“The world lies to us so readily, telling us that the work of God is outside our homes. That the Lord’s work is gloriously big and newsworthy. That to find those who need us, we must look elsewhere. But, the reality is that the work of God begins inside our homes, for those who need us most are those we share our homes with. Because our spouses and our children go out and face the world armed with the same charity we’ve given them at home.”
“A toddler makes it difficult to do God’s work,” I lamented to my husband not long before Christmas. Our parish offered several opportunities to grow closer to Christ during Advent, and with Christmas around the corner, it seemed I’d be unable to attend a single one.
I’d specifically been planning to attend nighttime Adoration, but our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter needed me. She was still dependent upon me to nurse her to sleep, and though I very much wanted to sneak out the door, I could hear the exhaustion and desperation in her cries. I sighed and slipped off my coat, picked her up, and cuddled her in my arms. Instead of consoling the heart of Jesus at Adoration, I consoled my baby girl. Instead of getting spiritually fed by our Lord, I fed my daughter as she drifted off to sleep.
I’d like to say I did these things for my daughter with the love and compassion of our Blessed Mother, but I’d be lying. On the contrary, I did these things reluctantly and begrudgingly. I did these things for her with a quiet resentment.
Isn’t this always the way of it? So often I desire to find silence so I can pray, and yet, with children running around the house, silence is nowhere to be found. Many times I wish I could take a half hour to read a snippet of any of the myriad spiritual books lining my shelves, books that I’d long ago planned to crack open, and instead I see them boasting their perfectly un-creased spines. I’ve told my husband on at least a few occasions that I was going to take some time to go to the local soup kitchen to feed meals to those in need. I’ve yet to find the hours to go. And for all these things I counted as spiritual losses, I have looked at my children at some point and thought, “Yes, children indeed make it difficult to do God’s work.”
But, then, early this morning, as I attempted to get up to begin my day with some quiet prayer, my six year-old son came into my room, snuggling next to me to get warm, and whispered, “I want you.” Internally, I sighed, Even at 5 in the morning, I can’t steal some time alone. And though my body was tense, my son relaxed into me. He put his arm around my waist and I noticed a smile on his lips.
This is God’s work, I heard from somewhere within me. This is God’s work, came the whisper again. Because I needed the repetition.
My mother had been trying to tell this to me for quite some time. Always when I lamented that I felt the desire to be at church, she reminded me of my need to be at home. But my stubbornness had blinded me to what she wanted me to see for so long:
That to do God’s work, we must be content to do His will, even if that means being at home to tend our families instead of at church to tend to parishioners.
That raising our children and taking care of our families is God’s work.
That while facilitating a Bible study might be God’s work, telling our children the stories of Noah and King David and St. Paul is God’s work, too.
That while working at a soup kitchen to feed the homeless is certainly God’s work, standing in our own kitchens, feeding our families, is God’s work, too.
That while praying before the Blessed Sacrament is God’s work, praying with our children is God’s work, too.
As parents, we do God’s work in so many little ways.
A few years ago, when I read a book about Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta and of the volunteers who left their First World riches behind to tend to some of the poorest souls on Earth, I felt I’d missed my opportunity. After all, I was now a mother of a young son. There would be no Calcutta for me. No chance to bathe those who couldn’t bathe themselves, to feed those who couldn’t feed themselves, to clothe those who couldn’t clothe themselves.
But the irony of it is that while I wondered when I’d be able to do these works, I was actually doing them already. After all, aren’t I up early each morning, packing my son’s snack and lunch to nourish him during the school day ahead of him? Don’t I spend hours each week, cleaning endless piles of laundry so my family is appropriately clothed? Don’t I change diapers several times a day, and bathe the children every night? Don’t I clean the house constantly throughout the day so that my husband, who works so hard for our family, can come home to a place not of chaos but of peace?
The world lies to us so readily, telling us that the work of God is outside our homes. That the Lord’s work is gloriously big and newsworthy. That to find those who need us, we must look elsewhere. But, the reality is that the work of God begins inside our homes, for those who need us most are those we share our homes with. Because our spouses and our children go out and face the world armed with the same charity we’ve given them at home.
Blessed Mother Teresa knew this well. She instructed, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home, and love your family.”
Doing God’s work, I’ve realized, really is as simple and as important as that.
image credit: “Happy Mother and Son Playing” by photostock (freedigitalphotos.com)