A few years ago, I shared with my husband something that I had been contemplating throughout the day. To me, it was a profound thought which merited admiration. (Hah! Of course, I thought that.) Yet, he responded not to the fruit of my contemplation but to the act of my mulling things over while I work.
“You have a lot of leisure time. Mental leisure time.”
Hard Work Mixed with Contemplative Prayer
Annoyed and insulted, my thoughts offensively jumped to: “I worked hard all day, wasn’t I appreciated? Doesn’t caring for children, providing a dinner, keeping a peaceful home count for anything?!” I reeled for a moment, trying to let the sting of that blow pass so I could see more clearly and remain considerate of him. When it passed, I could see that it was true. My job(s) take me physically and emotionally but often leave my mind open to wander. The opposite is true of his. A job with meetings, e-mails and phone calls is not conducive to growing in understanding of the relationship between parenthood and divinity. Nor of the newness of life which springs up in every crevasse of the yard.
Stages have shifted.
Sparse Mental Space
Now I have plenty of days when my hands spend more time on the keyboard and less time carrying little ones. My mind races from thing to thing, not person to person. My contemplation resides more fully in specific times of prayer, driving and in rest than during my whole day. Clearly, not everyone has the mental luxury to contemplate (that’s why universities were created). Yet, we all are given the right to live freely as children of God and to know the Spirit intimately. But I miss the frantic days of early motherhood that – yes – had mental leisure time. Now I more fully need the sacramentals of an image of the holy family by my computer and a rosary worn around my wrist. I need the order of a spiritual life which propels me from one prayer to the next with lots of tasks sandwiched in between a morning offering and an evening examen. I need to pause every half hour in the midst of work to glace at Him. I am grateful for this new stage of life because it is the stage to which Jesus himself is carrying me. I am also grateful for the many intermittent days full of cooking, cleaning, yard work and shuttling kids.
Determine Your State
What are your days like? Do you have mental time to contemplate and offer certain portions of your work up piece by piece? Can you consider the “big picture” meaning of what you are doing while you work? What is God calling you to at this stage? Each stage has different graces and challenges. While there are as many stages as there are people multiplied by the number of days in a life time, I’ll give some suggestions for two common stages.
This is the mom who is juggling the household and her children. She gets very little uninterrupted time (even for sleep).
- The practice of the presence of God – talk with God all day long. Offer up every little moment, trial and joy.
- Go to Confession often. A busy house means lots of squabbles. Get the peace, support and assurance you need.
- Take a retreat at least once a year and multiple mini ones (just for 3 hours) if you can.
- Do little faith activities with your children often and let that be part of your own prayer life.
Swamped at Work
This is the mom or dad who is always on a device. And they don’t even like screen time. “Work” does not necessarily mean they are bringing home the bacon. It could be the PTA, Religious Education or a volunteer music program. Or, it could mean the paycheck. This person probably has a more regular wake up time and gets extended time of work uninterrupted (although the work is a barrage).
- Make your personal prayer time consistent and regular. Carve out from your schedule space to read Scripture everyday and sit and meditate for a 15 minutes.
- Do the examen in the evening before you sleep. Confess to God and make resolutions. Get his help.
- Put a holy object by your work space and pause for a moment about 3 times a day to look at that image and offer your work.
- Say grace at every meal.
He Calls Us All
No matter where you are in life, God has a way for you to reach him and him to reach you. You are loved. Your life is cherished. Follow the Holy Spirit into a dynamic relationship of love.