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I blog about my Catholic faith, my prayer life, good books and good movies.

A Cinderella Story In Reverse

Abigail Benjamin

I had the joy this Spring to hang out with a collection of cheerful 70 year old nuns. Retreats are really important in my life. I discovered the more that I feel like "I can't possibly leave my life" the more urgent need I have for an overnight retreat. This year, I went on a Silent Retreat with my Carmelite Community in March and I expected to find "rest." I had a baby with colic after a high-risk pregnancy. If they passed out Sangria on the beach with Jesus inside a convent, that what I mentally pictured my prayer sessions to be like while I was on Retreat with the King of the World.

Instead, I hung out with the Benedictine Sisters who are all about "Prayer & Work", or Ora et Labora. The Benedictines introduced me to the concept of "resting inside my work." It's a hard concept for me to get because as someone with a sanguine temperament I keep wanting to take frequent breaks on my hard days. What I found, however, is that if I've been good about resting in God when I'm supposed to be resting (i.e. keeping up my Carmelite prayer schedule) then keeping my nose to the grindstone no matter what happens during the working hours of my day can be "restful." 

I think about my life with Christ as a sort of "Cinderella in Reverse" story. I met Christ early in my life. I got super blessed to start receiving him in the Eucharist less than a year after I became a bride. There was this beautiful moment early in my marriage when I started to realize that this affirmation that I was frantically searching for first as a straight A student and then as a workplace star, was already given to me. I was God's "It Girl!" 

Then after falling in love with God, after becoming a princess of the kingdom, He's like "Okay, now go to work scrubbing toilets!" My life is 90% percent about boring, mundane, stupid-to-the-world looking stuff. It's easy for me to get discontent. "Hey God, you said I'm important! Shouldn't I be out doing calls to the sick or something meaningful." 99.9% of the time, The Creator of the Universe says to me, "No, actually I want you to put the allergy pills where your husband can find them easily. Also, your three year old has managed to lose three pairs of shoes inside the house, fix that problem pronto, please." 

It does my heart so good to hang out with the Sisters. The Sisters run a monastery. The run a "retreat center" for the world, where lots of lost souls can find healing in Christ and lots of tired souls can get recharged in Christ. The Sisters are really smart and talented. The Mother Superior has the rare talent of cracking jokes about herself and saying profound things about how to spiritually fight ISIS.

On my best days, I've stopped thinking about my housework as "housework."  Instead, I started thinking about my house as a retreat center. My house is inside the world, but not "of the world." My home is not a Corporate Starbuck's lounge or an impersonal Hotel Lobby. My home not a church, with the formality of the Tabernacle.  My home is a place that is open to my brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom happen to share my same last name. With the recognition of my home's true function, I've been more brave in inviting really cool people over to my house for dinner. My Cinderella cleaning work helps me become hospitable to others. Learning how to do my hardest tasks "restfully, with God's help" is a gift that I give to myself.