I used to know how to pray. I used to make a habit of spending intimate time with the Lord. That intimacy was mind-driven. I chose to make time to read, to study, to meditate. I chose to spend that time so that I could be prepared for the rest of my life...influences, interactions, activities and the like. I was front-loaded, if you will.
But now, I find that my mind needs to follow action. Instead of actions being born out of a mind willfully focused and directed to the things of God, they are immediate responses to the events and people in my world. More often than not, I have no control over them, and tend to feel buffeted about, nervous and unsure of myself. Not a good place to be as a wife and mother. Somehow, I have to find my sanity and my devotion in the midst of activity, rather than bringing it ready-made into the tasks of my day. For me, it's like learning to live backwards.
Even in matters of personal discipline, this is true. With a husband and six busy sons, I cannot choose silence on those days when I don't feel like playing nice. I cannot choose to walk away from an argument or tense situation. There is no "stop, breathe, and pray." There is no waiting for clarity and wisdom. There are only situations that must be handled immediately; waiting can make the difference between a minor tiff and a full-blown fight. What is at first a child with a marker can be a completely re-decorated room in a very short time. And I am decidedly in over my head.
Needing to feel front-loaded with my spiritual life stems from a need for vigilance. We all need to be vigilant - to be mindful of our words and actions and keep them in check. But my natural inclination is not to be good. Temper, language, relationships...I react first, think after the fact. It's rather a dangerous temperament for a wife and mother. My world of droolers, ketchup-eaters, and back-talkers demands gentleness and wisdom, forgiveness and forbearance. But at the same time, time to weigh responses and think through the possible consequences of words and actions is an un-affordable luxury. It seems like the perfect storm...the perfect teapot for a wickedly destructive tempest.
It's tempting to chastise myself for making too much of my role here. And I would be right to do so in the "real world." But in the small society of my husband and our children, the impact of my words and actions is immeasurable. It is at once an awesome and terrifying role, with repercussions going far beyond what I can see here and now as I watch my little ones on their way to manhood. It is terrifying to imagine that what I say or don't say to one of them can impact them for the rest of their lives. What's a mother to do?
Today, I don't have any answers. Just a hasty prayer for heaven to protect us from all harm, no matter where it may come from and what form it may take. And a desperately cherished wish that a quiet, thoughtful place will come find me at the sink or under a mountain of laundry and give me courage and strength for whatever lies ahead.