Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Power of Carrying Out One's Duty

In 2007 my family and I traveled a few counties to our north to hear Anne speak (Anne, a lay apostle, associated with Direction for our Times). I wrote about that particular experience here. There was one little thing that happened during that talk that has stuck with me vividly all these years. My daughter was not quite two years old at the time, and during the talk she wanted to move around a bit. We were sitting on the far end of a church where the seating was a semi-circle around the altar area, and we happened to be at the end of a pew near a statue of Mary, I think. I stood up and let her interact with the statue, and all of a sudden she let out some sort of noise that was audible to the whole, packed church. This didn't bother me, really, nor did what happened next, but this is what stuck in my memory. Anne paused in her talk and said, "Every single mom sitting here is thinking, 'Glad that's not my child!'"

Now, as I said, this didn't bother me. I scooped up my daughter and we started walking the large hallway. But I could almost feel what went through Anne's head right then: "Well, every single mom, except one -- the one whose child that is!"

As I walked the hall, at one point I was smack at the center aisle of the church, standing many feet away and out of the sanctuary, but in direct eye shot of Anne, and I noticed her sort of stop where she was in her talk, and fold in a comment about how God could both use us and make us great saints if all we had to offer Him was cleaning the house and making peanut butter sandwiches all day. I got the feeling that she saw "the one whose child that was" and felt the need to insert a comment directed at me, sort of to make up for the understandable but perhaps potentially embarrassing comment she'd made.

At the time, her words hit me like pious platitudes that went from one ear to another like so much other stuff like that.

One thing I appreciate about this blog is that I can write about the "latest, greatest" thing God is teaching me, then go back a year later, after writing almost the same thing, and the re-read earlier posts to discover that what I thought was a brand new thing God was showing me was simply something I didn't pay attention to very well, earlier.

The fact is, though, that growing steadily in my heart is this realization that I participate in building up God's kingdom by my faithfulness to my hidden, domestic duty. I wish I could find a way to say that that gives it all the wallop it deserves. I've thought in the past that God was served by my intellectualizing over things and all the hot air I've spewed to people in trying to tell them how much more right I am than them, or by all my grandiose plans and intentions or at least all of my holy (or not so holy) daydreaming that I love to do, or at least by the religious trappings I've tried to surround myself in. But God keeps redirecting me: Do the laundry. With love. Change the cat litter. Without complaining. Make dinner. While trying to please others. Be patient with your children. Pay attention when they drone on and on about boring things. Be nice to people who come to the door, even when you feel like you spend all your day running up the stairs to answer it (because your butt is always at the computer chair). Let your husband know you're glad you live together. Clean the house diligently regardless of who notices.

And why? Because this unleashes powerful graces on the world, that's why. Responding to plain old reality in a Christlike way within our personal vocations is all we get in order to participate in the life of grace. I don't so much care what my house looks like, as anyone who has visited can attest. I'm not obsessive about cleaning, and most of the time I'd much rather think than do. But if I don't do my duty, I realize, my chance to participate in God's plan for spreading graces goes to waste. And what of the people who would have benefited from those graces? Well, St. Claude, who was my patron for my CD project, had some pretty strong words to say about this:  "More souls are lost for this reason than for any other. Half are damned for not having performed the duties of their state, the other half because others have neglected their duties with regard to them."

It is pretty easy to start believing that the simple carrying out of our daily duties, of faithfully doing our jobs, of being faithful to our families, has no real impact on the world. Who cares? Who can see it? But that completely misses the spiritual dimension of living as part of the mystical body of Christ and offering our bodies as living sacrifices. If there is one area where my Christian formation in the pentecostal tradition has failed me, it was that I drunk in this notion that doing something for the kingdom of God has to be big, flashy, miraculous or "ministry." No. Faithfulness and love expressed through normal life, whatever God gives us as our duty, is how we build the kingdom. Anne did not come up with some new idea when she talked about peanut butter sandwiches. She just reiterated what the Church has told us for 2000 years. And finally, I get it on a level deeper than in my head.


Anonymous said...

What a blessing! The Lord has brought me to your blog, and rejuvenated me through it. (if only for the moment!) I too am an INTP woman, with three children, a husband, and a live-sustaining faith in our Lord Jesus Christ! And I assume you know just how rare this combination is. The funniest part. . . My name is also Marie. I have wondered often more recently about the unlikelihood of being a strong Christian and an INTP. . . And it has just recently dawned on me that this is the great change the Lord has done in my life. . . I don't have the same kind of salvation story as most, and have often (in my lower times) wondered if there has been any conversion. Yes, I said it. . . But those questions and doubts are not only "normal" for a Christian, they are more so normal for an INTP. I have also wondered, after gathering more information on mu personality type and reading posts from others with the same type, how did I end up married, with three kids (though I wouldn't trade it for the world). And therein lies the miracle! Anyway, just wanted to say thank you, and let you know how very much I understand the dilemma, and revelation, you have shared in this post. Ministry in the "mundane," routine, daily tasks?!? Sounds like a nightmare for an INTP, but that is perhaps a "weakness" where Christ's power is made perfect. I hope this all makes sense!

Marie said...

Hi Marie!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I have this feeling that INTPs love to talk about personality more than most, and so there are lots of us out there doing that, even though there aren't lots of us.

What fun! Drop by anytime.