There are days when I just come straight up against my limitations, and it’s hard to look away. It’s like a car wreck–I experience the day going downhill in slow motion and an objective part of my mind watches it unfold and tries to keep a tight rein on the emotional part of me that wants to yell something, eat chocolate, and then go and hide with a good book for three hours … in that order.
I know I have limitations. In particular, I have a propensity toward getting pneumonia right when I would most like to be active and doing things. And if I’m not getting pneumonia, I’m trying to use every natural method in the crunchy books NOT to get it when various stress factors come out to play. My most recent serious bout was earlier this month. And, ironically, it coincided with a book club novel in which a main character dies of pneumonia at age 34. Comforting. Really. At least I’m not an alcoholic, which I believe was a major factor in his demise. But I digress.
What’s challenging is to avoid fixating on weakness. As I recover my energy, voices war in my head–You need to rest! You need to push through and reestablish structure in the home! Your laundry is turning into an epidemic and infecting every room in the house! You’re tired; just give up. When was the last time that kid even had a bath? You must! You can’t! You should! You better not!
And by the end of a school day I’m not sure if the work or the interior, emotional battle has been more exhausting.
I was reminded by a friend, yesterday, of a wonderful quotation by Mother Teresa (I know she’s a saint, but that just sounds less personal than Mother, yes?).
“God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”
Faithfulness is not selfish. It places me squarely in the hands of my Heavenly Father and asks Him to prompt me how to rest and when to work, when to accept my limitations and when to push forward despite them. And there is so much peace in faithfulness. Success, on the other hand, is so ephemeral and elusive. I could chase that will-o’-the-whisp all week long without satisfaction.
Another Mother Teresa quotation speaks of this as well:
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
Small things. One at a time. I don’t have to look at my day as a wreck. I don’t have to judge my life in charts of profit and loss. I just have to ask God, “What now?” and “Help please,” and then be attentive to His voice.
I derive great hope from the story of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was so sickly as a young woman that a religious order of sisters refused her admittance as too frail for their way of life. So, she founded her own community. Everything always seemed to go wrong. She wanted to go to China, but the pope sent her to help Italian immigrants in America. She had to travel far and learn English. Initial supporters sometimes fell away, and she had to drum up support for orphanages, schools, and hospitals herself. Over and over, she was too sick to do the work needed that day, and she had to delegate to others or let things go. However, she was faithful. And by the end of her life, that faithfulness had turned into nearly 70 institutions across America that were helping the underprivileged. Additionally, her order had grown and spread internationally.
Frances was told she was limited. But she didn’t waste her life fixated on her limitations and rating her day 1 to 10. She just trusted God and acted and persevered. And great fruit was born by that little tree.
1) By Stephen Kelly (Outside Looking In #1) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons