Last week was a busy week. Every day we had at least two things on the calendar. It was a full week, filled with basketball games, Christmas parties, the last week of homeschool community before Christmas break, performances, and the like. Of course, it was all wonderful and delightful, but it also meant I had to call in the troops (a.k.a. my husband) to help run children around and get things done. On the last day of the week at the end of the day, we were driving home from the last event and he turned to me and said: “I feel like today was not my own.”
At first, I was beyond delighted to hear this. I mean, now he knows what it feels like to be me. No day is my own. This is the essence of the homeschool mom life! Ha! He finally understood.
We spent the rest of the car ride talking about other things or simply riding in silence. During those moments of silence, I was relishing in a feeling of vindication when it struck me, “I feel the same way he does.” When the thought occurred to me this second time, I understood it in a different way. Was it virtuous for me to resent that a day was not my own? What did that say about my loves, hopes, and dreams? I did not like where this was going so I brushed the thought aside and reflected on something else.
It wasn’t until a few days later while reading the day’s Bible passage and homily that I was confronted with the thought that disturbed me so just a few nights before.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest, is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” -Ephesians 5:8-19
If this was not obvious enough, the first line of the homily was this.
“What he means is this. The time is not yours.”
St. John Chrysostom goes on to say “At present you are strangers, and sojourners, and foreigners, and aliens; do not seek honors, do not seek glory, do not seek authority, nor revenge; bear all things, and in this way, ‘redeem the time’.”
‘Bear all things’. This is what I had not been doing. Maybe in a sense, but definitely not with ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in (my) heart to the Lord’. I was weary and tired and at the end of the long day was saying ‘this day was not my own.’ St John Chrysostom says, further into his homily:
“In what sense then does He call the days ‘evil’? …It is not the essence of the thing, not the things as so created, but it is the things transacted in time. In the same way, as we are in the habit of saying, ‘I have passed a disagreeable and wretched day.’ And yet how could it be disagreeable, except from the circumstances which took place in it? Now the events which take place in it are good things from God, but evil things from bad men…What then? Are we to give thanks for everything that befalls us? Yes, be it even disease, be it even penury. For if a certain wise man gave this advice in the Old Testament and said “Whatsoever is brought upon you take it cheerfully, and be patient when you are changed to a low estate’ (Ecclus. 2:4); much more ought this to be the case in the New…Let us, therefore, give thanks not only for blessings which we see, but also for those which we do not see, and for those which we receive against our will.” -St. John Chrysostom. Homily XIX on Ephesians V.
I had totally missed it. Praising God in everything is not about pretending that everything is awesome. It is about taking what is and anointing it as something that “works together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Is this not the essence of Holy Unction (anointing the sick with oil)? Maybe the sickness is healed and maybe it is not. But always, after anointing, the sickness is repurposed for eternal things. Had I been tuned-in to the spiritual realities I could have rejoiced because this day was not my own. The very act of rejoicing could have been an anointing on the day, proclaiming it as part of something greater. I could have been participating in something greater, by living for something greater. Homeschooling and all the motherly duties could have been the very way I came to participate in something eternal. Now that I say this, I already knew this with my head but had lost sight of it and the weight of it had not traversed my heart.
This lesson was even more obvious to me last night when meeting a friend for coffee. The way she talked about homeschooling was lovely. She was light to me in that conversation because it revealed something of what was in my heart regarding motherhood and homeschooling. What this all came down to for me was a matter of loves. When faced with the reality of life, I did not love it. It reminds me of a passage from Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. It is towards the beginning when Ransom has asked Lewis to visit. Lewis arrives before Ransom returns from an errand. During this time, where Lewis is alone, he reflects on all the stories Ransom has told him about Malecandra, Maleldil, and the eldila. And then in that moment he comes face to face with what he has heard about but never seen. This is what happens.
“Here, at last, was a bit of that world from beyond the world, which I had always supposed that I loved and desired, breaking through and appearing to my senses: and I didn’t like it, I wanted it to go away. I wanted every possible distance, gulf, curtain, blanket, and barrier to be placed between it and me. But I did not fall quite into the gulf. Oddly enough my very sense of helplessness saved me and steadied me. For now, I was quite obviously “drawn in”. The struggle was over. The next decision did not lie with me.”
When faced with the every day, which is now filled with the Light because of the glorious Incarnation, will I love it? Light is hard because it reveals what is truly in our hearts. Sometimes it is quite unbearable. “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest, is light.”
Will I struggle, wrestle, and refuse to ‘fall into the gulf’ and allow it to ‘draw me in’? Will I, in the face of Life, choose to rejoice and praise? “Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
It is the very act of repentance, of remembering our helplessness that will save and steady us. Maybe then, after I relinquish the struggle, I will begin to see more clearly that homeschooling, mothering, and living in the daily provides infinite opportunity to be drawn into that “light by which we see light” and in that, I can rejoice. To God be the Glory.
“And so let us together answer this invitation, one that calls all of us to a particular kind of life, a life of true and flourishing humanity in the midst of a cosmos redeemed in Christ, a journey that makes its way through and soars up to that light by which we see light.” -Dr. Stephen Turley, Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty
Expanding Wisdom, extending grace,