I would be a much more spiritual person if I didn’t need to do the laundry.
Our parish offers excellent adult education programs in matters of faith and also has various types of prayer groups. The programs are offered in the evening on just about every day of the week, every church season of the year.
And Bill and I hardly go to anything.
We haven’t always been like this. As young adults, Bill and I attended Theology on tap (Catholic speakers with beer to follow) religiously. We stayed after church for the Advent and Lenten series. We were involved.
Now our family goes to church on Sunday, but Bill and I no longer do much in terms of our own continuing spiritual education. I’m blaming the laundry. I’ll also blame the kitchen and the sticky floor and the school papers that breed and multiply if left alone for more than two hours. And I’m blaming the kitchen and laundry and the floor because I don’t want to blame the children.
We’re not alone: Parents consistently report that every successive child makes it that much harder to leave for the evening. It’s not just a babysitting issue—the intense schedule of “must-attends,” from the kids’ basketball practice to their parent-teacher conferences, makes it difficult to say yes to anything that isn’t mandatory.
Yet Jesus made it clear that one of the requirements of discipleship is a willingness to extract ourselves from our lives. He asked Peter to put down his net and follow. He told Martha to stop worrying so much about preparing the meal, and to sit down and talk with him.
Jesus expected different things of both of these people, and I think he based his expectations partly on where they were in their lives.
Bill and I have both noticed that while we had more time to give to spirituality in our 20s, a little time of grace and reflection goes a longer way now that we have school-age kids. It’s almost as if God recognizes that we have so little free time and rushes to meet us where we are. Jesus, in fact, wasn’t asking Martha to stop working for the rest of her life—rather just to give him a little time for that evening. But how can we possibly give Jesus that time amid an overflowing calendar and inbox? Here’s what other parents say:
Focus on a friend.
While it can be difficult to justify taking time away for ourselves, sometimes a friend’s need can propel us toward time spent in prayer. When Maria’s friend Jill was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, she invited Jill to attend an evening Mass with her at nearby Marquette University. The upbeat student Mass fed both of their souls. “I found my own energy coming back in response to the student energy,” Maria says. “I was glad to be there to pray for Jill, but it was also important for me.”
Use technology to make connections.
“Our parish has adoration once a month,” says Sara, mother of three. “My friend e-mailed a bunch of moms to meet there for an hour. About four of us showed up—I might not have gone without that little encouragement.”
Early morning offers possibilities.
“About eight men from our parish meet every Friday at 7 a.m. for Bible study and discussion before work,” says Paul. “At first I didn’t think I’d be able to commit to it, but now that I’m in the routine, I find I look forward to it.”
For parents the challenge is in recognizing when Jesus is at our door—in hearing him tell us to put down our work. The challenge is finding a balance between entering into the pace of life with children and extracting ourselves from that life so that we may re-enter it as better, more centered people. The challenge is giving God that opportunity to rush to meet us.
This article was originally published in the April 2009 issue of At Home with our Faith.
Image: Unsplash cc via Sarah Brown