I fell into venial sin this morning. I had a super sized temper tantrum over a mistake made by my five-year old son in front of a painting of the Sacred Heart.
You've got to love the irony of being a Catholic mother.
And the humility that comes from correcting the bad behavior of young children 24 hours a day, only to fall into the same sin yourself.
This morning I fell into a deep sleep on my living room couch at 9 AM. I got woken up by my five year old and three year old quarreling over possession rights to the DVD player.
About 10 minutes into my failed peace-keeping efforts, I noticed a smashed ring-box on my living room floor. I'd treasured that ring-box for 10 years, ever since the night of my husband's proposal. I knew my son had gotten into Mommy's special memory box last night. I hadn't realized that he'd accidentally smashed something sentimental inside.
Suddenly, it was all too much! I hated that my most precious stuff was stored under the bed because we are too poor to have a proper amount of closet space. I hated that my inquisitive five-year manages to find everything that I hide away from him. I hated my sluggish, pregnant body for failing to properly supervise my inquisitive son. Poverty, Inquisitiveness, Pregnancy. Life suddenly seemed overwhelming.
It makes no sense to scream at a five year old for breaking a sentimental ring-box that signifies the start of a beautiful marriage, when the child himself is a fruit of that sacrament.
My anger always fails to make rational sense.
I yelled at my son for being careless. I childishly stomped over to the bedroom hallway and threw a laundry basket that stood in my way. I turned around and started yelling at my son some more.
Then out of a corner of my eye, I saw a flash of red. It was my Sacred Heart of Jesus picture. My savior tapped me gently on the shoulder and reminded me of my sin. I felt ashamed to yell at a little kid in front of Jesus, yet I finished my angry sentence anyway.
Then I stomped into my bedroom to collect myself. I had to stop sinning. I asked for Mary's help.
I apologized to my son through gritted teeth and demanded that everyone put on their sandals so we could go for a walk outside. The scramble for shoes for four pairs of feet always takes a long time.
By the time we made it out to the sunshine, I wasn't gritting my teeth to keep from sinning anymore. I had true peace again in my heart.
I apologized a second time, much more sincerely, to my son. I said my Act of Contrition (my apology to God) out loud so that my children could hear me. All three of my children were instantaneous in their forgiveness of me. Alex told me that he loved me and gave me a kiss. I held my children's hands and we chatted easily about "Mommy's mistake" as we walked along the bike path.
Hannah reminded me that I'd lost my temper three years before when I thought she had lost my grandmother's engagement ring after playing in my jewelry box. "Mama, you came to my bed that night and said that you shouldn't yell at children for losing things because children are more important than jewelry."
"I totally forgot that this morning, Hannah" I said. "Maybe we could write that down somewhere so Mama won't forget again."
Hannah squeezed my hand. Then the little nun who inhabits my house shared some of her deep spiritual insight with me. "Mama, you should never yell at a kid for breaking your jewelry because we kids are your jewelry!"
"I like that," I said. "You kids are my spiritual jewelry. My best jewelry! Everything else gets left behind on earth. I can only take your souls with me up to heaven. You guys will be my sparkly jewelry up there!"
Last year, I had such a false humility about my bad temper. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I felt like a fraud for eating the Eucharist at 6:30 AM and screaming at the kids to put their shoes on faster at 9 AM the same day. I wanted to have all of my long-term venial sin struggles to be instantly wiped away the moment I became an official Carmelite.
Now I have more peace. Jesus and I are working on my habitual sin of anger. Over that past 18 months, we've made some progress. Now that I'm 8 months pregnant and exhausted all of the time, I'm dumped back at the starting gate once again.
But this time, it's different.
This time I trust God's grace. I can see him working with me.
My big brother Jesus is there as a tangible presence to warn me when I start slipping into sin. He admonishes me because he loves me.
And while I wish that I was a perfect Mother and never sinned with my children, I have more peace with my flawed human nature. I know that apologizing promptly to both the brother that I've offended and to God is an important act for my children to witness. I bless my children with my spiritual strengths and my spiritual weaknesses.
False humility is a hidden face of pride. "Why did I mess up again today? I'm already supposed to be perfect!" pride says to the heart. False humility brings up feelings of shame and despair. It can ruin an entire day.
True humility brings peace. I'm aware of the mercy I receive from God and my children. I know I don't deserve it. I'm so grateful that God is so good and that he puts such goodness into the hearts of my children.
A year ago, Mommy losing her temper at 9 AM would have signaled an awful day of tears and frustration and bitterness. This morning, by 9:15 AM, all was right with the world--even better. I took a happy walk with my children and got to savor the thought of holding hands with my "spiritual jewels."
Thank you for your merciful heart! Help me to better share your mercy with others.