One of the weekly pillars in the life of my family is going to church. Spending an hour together in community, in worship, and encounter is something that I am grateful for. Especially after the last 18 months, when we could not go at times due to the pandemic.
I have come to love the opportunity to attend mass on a regular basis. I look forward to sharing this love with my family and helping my children experience that same encounter.
As I sit here typing, I am picturing an ‘ideal’ Sunday. I imagine the kids dressed with shoes on well before we need to leave and everyone loaded in the car. The church is only five minutes away, so it should be a nice peaceful drive. We get there early and seated. Everyone is quiet and content.
Then I remember what happened two Sundays ago. After blowing a gasket because we were running behind, I practically chased my family out of the house to the car. We drove in awkward silence to the church.
Nobody (including me) was ready to go on time, and I turned from Bruce Banner into the Hulk because I thought we were going to be late. Kids that were in the car needed to use the bathroom. Shoes were missing. Hair needed combing. And I was running around like my hair (what little is left of it) was on fire. It was not a pretty scene.
As I sat through mass, I felt stupid. He got me again, I thought. I imagine a family attending mass together is one of the enemy’s least favourite things. It should come as no surprise that in the moments leading up to it, I encounter stress and annoyance that I rarely feel at any other time during the week. I have come to expect it, which is why I felt so defeated when I took the bait.
Slipping the Jab
I wrote a few weeks ago about the subtleness of the Saboteur. He shows up often as inconvenience and then tries to use those situations to convince us we are alone. Or he will whisper about an offhand remark. Convincing us it was a personal attack and that we should take great offense.
The enemy is constantly on the move. If we become wise to one angle of attack, he will move and come from somewhere else. Scripture warns us: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil is slippery and evasive. Sometimes the attacks make no sense and catch us off guard.
Reflecting on my moments of madness on that Sunday morning, there are a few things that stick out. It occurs to me that trying to get a family with four kids under the age of 10 out of the house to go anywhere on time is a feat. Things go sideways and that is ok. It is an effort and if we are trying our best to get to mass with our hearts seeking His, it is hard to imagine Jesus scolding us at the door. I think God can look down at each of our situations with mercy and understanding. I should be able to look at my own situation in the same way.
I know these moments are coming. I expect them. And I still get tripped up. Recognizing these areas in my life helps me to seek the grace to overcome them. Trying to will my way through them or think I am going to outsmart the attacks will likely result in more falls. When I seek God and ask Him to equip me to face them, He makes a way.
Grace in the Shower
This past Sunday (one week post silent car ride to church), we were way ahead of schedule in our morning routine before mass. Feeling relaxed, I was putting breakfast out, still thinking we had loads of time to get ready. Then my wife and I remembered one of the kids needed to be early. In the time it takes to articulate a thought, we were right back to being way behind.
It caught me off guard and the red mist started to fall again. Thankfully my wife sent me upstairs to shower, which removed me from the logistics (and frustrations) of getting the kids ready.
After getting into the shower, I heard the door open. My wife popped her head in and said, “It’s all good – let’s keep calm.” I smiled, thinking of how close I was to repeating the previous weekend.
Lost in the panic of rushed preparations is the reason we go to mass. The opportunity to encounter God directly and share this gift with my family. When I get taken out, it is frustrating for me. But of even greater concern is that when it happens, I diminish the experience for my kids. They remember daddy losing his cool and being angry at a time meant for uniting as a family.
When I seek grace in the madness, time seems to slow down. The minutes become less important than the moments. And as I go, so too does my family. If I can slow it down, remain present, and adjust my pace to what the moment requires, I can bring peace and balance. The opposite is true when I get caught in the fray.
Closed on Sunday
Seeing the patterns, both in my behaviours and in the timing of them, I can adjust and be better prepared to handle challenges as they emerge. In this example, I can lean into the graces God provides. I can also get up earlier and make sure I am not assisting in the plot to turn my morning sideways.
There are many things I can do to avoid these attacks moving forward, but I also need to acknowledge that I will fall again. I do not want to, but it will happen. This is not as important as the reaction. Will I stay down or get straight back up and keep going? Each fall provides the opportunity for more growth and more grace.
Being human means being flawed. But our flaws and falls do not define us. Our identity as sons and daughters of the Father is what defines us. We should take courage in this. Know that whether the devil comes on Sunday mornings, late in the evenings, or at any other time, we operate under the cover of the Father. He is enough to see us through.
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