MaryBeth Eberhard considers how we can find contentment on our journey with the Lord.
Have you ever found yourself up late at night facing some formidable yet familiar interior foes? Quite often I find myself here, and I raise my white flag to the Lord and walk quietly to my place of prayer, for I know whose I am, and I know He will fight for me, if I but be still. (Exodus 14: 4) This time is hallowed ground and I submit to a night of prayer and vigil. It is challenging to be content to be a simple sheep, and yet, is that not what our hearts truly were created for; to know, to love, and to serve the Lord?
I know that for me, I feel the most lost when I step away from this simplicity. My heart longs for it. Just thinking on it, gives me peaceful pause. I envision a lifetime spent thinking how to love the Lord, how to know him more intimately, and to serve him simply and humbly. This imagery has the setting of a mountain cabin or a lakeside cottage, perhaps walking alongside the ocean and reflecting on the Lord’s majesty. I think these moments are necessary and yet they are also mountain top moments that require us to go down and bear witness to that which we profess.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27)
The gospel of Christ is challenging. It is not an easy read nor an easy endeavor to shoulder. One might think it only capable for the errant and the intellectual. However, the beauty of our faith tradition has countless examples of those who bear witness to the gospel of Christ in their everyday lives. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was an unknown sister in a convent until her inner thoughts, prayers and writings were published after her death. Her “little way” of living shone brightly as extremely worthy of the gospel of Christ. We look to her simplicity and her quietness as an example of someone whose every thought and action became a living gospel moment.
It is easy to think that with recognition or acceptance or something tangible that is acquired through purchase or merit, that our level of sanctity and happiness could be elevated. We are reminded,
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
If I am striving to be content to be a simple sheep, to be still and know that He is God, as well as living a manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ, then the necessity of simplicity is paramount.
The question remains, where can we find simplicity in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives? In a home where quiet is achieved only in the midnight hours of sleeping; where, how, and when am I to slow down and ponder these deeper questions of our faith journey. Do I know the Lord? This is the beginning question for us all. Do we know the Lord and does the Lord know us? Clearly, he knows us as he formed us, but will he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:23) or will he say, “I do not know you” (Matthew 7:23)?
I think a gospel-worthy life requires three things: tenacity, courage, and vulnerability. Again, the saints, both early and modern, lead the way bearing witness through these same characteristics. For who can name a saint who wasn’t tenacious in their love of Christ or courageous in the face of adversity, or transparent enough to allow others to see their struggles and yet persevere through them with the goal of building the kingdom of Christ, one stone at a time?
As a wife of almost 25 years, a mother of 18 years, and a daughter of 44 years, I have a deep desire to bear witness to the Lord through these roles. When the darkness creeps in, as it does for many, and we feel unnoticed, unappreciated, unaccepted and unworthy, let us remember that our Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine for the sheep who feels lost. He calls us back to the simplicity of knowing him, loving him and serving him through our individual journey on our way to heaven.
For me that is my marriage, my primary vocation. Upon a whiteboard in my kitchen, which is the epicenter of our home, is written, “Your marriage is the gospel you preach to your children every day.” When I am striving for bigger, better, bolder, or thinking that I lack courage or tenacity, I am reminded of what it takes to live out my vocation in a manner worthy of the gospel and I am immediately rooted in certitude of who I am, and I am at peace. I see both my past and my present and stand firm. There is no need for comparison or concern. Keeping my eyes on Christ, finding Him and welcoming Him into the everyday messiness of family life is worthy of the gospel message. This humility is filled with simplicity and trust, crucial to abandoning our own desires and keeping our eyes focused on our Shepherd. Having nights where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with the Lord and steep ourselves in his word, his love, and his mercy is worthy of the gospel of Christ.
As we hold vigil with the Lord, deep in our hearts, whether it be at night, or in our car, or on that blessed retreat, let us cast aside anything that draws us away from a wholehearted passion for our vocation, for in that space, we will find protection for our hearts, peace for our souls, and unquenchable joy for the life we have been given.
Copyright 2020 MaryBeth Eberhard
Image: Benjamin Manley (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
MaryBeth Eberhard spends most of her time laughing as she and her husband parent and school their eight children. She has both a biological son and an adopted daughter who have a rare neuromuscular condition called arthrogryposis and writes frequently about the life experiences of a large family and special needs. Read more of her work at MaryBethEberhard.com.