I once heard a Catholic speaker refer to children as ‘saintmakers’. I always treasured this description in my heart, but I’m not sure I truly understood it until I had my first child.
I was never under the illusion that the “universal call to holiness” would be an easy one. We may all be called to be saints, but the journey to holiness is a painful and difficult one.
I have a burning desire in my heart to be a saint. I don’t mean a Saint in the sense of being recognized officially by the Catholic Church as someone who is definitively in heaven when they die, being known for their great works and love of God, and whose prayer has invoked miracles after their death. Although I would definitely love that and know that we are all called to that radically holy life!
No, what I mean for the purposes of this post, is that I have a burning desire to be a “saint of the everyday”. To respond willingly to the call that God has put on my life, the one that nobody else can do. Because that is the immense preciousness of each life – that all of us have a calling on our life that we alone can fulfill.
But I know that this is not something I can do in my own strength. It is not up to me to ‘make myself holy’. It is up to me to accept God’s holiness and all that comes with it. He alone can make me holy, but He uses other people and circumstances to help me along the way.
So as I have prayed and prayed for God to make me holy, I have been met with many trials and tribulations as He tries to smooth out my many rough edges. But this year, God really outdid Himself. He blessed me with a child.
For so many years now, I have felt like I have made such progress in patience and prayer, in gentleness and compassion. I was
pretty happy with myself modestly content.
And then along came my daughter.
My beautiful, kind-hearted, stubborn, gentle, intelligent, fiery, lovely, angel of a daughter.
And she has been the most humbling experience of my entire life.
Marriage changes you. Living in such close quarters with somebody and sharing everything, you are made aware of many faults, many weaknesses, many struggles in yourself. And you are blessed by it, by being in such a loving, unbreakable commitment. If you are blessed to know for sure that your spouse will be there through thick and thin, good and bad, sickness and health, then you are able to face and deal with those weaknesses, rather than feel you have to hide them. You can deal with them together.
But with a baby, it is completely different. Because a baby’s cry, their pain, their fear – that hits you deep down in the most vulnerable part of your heart. You have to be the strong one – and so often fail. When you find yourself crying, shouting, losing your temper, cursing and begging, it’s not pretty. You look at yourself when all has quieted down and you realize how weak you are. How impossible it is to do all of this on your own.
You beg forgiveness from God, your spouse, your child, and yourself. And you resolve to be better next time. And then next time hits…
Sometimes, you see a little bit of progress in yourself. It doesn’t always last, but seeing it brings you hope. You pray for mercy, and God, in His great abundance, pours it upon you. And you know that He is doing something amazing in you through this helpless little creature who looks to you for the answers you don’t have, for the energy that has disappeared, for the comfort that’s hard to muster.
This child is teaching you to be a saint. They are emptying you from the inside out. It’s painful. Oh, it’s painful. But as you are emptied, so you can be filled. With grace, with love, with holiness, with God.
And that is worth every moment of difficulty.