Surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit can seem like an esoteric activity, something to talk about, write about, and perhaps pray about. It is another story when we try to live it out in our daily lives.
Our inner and outer lives are intricately entwined. If we depend on our own efforts in our day to day life, we will inevitably think we can earn salvation by praying, attending mass, confession, and saying the rosary. All these activities place us in God’s presence but they do not justify or sanctify us. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.
This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for He alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.
The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of His own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification (CCC 1996-1999).
Perfection and Socks
Years ago, it was easy to look like a saint on the outside as I mothered nine little people. The trouble was, although I looked like I lived a life of self-denial, losing myself to give life to others, I depended on my own strength to get through overwhelming chores which were part of running a large household. I learned how to live in, with, and through Christ through socks.
As I read spiritual material, God repeatedly tried to teach me that true Christianity is not focused on personal perfection but rooted in personal weakness and dependence on the power of the Cross and Resurrection. Yet in my daily life, I strove for perfection. For example, faced with three or four loads of laundry every day, I was determined to pair all those socks. Little did I know, God was using the dilemma of unpaired socks to purify me because I was trying too hard to be the perfect mother and housekeeper. This earnest striving was a sin, not a virtue because my diligence was rooted in insecurity, unbelief but most of all in pride.
Relying on Myself
There are solutions to the sock problem. I had 154 stinky socks to wash every week, at the bare minimum. Oh well, sometimes I did four loads of laundry a day and socks really didn’t take up that much room.
The trouble was, socks seemed to disappear into mountains of clean but unfolded laundry or never made it into the washing machine in the first place. Do you have any idea where 154 socks can hide every week? I had to look between sheets, under the Chesterfield and chairs, behind closet doors, inside wet boots, in school bags, under toy baskets, inside of pant legs and even, if I was lucky, in one of eleven dirty clothes baskets. But, I had to pair them all, or did I? That was the brilliant, out of the box sort of question I asked myself one day. I was sure my intellect had finally solved my problem.
New solution: Buy lots of black socks in every size. Surely some semblance of a pair would be easier to find. I simply tossed the black socks into a wicker basket with a three-foot circumference and a height of two and a half feet and hoped for the best.
However, I had managed to overlook one important fact. I had six daughters. Little girls don’t like black socks. They like pink ones. To make matters worse my mother bought cute socks with frills and bows and patterns that the girls really needed and loved. None of them were the same. So although I used the toss and throw method of pairing, some mornings found us frantically searching through my huge, unpaired sock basket.
People joke about washing machines eating socks. Rationally, I know this is a silly answer to my dilemma but the more I think about it, the better I like the whimsical answer.
Some sock solutions are outrageous. For example, I remember a crazy, campfire song, from my childhood, that we usually sang in rounds.
Black socks, they never get dirty;
The longer you wear them, the blacker they get.
Some times, I think I should wash them
But something keeps telling me
Oh, not yet, not yet, not yet!
I did not seriously consider this option, though. Socks reek after only one day stuck inside an active child’s running shoe.
I could kill myself trying to control everyone’s bad habits but really, life is much more interesting if I finally relax a bit and joke about my failings and foibles. God seems to like those who realize they are failures because then He can finally save them from themselves.
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us.” (Pope St. John Paul II)
“The crucifix does not signify defeat or failure. It reveals to us the Love that overcomes evil and sin.” (Pope Francis)
“Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.” (Dorothy Day)
Forgetting What is Not Essential
Slowly, I learned how to let nonessentials go and centre on loving and receiving love. Maintaining a perfectly clean house with all the laundry folded in dresser drawers was not central to my vocation as a mother but having time to spend with God and nurture my kids was. The benefit of letting go of control in my daily life was that this attitude of surrender spilled over into my inner life.
Patron Saint of Missing Socks, pray for us, so we receive the grace to surrender to the power of Christ crucified and allow Him to save us.