I felt the front of my linen apron grow warm and heavy against my skin as my two year old poured a bath toy filled with soapy water down my front. The almost-four-year-old laughed hysterically.
I reeled back into the present moment.
I was kneeling on the hard tile floor at the side of a bathtub containing my two youngest little boys. My ears rang with their squeals of laughter, as well as some good ‘ole screaming-for-the-fun-of-it.
My thoughts had been drifting again, worrying and analyzing a Problem in my life I didn’t know how to fix.
My soggy apron pulled me back to bubble baths and little boys. Jesus, I trust in You. I give you this Problem. I choose peace. I choose not to worry.
Again and again I drifted (got soaked a little more) and returned. By the end of the bath, my apron dripped steadily onto the tile floor right along with my slippery-wiggly little boys.
At one time, I would have been hard on myself for constantly drifting off like that. I would have fussed at myself for not being able to give my Problem to God and be at perfect peace ever after about it. I’d have felt guilty for not being more present to the kids.
I truly operated from a place of feeling like God was up there just waiting for me to get it together. My internal dialogue would have sounded a lot like, “Man up, Erin! Give your kids a 10-minute bath without worrying, for goodness sake. This is getting ridiculous!”
I’ve learned though that shooting for perfection in the spiritual life is still the goal, but getting closer to that goal looks a lot different than I used to think. The best any of us can do is to catch ourselves drifting away (from peace, from virtue, from God’s will) as quickly as possible, and to simply and wholeheartedly begin again.
Take it from St. Francis de Sales:
There is no better way to complete the spiritual life than to be ever beginning it over again.”
So many good-hearted, Godly women I know seem to be living with the mindset that their lives will be holy once they’ve “arrived” at some spiritual spot in the future that they feel merits the word. I used to think like that. These are women who are showing up each and every day, broken and journeying and healing and hoping and working their tails off. They’re suffering and loving and raising their kids and discerning God’s will bravely and imperfectly…just like you and me.
Every last one of them inspires me.
I wonder what the world would look like if we all viewed ourselves with the kind of mercy and respect with which our friends view us…with which God views us.
I wonder what the world would look like if we remembered that God doesn’t get tired of us falling and then beginning again. We are the ones who get tired of ourselves.
Learning to see ourselves as God sees us
I’ve been reading Dr. Greg Bottaro’s book The Mindful Catholic this summer, and boy has it been a gift for me as I continue to grow into that merciful, ‘begin again’ mindset. Catholic mindfulness is nothing if not an invitation to learn how to see ourselves more like God sees us.
In The Mindful Catholic, Dr. Bottaro writes that:
Mindfulness is the awareness of the present moment with acceptance and nonjudgment…Mercy is at the heart of nonjudgmental awareness. A dispostion of acceptance and nonjudgment toward yourself is a disposition like that of God, who sees you with the dignity he created you with, and looks with deep love and mercy at you. This gaze of love sees past the mistakes you make to the heart of who you are. It is far too easy to associate who we are with what we do. While it is true that our actions are important, there is a core of our identity that is deper than what we do or don’t do. This is the foundation of the gaze we need to learn how to look at ourselves with. Trustful surrender to God in the midst of any circumstance is possible only if we can experience deeply that God thinks we are good and worth his love. This sense needs to also inform the way we feel about ourselves.
I’m just sharing from the step I’m on, ya’ll.
Because what I’ve been learning over the past couple of years in particular about being merciful toward myself is so needed in our culture. Maybe even and especially for Christian mothers.
Let’s make “begin again” our motto. When we lose our temper with our children. When we sleep in instead of wake up on time for that morning prayer routine. When we shoot off that uncharitable comment about a friend. When we have a bad morning. When stress and anxiety feel all-consuming, and we realize it’s time to retreat into that inner room and talk to God about it all.
Wherever you are today, I pray that you would be open to spending time in prayer seeking the truth about how God truly sees you and what He is actually asking of you at this moment. And I pray that your heart would find rest of every kind in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
A friend shared this incredibly beautiful song by Sarah Kroger with me recently. It’s kind of the perfect song to accompany this post:)