As a child, we imagine our lives as adults. We see ourselves as getting married and having children. In that order. We played make-believe with dolls pretending to be mommies and daddies. Our parents read stories to us that mostly ended with…”And they all lived happily ever after!” We fell asleep comforted with the knowledge that our lives would emulate those wholesome tales. We made mud pies, ran through the water sprinklers and played in the grass, making us itch until bathtime. Those times were good and simple.
Putting aside childish things we raced to adulthood which of course would be our happily ever after. Right? Not so fast. We married and had children. The miracle of childbirth greatly affirmed for me for sure that there is a God and He sure loved me! After all, look at this beautiful child. My life forever changed four times!
We taught these lambs everything. How to walk, talk, eat and how to love. How to behave, cover their mouths when they coughed…”Don’t hit each other!” we said often enough. Then on the first day of school, some kid hits them and another coughs all over them which sends them home with a brand new communicable disease. Little did we realize…this was the beginning of a war. Without warning, we became unsuspecting soldiers.
The world outside our door will have had more of an influence on our children than we ever did. They made friends that we didn’t select. They made mistakes and they sinned. That was par for the course in an effort to grow up. We parents understood that. We were young too once up a time. Of course, we kept taking them to church and explaining our Faith and love for Jesus in hopes that they’ll remember what is good and bad, what is right and wrong. We told them to avoid the near occasion of sin and to make good associations with friends. Did it take? Sometimes I think so or know so. Sometimes I wonder if they ever really heard a single word that I said. And it starts to feel like a crapshoot.
When the world gets a hold of our children it is almost impossible to get them back. We send them off to school naively trusting that they’ll be taught only good things. I know that the teachers try very hard. But their burden is that they may have 30 youngsters at a time, all being raised differently and sometimes just plain badly. I’ve seen some of their classmates who must have been raised like free-range chickens with no discipline at all. We sent them off like lambs to be alongside the wolves. We did what we thought we were supposed to do. Only now we could no longer filter what got into their minds. Not only from the schools but from billboards, TV, movies,computers and even books. There are many agendas out there seeking to influence malleable minds in their formative years. There are people with agendas, groups with agendas and institutions with agendas all with varying degrees of scrupulosity. Not all intentions are kind, to say the least. Daily bits and pieces of their innocence got chipped away by this world, little by little. It feels like a dagger every time you notice this in your child, who now is in pain. When they were younger and they got hurt a simple kiss on their owie did the trick. We are still trying to protect them from pain, even pain that is self-inflicted. That is when it’s most difficult to be a parent.
In the french play “Huis Clos” by Jean-Paul Sartre, the conclusion is drawn that “Hell is other people”. That is unquestionably true when our children are exposed or expose themselves to the immorality, disease, and chaos which is prevalent in our culture today. Much like an adorable kitten becomes the large cat that won’t stay off your countertop, our tiny angels grew into rebellious instruments of torture for their parents. Oh, they are still beautiful, and they are still kind and generous. But they have definitely lost their baby smell. For us now they are adults. By their second year of college, they decided that their parents, knew absolutely nothing about life or this world that they cleverly navigate. The fact that they are self-sufficient adults now happened by a sheer accident of nature. Nothing to do with us. Although they began rolling their eyes at us when they were preteens, they do so less now because they have become so socially skilled that they don’t activate their faces with every emotion. They do salute the fact that we fed and clothed them all of those years.
Our terrific strangers, in the spirit of their rebellion, have now decided, some but not all, that Mom and Dad’s faith and religion were just a means of making them behave as children. They don’t need God, Church or marriage. They think that their way of doing this life is superior to that of their feeble parents. As is true in all rebellion, unsurprisingly to we the feeble ones, at some point, the shit hits the proverbial fan. Uh oh! Where’s Mom and Dad? Well, they’re at church praying for these sorry asses. We love them, that’s why we keep them in prayer. Because we already know that these new ways of doing things don’t end well. God has a plan for families that has worked for well over two thousand years.
We all make mistakes. Some are more catastrophic than others. We are still only human after all. While they were young and did something bad or wrong I would tell them to ‘ go and say sorry to whomever you hurt or offended and then apologize to God. God will forgive you and then you move on!’ That’s what we did. But wait a minute. Now they are all grown up! Their mistakes and sins now can have mortifying consequences. Mom and Dad can no longer make everything better even if asked. When we see our child in pain, we are in pain too. We can help, we can advise. We pray that our children will listen. It is true suffering that we go through watching our offspring in suffer. Sometimes the ramifications of our children’s misdeeds have eternal consequences. We labor when we see our very much loved children fall down in their lives. We feel helpless, while at the same time we know that our Faith will get us through. But, what about our child who has lost his or her Faith, or thrown it away? We wonder how they will cope without the grace of Jesus. We know assuredly that these pitfalls could have been avoided simply by sticking with the game plan laid out by God for them.
Thankfully for us, our lambs do not all make the same types of mistakes or even at the same time. They are sparse and rare. But when they do, they rally around one another and help as a team. I’ve seen it. It makes me extremely proud. I guess that happens by accident too! My guys help each other with so much love it is amazing to see. Mine are not a bunch of crazed heathens. They are fantastically good people. Of course, there will be more problems in the future. That’s the nature of the beast. Sin is and always will be a problem for everyone. Only with Jesus can we conquer sin.
With each awesome miracle of birth (4x) I became even more sure of God’s existence and His love. Jesus fell to the ground three times in agony while carrying the Cross. Mary watched as any mother would, wanting to make it better. Her immaculate heart must have felt so much pain. Mary was also at the foot of that Cross, watching our Jesus take on our sins, all of our sins! Mary knew the purpose of her Son’s suffering. I didn’t know the purpose of the suffering of my child or of my heart… Until last Sunday at Mass. The reading from the Bible was the exact same reading that enlightened me when I was in week 4 of my six-week stay in the hospital with double pneumonia. My children were very young then. My body was not responding to the antibiotics. Tubes were draining my lungs. Specialists were called in. I was dying and no one mentioned that small detail to me. A very good friend, who is also a nurse, told me later that I had survived the same type of pneumonia that killed puppeteer Jim Henson. She later told me that she had visited me that day to say goodbye.
I didn’t know or understand then why I was going through this awful sickness. This illness almost took me away from my husband and four children. They needed me. I prayed all day and every day in that hospital. When I wasn’t praying I was reading my Bible and books my husband brought to me about the saints and Church history(always fascinating). I was so blessed to receive Eucharist daily. Before that, I’d only received on Sundays so this was good! I was given my Last Rites (they don’t really call it that anymore) It is two sacraments. The Anointing of the Sick as well as Viaticum (Eucharist; food from Heaven for your journey to Heaven) Aka The Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ) One doesn’t have to be dying to receive these sacraments. Suffice it to say my situation was dire. God and I had a six-week-long conversation. It was quite necessary. I battled with the issue of Faith. What was Faith and did I have any? Was God going to take care of my children if something happened to me? Did I trust God? After reading this passage I knew that God’s answer was yes! Yes to everything! I finally surrendered to God completely! After reading this:
Hebrews, chapter 12r »
God our Father.*
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us* and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.a
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lordb
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?c
If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards.
Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live?d
They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness.
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.e
So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.f
Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.g
God revealed to me that I was actually in training. Laying in that hospital bed with tubes connected directly to my lungs draining them of infection, I was running my race! And all the saints in Heaven were pulling for me! Such a great cloud of witnesses! My doctor told me that this was when I had a turn around in my health. God healed me.
So in hearing this last Sunday, I knew that God was telling me that once again I am in training. And my children are in training, running their races. God promised me that day in the hospital that He would take care of my children. This war has already been won! So I will not be weary! God’s got this!
Painting “The Path” by Kathy Hatch