How do you put big love into small things? This challenge has been on my heart lately.
Honestly, I’ve often felt overwhelmed these past few weeks. Since a new baby and a new homeschool year arrived at roughly the same time for me this fall, I am a woman who suddenly has a lot more to do and a lot less time to do it. So many, many small things are on my plate right now.
I was doing dishes late one night recently, after putting everyone to bed by myself (Michael was out that night for an event), and I was scrubbing those dishes and having a good ‘ole I-hate-my-job moment. The evening had been so rough with the kids. I was so tired. I was tempted hard to jealousy of my husband getting to miss out on all the fun that evening. Tackling those dishes was about the last thing on earth I wanted to be doing. But doing the dishes at night, I’ve learned, is oh-so-necessary for helping me keep my head above water the next day. They had to be done. So there I was, my thoughts running away toward self-pity, when I glanced up at the cute little chalkboard sign I had perched above my sink. A few days before, I myself had written on it, “Put big love into small things!”
I just couldn’t do it at that moment–put love into that sink full of dishes. Deep-down, I truly wanted to do the right thing, to please God with my cheerful service, to figure out how to practically do the work of my vocation in that moment with a completely different attitude. But I was too mad. My emotions were too strong for me. A verse from Romans came to mind. I remembered reading a line where St. Paul says, “I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Yep. Romans 7:15. That was me: holding onto my bitterness and my tiredness, my vague and self-righteous feeling that this wasn’t fair.
I think that part of my learning how to put love into small things has been recognizing and rooting out a temptation to self-righteousness, a temptation to think that somebody is not loving me rightly if I am having a hard time with something. I am quick to blame my husband. But I’m learning that sometimes I am even quicker to blame God, whether that was my intention or not. The fact is, God never promised me that my vocation–even with me asking Him to lead it and guide it and tag along every day–would be a walk in the park. He didn’t promise my husband and I that being open to life would be all white picket fences and angel babies and obedient toddlers. He didn’t promise me that I would never have a long, long day by myself with the kids and then still have to do the dishes.
But He has promised that it will all be worth it. That He can and will use it all for good. That He loves me more completely and perfectly than I can fathom.
My prayer that night in front of that sink full of dishes was that God would help me learn how to practically put “great love” into my duties as a wife and mother, particularly when I don’t feel very loving toward the task or the people I’m serving. I have a long way to go, trust me, but here are some thoughts from the past few weeks.
Big love in small things is choosing not to snap angrily at a child who wakes you up early from a much-needed nap.
Big love in small things is nursing the baby at the end of a couch full of clothes you haven’t had time to fold, and making yourself list (out loud) ten things you are thankful for instead of letting your thoughts slip into irritation or despair.
Big love in small things is making sure you turn off all the lights, fans, and the washer and dryer before you leave the house, because it’s important to your husband (although it’s not quite as important to you, and although it’s a hassle sometimes!).
Big love in small things is making red beans and rice every Monday because it’s your husband’s favorite dish and he grew up eating it every Monday night (although you’re not a big fan).
Big love in small things is going over to push your three-year-old on the swing when you really, really don’t feel like it.
Big love in small things is picking up that squalling baby yet again and forcing a big smile onto your face as you say to him, “You are a treasure! You are a treasure! You are a treasure! And I’m happy to hold you!”
You know, maybe doing small things with great love can start with simply trying to stop resenting those tasks of your day that you don’t enjoy. Or finally making yourself do the ones you procrastinate about. Maybe its not doing something so that you can spend quality time with a child (or your husband).
Maybe it’s stopping what you’re doing to go see the humongous worm the kids are hollering about outside (when you’re in get-all-the-things-done mode because the baby is actually taking a decent nap).
Maybe it’s being obedient to doing the best job you can with the work God has called you to that day. Maybe putting big love in small things starts by still doing your duty in a moment when you’re struggling, and praying God would help you have a right heart about it in time.
Trying to take our thoughts captive in the spiritual life can be so confusing. Which is why I love what St. Paul says later on in Romans:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words…”
And I just love this piece of advice from St. Josemaria Escriva. I think it’s such a practical starting place for thinking about how to do small things with great love.
“Put your heart aside. Duty comes first. But when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it. It helps.”
Don’t you agree? 🙂
My beloved ones:)
My two sons:)
The tenderness of the “big kids” with their baby brother continues to touch my heart so deeply! Their easy, natural love for this baby is one of my greatest joys right now.
Truly, I say to you, big love is making a liturgically on-time craft to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This experience reminded me why I don’t plan crafts more often. Pictured: happy kids and cute, completed rosaries made out of cereal, candy, and dry beans I found in the pantry. Not pictured: all the tears that fell during the making of the rosaries. In retrospect, I should have kept the Smarties far, far away from this project. I guess you live and you learn. 🙂