Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Ask and Ye Shall Receive
I want to thank everyone for their insightful and supportive comments, especially for the recommendations to read up on St. Frances of Rome (could there be a more perfect patron saint for my situation!) and to wait for God's time in finding a solution to my problem.
For a while now I've been praying that God will guide me, and He has. Through Scripture, through the words of the priest at daily Mass, through conversations with people, the insights on my friends' blogs and the inspiration of the Saints, He's spoken to me.
My son's Godparents, both good Catholics and close friends of mine, gave me The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of the Little Flower, which I've been reading off and on. (It's one of the books by my nursing chair, so it entirely depends how cooperative my youngest decides to be as to whether or not I get to read any of it each day.) So many things have struck me in her story, but foremost above all is the simple, faithful, all-encompassing love she had for God, even as a very young child. She wanted nothing so much as to love Him and serve Him. Loving Him and serving Him brought her joy.
That's how I feel about the poor. I have an inherent love for them within me that's been there since I was a child. I don't try to help the poor because I believe that it's good and right to do so (though it is,) or because God instructs us to care for those in need (though He does.) I do it because my love for the poor rises up and shakes me into action. I recognize this now as a gift. God wants me to serve the poor, of that I'm certain. He would not have put this drive in me for no purpose.
But the key is that I serve Him in the way HE wants, not the way I want. Some of you have touched on this in your comments to me, and I've really taken them to heart. I think it's telling that my gut reaction to Jen's idea of fundraising was "God no, NO! Anything but that." and to Anna's suggestion to step back was "But then my husband WINS."
This isn't the reaction of someone who's seeking to serve God and follow His will. It's the reaction of a hyper-controlling, uptight, Type-A personality. My way obviously isn't working right now, so I need to find a new way. God's way.
I read once that the Mongols (or perhaps the Huns?) were so successful in battle because they were taught to fight like water, finding cracks in the defense and working their way through bit by bit until they overcame. This image has been churning around in my head the past week or so. I feel like my desire to help the poor is the current of a river -- it's flowing intensely within me right now, urging me on. And I keep running up against the dam of my marriage. It's making me frustrated and swelling my resentment of my husband. The force of my drive to help is causing me harm.
And God is gently trying to redirect this river, opening up channels to provide relief and continue the flow of water to where it's needed. Am I really going to keep butting up against the dam when other avenues exist?
I've talked again with my husband about our money situation. We had the exact same circular argument we always have, just with different words. For him, it all comes down to our debt. For me, it all comes down to our choices. We can't work together unless we're on the same page, and he's made it quite clear that he can't change to meet me.
So I must take on his focus as my own.
I can commit myself to doing everything in my power to pay down our debt. I can forgo all things for myself, including pizza (woe!) and gifts. I can do my best to save money wherever and whenever I can, including on our grocery bills and clothes for the kids. After all, I'm doing all that stuff anyway. But instead of fighting my husband to send the money we "save" to the poor, I can turn it over to him for our debt.
In some ways, this is all semantics because I don't really have a choice as to what I do. I have to save money. I can't give money to the poor. So it seems almost self-delusional to now claim that I'm doing these things for God. But a true Christian spirit is to take the things God gives us and turn them back over to Him, to accept with love and grace the burdens He places on us and to carry them cheerfully for Him. I cannot change my situation, so I will instead change my attitude. What a beautiful gift for God -- my heart and will instead of my money!
The hardest part, and I still don't know how I'm going to handle this, is what I do when my husband makes a decision I completely disagree with. These don't come very often, thankfully. I'm blessed that my husband is even more frugal than I am and would never just go out and buy $20,000 of home entertainment equipment on a whim (yes, I do know someone who has done this.) But I can't force this commitment on him. If he wants to spend five hundred dollars traveling to our alma mater for a football game, my sacrifice is to say nothing to him about it and go on quietly working to save money on my own.
I feel this is where I'm really going to have problems. I'm not very good at letting things go. Or with trusting God. Or with patiently waiting. And the underlying marital disconnect is still there. I just need to find a way that it doesn't affect me as much. I think making this sacrifice will help. I'm doing it partly for my husband -- this debt is obviously very important to him. I'm doing it partly for the poor, in the hopes that once the debt is gone we can move towards a lifestyle that incorporates giving generously to charity. But I'm mostly doing it for God, in obedience to the path He's setting out for me.
It's here that I'm so inspired by the example of St. Frances of Rome. What she wanted most in life was to be a nun, yet she spent all but 4 years of her life carrying out the domestic tasks required of a noblewoman's wife. Through it all she found ways to serve God, often doing things she hated, like attending a party with her mother in law. Like it or not, this is my path. I can choose to go where God directs me, or stagnate and grow angry forcing my own way. I choose God's path.
I have a new mantra, in addition to the one I say to help me be a better mother ("Mary, my model, be with me and guide me.") It is "My all for you, my God." I hope the frequent repetition of it helps remind me that everything I'm doing is for Him and worthy of being done with joy.