I remember the first time I felt clearly dissatisfied, like all my ambitions were being suffocated by the mundaneness of adult responsibilities. I was making numerous copies on the seventh floor of a truck company. The repetition of blank paper being fed through a machine only to be spit right back out again as a duplicate of the one before it, felt a little too close to home. My days were bleeding into one another without distinction - hours of my existence being wasted on a job for which I cared little, for which I was painfully, maddeningly, ill suited. For a while there things looked promising; professors had been encouraging about my prospects as an impetus for change, “school-free” independence had been an exhilarating achievement, and the marriage I had recently entered into proved to be a titillating venture fraught with both passion and insecurity. But one cannot keep up forever with that feverish pace now, can they? I suspect that Visa bills and ten-hour workdays have leveled many a high hope, have tempered plenty of idealistic aspirations. At the time, however, while Xeroxing my life away, that natural progression towards maturation felt more like “selling out,” the waiting for something else to come along was near unbearable.
News of my pregnancy was a light at the end of the tunnel. I would find clarity in motherhood. I would devote myself to the ecstasy of becoming a co-creator. I would lose myself in the gratification of raising children. The eight-month countdown to my last day as a corporate communications administrative assistant, I viewed as a period of incubation. Every thought and action was devoted to a future starting point. Every day was another square to check off my calendar until real life, my more meaningful life, began. And when, at last, I had trudged through all those peripheral moments leading up to the afternoon of my son’s birth, I delighted in the newfound freedom to let go of old expectations and embrace the sacrificial persona of caregiver, nurturer, and parent.
I poured out that optimism into my perfectly beautiful infant who instinctively sucked every last bit of it from my sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and lonely old soul. And when the well was dry, when the weeks had turned into months without removing from me, permanently, the hunger for something more, the discontentment I couldn’t shake no matter how hard I prayed, I wished, or manipulated my circumstances- I finally stopped trying all together. I threw up my hands, I threw in the towel, and I threw out my preconceived notions of fulfillment. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, from God, from out of these years I would spend here on this earth. For the first time, without any ulterior motives lurking behind my plea, my intercessions, I prayed to the Lord for mercy. I asked Him for the strength to make it, not through this year, not through this month or week, not even through this day, but through this breakfast, dialogue, or trip to the store. I accepted, out of exhaustion, that I was incapable of doing anything noble or satisfying outside of Christ.
Boom. Boom. Boom. There were three more children, not one of them much taller than my knee. The house was a disaster. My patience - beyond tested; throat tightening, eye twitching, and deep breath taking all effectively, over nine-years-time, chipped away at a crippling habit of preferring my own agenda. The love (intoxicating, unabashed, and unconditional), for these tiny persons as frail and imperfect as I am, continues to keep me up at night in a prayerful vigil for wisdom, courage, and forgiveness. I do not, presently, have my finger on the pulse of social justice. I cannot hop aboard the next Red Cross bus to whatever town is being devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes, or fire. I am bound here, firmly, by obligations that in a global sense seem awfully trite and unimportant, but I do not feel unimportant any longer.
Twelve years ago I stepped timidly into an Eastern Orthodox Church only to stay put there for good. Salvation as a process, as a path unique to each of us, was a concept both foreign and intriguing. Upon conversion I accepted it, upon reaching my personal limits, I rejoiced in it. For the very context in which I found myself, in which I formerly struggled to find meaning (as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor) lay the crux of my ultimate purpose: to be faithful in the circumstances custom designed by God to ensure the death of myself, making room for the Resurrection of Christ within me. Every week I wait at the bus stop, I empty the dishwasher, I engage in conversation with my husband, my children, the fellow members of my small midwestern community. Every day it is a fight to participate in those events completely. The alluring promises of potential freedoms (“when the kids are older”, “when this project is completed”), of eventual accomplishments, of another time and place more exciting, more rewarding than the one I am immersed in, beckon me to tune out – to ultimately lose out on the minutes building on top of one another to form a lifetime.
“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” prayed Moses in Psalm 90. Teach me to desire only the pain, boredom, thankfulness, or frustration you have blessed me with this very second. May I not squander these gifts of illumination, not wish away the tools that can pry me from the bondage of my mortal self. Grant me eyes that find You in everything. Grant me the ears to hear Your directives – as quiet as the whispers on a mountaintop. Grant me the fortitude to live out this day - fully, attentively, lovingly, until its completion.
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