The kids just let me sit on the porch, drink a glass of cold brew coffee, and read a good bit of The Interior Castle by the wonderful St Teresa of Avila. It’s one of those books that’s been nudging my brain for a while. Do you know what I mean? A thing you just keep thinking about, intending to do, but somehow never get around to it. So I grabbed it today when I decided to sit on the porch.
A couple parts jumped out at me from the first mansion section that I read. First, the wily works of the Devil.
19. As I said elsewhere, he works like a file, secretly and silently wearing its way: I will give you some examples to show how he begins his wiles For instance: a nun has such a longing for penance as to feel no peace unless she is tormenting herself in some way. This is good in itself; but suppose that the Prioress has forbidden her to practise any mortifications without special leave, and the sister thinking that, in such a meritorious cause, she may venture to disobey, secretly leads such a life that she loses her health and cannot even fulfil the requirements of her rule–you see how this show of good ends. Another nun is very zealous about religious perfection; this is very right, but may cause her to think every small fault she sees in her sisters a serious crime, and to watch constantly whether they do anything wrong, that she may run to the Prioress to accuse them of it. At the same time, may be she never notices her own shortcomings because of her great zeal about other people’s religious observance, while perhaps her sisters, not seeing her intention but only knowing of the watch she keeps on them, do not take her behaviour in good part.
20. The devil’s chief aim here is to cool the charity and lessen the mutual affection of the nuns, which would injure them seriously. Be sure, my daughters, that true perfection consists in the love of God and our neighbour, and the better we keep both these commandments, the more perfect we shall be. The sole object of our Rule and Constitutions is to help us to observe these two laws.
(my own emphasis added)
I stopped after I read this, to think about how this would apply to me and others of my specific vocation (wives/mothers, particularly of the homeschooling/home with littles kind).
How does the Devil work to cool our charity and lessen the mutual affection we have with our spouses? Are we too critical of our husbands? Do we always look for the negative, expecting him to be perfect in all things? Do we couch these critiques in a facade of “I’m only trying to help you”, when really we’re just complaining? When we have a rightful critique of our husbands are we charitable in bringing it to him privately?
And oh, the children. It’s so easy to imagine them as literal devils spawn. But really, just picture this example.
A mother wakes up, resolving to have a “good day”. The baby gets up with an explosive diaper, and procedes to go through three outfits in twenty minutes. While fixing her coffee and breakfast, the other children demand three different breakfasts for themselves, and when they wolf down the first, they demand a SECOND breakfast, all before mom has even picked up her coffee. By the time she finishes eating, it’s nap time for baby, which means quick shower for mom. Before she goes in,she asks the children to clear their work area for school. Instead they decide to “play house” in the school room, thus destroying what little cleanliness there was. Mom is dressed, ready to go and starts teaching someone about sentences… and baby wakes up a half hour early. While sitting down to feed the baby, the children scatter to the winds and won’t come to listen to, well, anything. At some point, Mom gives up. She yells or retreats into Facebook.
Legit, I’ll be honest. This is a regular day around here. And that’s only before lunch time. But here’s what I need to remember.
The children aren’t purposefully trying to destroy my affection of them. They are being NORMAL CHILDREN.
What cools my charity and destroys my affection is that little voice that tells me that they are choosing to disobey because they hate me. And that’s not the voice of God. That’s the Devil, working to ruin me. And that’s where I have a choice. As St Teresa follows up with:
Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s if we are always criticizing trivial actions which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through ignorance of their motives.
It’s no defect of my children to want to play. The defect, instead, lies with me and my lack of charity towards them.
It’s no defect of my spouse when he does some small thing with a good intention, that bothers me. If he puts long sleeved baby clothes away inadvertently, instead of boxing them up for storage, he was only trying to put away the clothes, not deliberately annoy me. The defect is in me thinking that he’s purposefully trying to hurt me.
There was more that struck me from what I read… but the baby is up from her nap and while she is currently sitting nicely with siblings who are watching TV and not doing chores or schoolwork, that won’t last.
In short. I suck sometimes. I need to do better at loving and not critiquing. I need to be better at recognizing the devils wily ways for what they are and not placing the blame for annoyances only on my family. I should probably be more like the roadrunner… getting towards grace, and recognizing stupid plots to kill me.
(If you want to read The Interior Castle, it’s online here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/tic/index.htm)