At Year End

If I had to pretend 2019 was a piece of writing and give it a title, I would call it “The Battle with Selfishness” or “The Struggle to Sacrifice.” The prevailing event that occurred was the birth of my son in early January, so naturally, my life turned upside down.

All the poets and writers and anyone who has ever had a child were not kidding when they said that upon becoming a parent, one’s entire perspective on life changes. For me, the key word was perspective. My actions did not change much, but I got the overwhelming sense that I needed to be changing my actions in accord with this new perspective of parenthood.

So much of what I do on a daily basis is selfish. So much of it is useless and destructive, not in an overt way like alcoholism or drug use, but in a softer way. I was playing on the floor with my son one night, and my phone vibrated from inside my purse where I promptly forgot about it upon walking in the door and seeing my son’s drooly grin.

I ignored the phone, but in the back of my mind was a nagging feeling that I ought to check it, even though it was likely only a text from a family member and not urgent. This nagging feeling occurs all the time when I’m doing something worthwhile or unselfish. The nagging feeling says that I need to surf the Internet on my phone, sit down and read a book, go on the computer and write something, or just be alone and away from people.

Sometimes the nagging feeling becomes a roar, and it is extremely hard to ignore it. I don’t know if that is the sound of my old pre-married life coming back to haunt me because there are certain parts of it I find hard to let go of, like unfettered alone time. When I try to make myself remember that I was not as happy in those days, the roaring quiets and the nagging goes away for a time. But it inevitably returns, mostly when the phone vibrates or when I start to get tired (damn that noonday demon!).

Honestly, I’m happiest when I’m with others, although it does not appear that way. Being around others is hard because I have to control my selfish impulses, but it is infinitely better than doing things alone. It is better to serve others than to serve oneself, as painful as it is to be around others at times.

So my resolutions for 2020 are related to being more “other centered.” I will die one day, and I doubt I will be remembered for how many blog posts, journal entries, and fiction pieces I wrote, how many books I read, or how many government documents I edited. I don’t think God is going to judge me on the basis of those things either. My vocation is to be a mother and a wife. That is the way I am supposed to bring light into the world and lead others to God. Everything else in my life should be in service to that vocation, which was chosen by God to bring glory to him, so my resolutions have also been chosen for my vocation.

All this is to say that I didn’t set a writing goal. I’m going to keep posting THE ARCHIVES until all 365 chapters are up. I’m sure the constant urge to write will spur me to post the occasional blog entry here and there, but it’s not going to be a priority. The world is a strange place and becoming stranger by the day. The best way to prevent it from having too much of a hold on me is to renounce it, little by little, and do what I can for God.

The Name of Jesus

My son is starting to say words (actually, to be realistic, babblings that sound a lot like words). There is the usual “mama” and “dada,” but I’m not totally sure he associates those words with the concepts yet. He will reliably say “cup” when he plays with his cups and “car” when he sees a car or looks at a book with cars in it (or trucks; at this point, they are the same to him).

My husband got him to say “Jesus” by putting pictures of Jesus all over the apartment and handing him holy cards (laminated, so they are indestructible!). One of the pictures of Jesus is in the bathroom, so when I’m done changing my son, I make sure he sees Jesus before he leaves the room. Now it’s a habit, so he will swing around and say hi to Jesus.

This is not to brag about my son (who am I kidding, of course it is!) but to say that all this repetition of the name of Jesus got me thinking about the name itself and what it should mean. Often, we use it as a swear word when we should be giving honor to the name. I pay more attention to the name now. This past Sunday, I was trying to be super focused on the times when the name would be said in the readings or the homily. It isn’t said a lot. Instead, we use Christ or Emmanuel or the Son of God or any number of other titles. I might have heard “Jesus” once or twice. Would we benefit more from hearing the name spoken in a positive way? I think so. It is a nice reminder.

…at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…

Philippians 2:10, NABRE

The Baby Jesus

Lately, I have been thinking about the baby Jesus. When I was younger (and by that, I mean only about a year ago), I imagined a tiny baby, looking as perfect as one of those Ashton-Drake dolls, wrapped up in a flawless swaddle, in a manger. Mary and Joseph are perfectly calm and nonchalant, as if in a nativity scene.

Like many things about the life of Christ, that was a completely idealized vision. We never think about the one-second-old baby Jesus looking gray and wrinkled, with an umbilical cord, covered in blood, wailing into the cold Bethlehem night. He is always perfect, like when a gorgeous blonde on a soap opera miraculously gives birth to a six-month-old.

We never think about Mary being exhausted from the birth or the constant feedings. She always appears angelic and serene. Yes, she was sinless, but she was still human. I can imagine that she felt much like any other new mother after one of those endless days in the first month or so: hungry and thirsty, totally exhausted, and wishing Joseph would hurry back from his trip to the market so she could have one minute to close her eyes.

Babies are hilarious little creatures. They make weird noises. They pop up in their crib to greet you at 3 in the morning, when any reasonable person would be asleep. They grab their feet and stick them in their mouth. They suddenly shriek with joy at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. They fling food all over the place when eating. I’m sure the baby Jesus did all these things. He probably kept his Mother awake all night long when he was teething or had colic, but he must have kept her laughing, too.

Babies are also, quite frankly, disgusting. I’m not going to describe the bodily fluids or the incredible degree of literal crap one has to put up with as a parent. I’m sure you can imagine it (and you might have been there). Again, I’m sure the baby Jesus had his disgusting moments. True, he was God himself. But he was fully human and subject to all the nastiness of the human condition. It did not make him less holy, just like all those gross-out times don’t make regular babies any less lovable.

Maybe this Christmas, we should look closer at babies and be reminded that Jesus was once a baby, too. We might even be able to take that a step further and look at grown adult people, especially those who get on our nerves, and be reminded that Jesus was once a grown adult, walking among us, capable of feeling everything that we feel.