A friend of mine had the most heartwarming status update on Facebook the other day. He described a domestic scene with his kids that was near-perfection: he and the children doing dishes together, good natured banter. Brady Bunch stuff. A family scene that many of us frazzled single parents had lost hope of ever experiencing.
These kind of moments do come at my house, but they are fleeting. Most of my domestic scenes include hustling, scolding, breaking up arguments, nagging about homework, and picking up toys by myself. Dishes, when they get done, get done in solitude, because washing them is my “therapy,” one of the few things in my life that I can control.
Shortly after I read my friend’s Rockwellian status, I sat down to prepare for Sunday school class today and read today’s readings form Isaiah and Matthew. (Side note: I’m not teaching Sunday school because I’m one of those perfect parents, but because I procrastinated so bad that it was the only way to get my kids into Sunday school. As it turns out, I really enjoy it.) Today’s readings are the prophecy and its fulfillment. When the messiah comes, says Isaiah, the blind will see, the lame will walk, the deaf will hear, the mute will speak. When John the baptist’s disciples come to Jesus asking if He is “the one,” Jesus doesn’t give them a direct answer, but He does show them that the prophecy is being fulfilled by His actions.
If Isaiah were talking to me today, his prophecy would sound more like this:
“Take heart, your God is coming into your home! Then will the stubborn five year old poop on the potty and wake up dry every morning. Then will you eat and pray as a family every night. The tween will put down his iPod, and the seven year old make her own bed. And there will be family movie nights and camping trips and a lot less laundry.”
The difference between today and Jesus’ time is that today, Jesus has already come, and the only thing keeping him from entering my home and fulfilling the prophecy is me and the cloud of worry, distraction, and irritation in which I often choose to live.
When I get out of my own way, and really focus on living in the present and being present in the moment, I find the prophecy being fulfilled. Or, if not fulfilled, I find the grace and patience that St. James urges in today’s epistle. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains,” he says. “You too must be patient.”
In the pre-Christmas season especially, impatience is more my modus operendi, especially with myself. The more I strive for and miss perfection, the more impatient I become with myself. At least, that’s how it was in “Christmas Past.” This year, I’m practicing acceptance – of the burnt out lights on the tree, the disastrous birthday cake I made for the little one last week, the totally uncreative Elf on the Shelf we have, and even the piles of laundry. I accept that I can’t do it all. And I’m ok with it. I’m relaxed, and in the relaxation I discover a wonderful gift – that elusive Rockwellian moment of joy with my children. All that worry, distraction and irritation about not being perfect is exactly what was preventing it.
The blind do see. The lame do walk. The deaf do hear, and the mute do speak. And when we see these things happening in our homes, on a spiritual level, we know the truth – Emmanuel, God is with us.