Sometimes I am tempted to think that the path to sainthood would be so much easier if conditions X, Y and Z were met. If only I had a larger house, then I wouldn’t have the kids getting on my nerves and I could be a more patient man. If only I had that job, and I would have the pay that would allow my family a decent life. But perhaps where this line of reasoning is most prevalent is when it comes to other people. If only I didn’t have to deal with Such-and such, then I wouldn’t have these uncharitable thoughts about them; if I didn’t have to put up with So-and-so, then I’d be a much more patient person. This is especially true when it comes to those closest to us, to our own kin. Is it perhaps because “familiarity breeds contempt”? Is it because those that are the closest to us are so close that we, with our tendency to focus on negative, begin to notice all the small flaws? We come to see them no longer as a brother in Christ, with their own struggles, but as a problem that needs fixing – especially when it comes to the children. They are “broken” and somehow it falls on me to fix that apparent brokenness. We snip here, we tighten there, loosen a bit here and then we come up against a brick wall. We repeat, and yet again we bash our head upon that wall. And we repeat, and repeat, and repeat, until finally we rend our clothes and pull out our beard, throwing our hands up in despair saying “Oy vey! Why have I been cursed with this person? Why have I been given this thorn in my side?” Our view of that person ends up becoming vitiated, and we come to resent them; they can do no good in our sight.
But perhaps the perspective is all wrong. Perhaps that person is not broken; perhaps they are in fact a goad. No, that person is not a problem in need of fixing – not from me at least; rather the one who is in need of “fixing” is myself. That person is there for a reason – a reason I may not like, but which is vital to my salvation. That person is there to show me my own shortcomings, to show me how pride has given me a deluded sense of importance. My uncharitable reactions towards them, my little patience, my rolling eyes, my murmuring – is not all that kicking against the goad? Has the Lord not been long suffering in dealing with me? Has He not forgiven me time and time again – and will continue to forgive me – without the slightest resentment? Has He ever regretted creating me in light of all my infidelities?
Like a little child I know the rules, yet I still break them, sometimes knowingly, sometimes out of habit. I act petulantly. I mistreat His creatures. I forget that he has “remembered me in my low estate, and redeemed me from my enemies”; that He has “made me to pass through the midst of the Red Sea”; that “His mercy endureth forever”. He has done that not only for me, but as well for those I consider myself to be “burdened with”.
These proddings, I believe, are meant to illicit a question – Has the grace of God towards me been in vain?