“Sometimes she must leave God at the altar, and find Him in her housekeeping.”
– St. Frances of Rome
I wish I had read this a few years ago. In my quiet, and my loneliness.
In a matter of months after plunging into marriage with our eyes closed and hearts open, we newlyweds found our circumstances quite altered, quite quickly. A baby was on the way, a career had changed, and I had made the shocking decision to raise our children from home.
Before anyone could say “Happy 2nd Anniversary!”, we were raising four children on one meager income, coping with mounting stress, and navigating a less-than-ideal marriage. I looked in the mirror to find a faded woman who was now unemployed, isolated, and utterly consumed by the endless demands of child rearing.
Many an early morning, while nursing my twins in the pale pink of dawn, a foreboding uselessness would set in at the thought of what I’d accomplish during the day. My occupation seemed so mundane, so futile, so tiresome. What possible service was I contributing to the world? Why was I chosen to have children and not do something worthwhile? Why me, who’s maternal devotion seemed questionable at best? How is this possibly what God intended for me? What could I accomplish from such captivity?
Those few years resembled a long, dark afternoon. The kind that finds you gazing out the window and pondering your purpose, with a haunting suggestion that maybe you haven’t one. It was a time that was so difficult, yet so befitting.
I was often alone, while my husband worked long hours an hour away. Having minimal income, our budget was tight, meaning less outings and luxury purchases. Our marriage, being hastily committed in a flurry of sentiment, had a rough start and wasn’t proving to be the comfort we really needed it to be. I felt imprisoned in our home. I was unable to be involved in ministry, school activities, or work. I was drowning in loneliness.
It was long, dreary, quiet.
But conditions improved.
The Lord had been calling me to quiet.
God saw, of course, what I couldn’t see in myself. I was in want of so many things I had previously thought overrated. Virtues like selflessness, compromise, focus, and humility just didn’t hold the same value to me as achievement, cleverness, and high-end cosmetics. But The Lord knew exactly what to do with such a wayward girl.
He turned my face away from the glimmer of worldliness, the praise of a career, and the pleasures of success.
He gathered my ambition, polish, pride, and accomplishment. He tucked them out of sight. In return, he placed me with a good man and a small cross. He offered compliance, silence, frustration, sacrifice, sadness, and age. All of which I accepted begrudgingly, and not without protest, I assure you.
But as I think back retrospectively on the course that has shaped our family thus far, I couldn’t be more grateful for those beautiful offerings that I denounced as burdensome at the time.
Because they were necessary.
I needed to have three toddlers running our circus. I needed to be poor. I needed to be home bound. I needed to seek grace over wit. I needed to learn how to accept help. I needed to struggle in my marriage.
And most importantly, I needed Jesus.
After the dark afternoon, when the sun set on broken ambitions, there emerged twinkling stars in our wilderness. Toddlers grew into boyhood, treasured friendships developed, careers advanced, involvement became more feasible, a marriage was mended, a prison became a haven, and a vocation that was once so resented, was finally embraced.
I can now see that I needed a proper time-out. A time of silent turmoil and internal sorting. Convictions needed to be reinforced, faith needed an upgrade, and family life needed to be dignified.
I had to abandon the altar, and find God in my living room.
Only then could I open the front door and re-enter the world, qualified to serve.