I probably have always struggled with distractions but lately I have been noticing them more. Lately, my prayer life seems to be nothing but distraction. Every night I sit down, after everyone else has gone to bed and the house is quiet, with my Bible and my prayer journal. I do the Sign of the Cross and then, inevitably I start to think about my grocery list, or something my son said to me while we were discussing his religion lesson, or how much laundry I have to get caught up on, or a conversation I had a week ago with a friend, or what Tim might want for dinner the next day, or ……. whatever else might pop into my head....
My lack of focus has been causing me a lot of stress and a lot of guilt. I want to give the time to God and focus completely on Him, I really, really do, but my mind seems never to stop processing my busy life and reviewing all I encounter each day. As I have agonized over my lack of focus and felt guilty about it, it has occurred to me that I should take it prayer.
But, if I could focus enough to do that, would I even need to?
Anyway, though I have yet to actually utter the words, it seems God has seen my struggle and read the desire of my heart. I was sitting in Mass last weekend listening to the readings and the homily (feeling halfway distracted there as well), and all of the sudden, I realized God was speaking to all my concerns and worries. Here is what I heard in the Second reading: (1 Cor. 7:32-35)
Brothers and sisters:I should like you to be free of anxieties.An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,how he may please the Lord.But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,how he may please his wife, and he is divided.An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.A married woman, on the other hand,is anxious about the things of the world,how she may please her husband.I am telling you this for your own benefit,not to impose a restraint upon you,but for the sake of proprietyand adherence to the Lord without distraction.
As I thought about what God might be trying to say to me I realized that first of all, He knows my struggle. He understands that as a married woman I am “anxious about the things of the world”. He understands that I cannot be completely free to focus on Him alone and “be anxious about the things of the Lord” only. Then as I thought more, I came to really understand that my distractions are a part of my vocation as a wife and mother. I must try to work through them and focus on God surely, but I also must accept that they will always be there. I was not called to live a cloistered life away from the world and free from the distractions that come with marriage and family and keeping a home. My distractions are a part of my life and a part of the cross I must bear. I must find peace with them and be at peace even in them. I must realize they are an unavoidable part of my devotion to care for my family and live out my vocation. I must turn them into a conversation with God, inviting Him into my thoughts and concerns, instead of letting them pull me away from my time with Him, but I cannot hope to avoid them entirely.
I have, on the door in my kitchen, a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux. It says,
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
I love that quote because it gives me hope that even in my distracted state I can still accomplish real prayer as long as I remember, every once in a while, to glance towards heaven in between loads of laundry and cooking dinner and changing diapers and grading papers and chauffeuring kids and making to do lists and..........
God is there in the midst of it all.