If you're anything like me, when your head hits the pillow after tag teaming with your spouse in the nightly battle that is the bedtime routine, you're dead tired. And yet, this seems to often be the moment when I also start to informally reflect on my day. Very often, this reflection leaves me feeling utterly disappointed in myself, as I realize that I failed in more ways than I'd like to admit.
Thoughts swirl in my head reminding me of my lack of patience with my children, my lack of other-focused love for my spouse, and my overall lack of answering the call to be the person God made me to be.
In all honesty, I'm left feeling pretty worthless.
And the even more frustrating thought I'm left with is: I can't seem to understand why I do these things that I strive to avoid. Each and every morning, I wake up and toss a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary that usually goes something like this,
"Mary, please intercede for me that today can finally be the day where I give myself entirely to your Son. Let today finally be the day where I am the man that God wants me to be. Please."
After that, I do pretty well...until everyone else wakes up.
The two year old wakes up, still fussy and whiny despite catching nearly 12 hours of sleep. He asks for a bowl of oatmeal, takes two bites, and says he wants Kix instead. I lose my cool.
The five year old wakes up and begs me to read to him while he's eating breakfast, and I give him a cold response because I haven't even started to make my breakfast and I already should have left for work.
The baby wakes up and poops thirteen seconds after I just changed his diaper, and instead of changing him again, I pretend it didn't happen so that I can wait for my tired and overworked wife to take care of the mess.
A quick aside: Do Dads make comments to their wives like, "Hey, I changed the last one, so now it's your turn," even though she changes diapers all day while they were at work? I'm asking for a friend.
And so, less than a half of an hour after asking for help from Heaven above, and making a firm resolution that today would finally be the day that I would allow God's grace to perfect me, I have failed. The entire day already feels like a waste in the sanctification department, and it isn't even 7:00 AM.
Why do I do this? Why do I continue to do what I desparately don't want to do?
Luckily, I'm not alone in asking this frustrating question:
"What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate...For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want."
Believe it or not, that's St. Paul talking in his letter to the Romans.
While it brings me great relief to know that one of the greatest saints to ever walk the face of this earth had this same experience, the scrupulous side of me still allows panic to creep in.
When I reflect upon my many failures each and every day, I foolishly allow the words of Jesus to strike fear into my heart:
"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."
How much more can I possibly be entrusted with than the fullness of truth found in my Catholic faith? I feel like I should know exactly what I should do as well as exactly what I shouldn't, and yet I often act contrary to this knowledge.
Even thought I shouldn't allow it, the consequences of sin lead me to let Jesus' words scare me. When I meet Jesus at the end, he could very easily and justly say,
"Hey buddy, you knew what you needed to do, and every single day you failed. Adios."
I'm sure he would say it more eloquently, but you get the point.
But then, I had a light bulb realization.
It came to me, as so many of my realizations do, through the words of St. John Paul the Great:
"The sacrament of marriage is the specific source and original means of sanctification for Christian married couples and families...For this reason, Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfill their conjugal and family obligations they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, who fills their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance toward their own perfection as well as toward their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God."
What I realized is that before my marriage and family I was infinitely further away from my own perfection and sanctification. Before my marriage and family, I would go along sinning and never spend a single second reflecting on the damage I was causing myself or others. Before my marriage and family, I spent virtually no time in prayer, let alone asking God to let today finally be the day where I allow His grae to transform me into what He made me to be.
It is precisely because of my wife that I lay in bed regretting my faults and failures and resolve to do better. It is precisely because of my children that I wake up before they do to pray for God's grace to make me a litle bit better each and every day. And, it is precisely because of the sacrament of marriage, and God's amazing grace flowing through that sacrament, that it is even possible for me to advance (albeit in baby steps) toward my own perfection as well as toward mutual sanctification with my wife and kids.
Tonight, rather than lying in bed going over my failures from the day, I'm going to spend a little more time thanking God for the amazing gift of my wife and three children.
He knew from all eternity how much I would need them, and it feels so good knowing that we're going to help each other get to Heaven so that we can thank him face-to-face.
Copyright 2015 Tommy Tighe
Photo by Paul Schultz from Kenmore, USA (Nana and Grandad) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
About the Author
Tommy is a Catholic husband, father of four boys, and the author of The Catholic Hipster Handbook (available now!).