. The words I said to my husband that night created palpable division in our relationship and between our children.
In the microcosm of our own family, by following my perverse tendencies, I achieved the opposite of what I really want—which is for Christ’s kingdom to be fulfilled among the people I love, for our family to embody his word and to be his Church. And of course, I was struck with the irony of my competing desires—how I long for peace on earth, but I create division in my own home.
If I could receive everything that happens to me, every hard word, every disappointment, every struggle, every inconvenience as God’s heavenly food for me, perhaps it wouldn’t so often turn to ashes in my mouth. If I submit my will to God’s as Mary did, letting it “be done unto me according to thy word”—how much sooner and more frequently might the King of Peace come dwell with us?