God’s grace overrides sheer willpower which is never enough.
If you think this column is about the erstwhile American TV sitcom, Will and Grace, sorry to disappoint; I’m just borrowing the title.
This column is about my daily life, so it might have been titled “Joy and Fulfilment,” or to reflect the reality of certain days, “Stress and More Stress.”
It seems I’m getting busier all the time. I realise I signed up for that when I decided to marry and be open to raising a family.
God has blessed us with seven living children, and we’ve homeschooled them from day one.
Like most youngsters, our girls are involved in various extracurricular activities. I do a fair bit of driving, sitting and waiting (three cheers for books, laptops, and iPods).
Although marriage, motherhood and homeschooling are my top priorities, serving in the wider community is also on the schedule. Over the years I’ve worked part-time tutoring online writing classes, served as a parish volunteer (lector, catechist, parish council) and volunteered with our local pro-life group and music festival committee.
I also find time for writing non-fiction (you’re reading it) and doing the occasional speaking engagement. Then there are my hobbies, required for health and sanity: reading (everything) and watching (mostly) costume dramas, writing fiction, blogging, and fitness—does it still count if I spend more time wishful thinking than actually exercising?
“Gosh, how do you do it all?” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, I could probably afford a kitchen renovation. The short answer is, I don’t do it all (rock-climbing, scrapbooking, and daily house-cleaning are not on the list) and I don’t do it all—every family member pitches in.
I once met a lady who cynically called this child labour; I call it part of family life’s curriculum vitae: Home Economics and Other Survival Skills. After all, we’re not talking about toddlers shovelling out the fireplace cinders at dawn, but school-age children setting the table, and teenagers learning to cook and do laundry.
I am blessed in my family life. Some days I feel as though I’m on top of the world (usually after the third cup of coffee). When the odd person gushes that you must be a Supermom, it’s tempting to believe them but it’s not true. Nor does the feeling last. Sometimes I feel as though I’m burning out.
When that happens, it’s usually because I’ve either taken on too much, or fallen into the trap of thinking that success, or even merely coping, has something to do with my own strength.
I’m often tempted to think: I can do all things if I just get organised; I can do all things if I buy a fancier day-planner or newer mobile phone. I can do all things if I get up earlier in the morning. I can do all things if I stop eating trans-fats. I can do all things if I just exert my will.
In my more lucid moments, I come a little closer to the mark (but only a little) when I think: ‘I can do all things if I would just pray more.’
You can see which word appears most frequently in that litany: “I”. When the focus is on me and my abilities, or what I can and need to do, I eventually (and predictably) fall flat on my face.
Sheer willpower can only do so much, and some days, it’s not much at all. The only key to ‘success’, or basic survival, which is the best we can hope for on some days, is the free, ever-abundant, and thoroughly undeserved gift of God’s grace. Even with the strongest willpower, it is grace that gets me up in the morning, grace that sends me on my way, and grace that sustains me every moment of my (sometimes long and busy) days.
I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
Grace can do nothing without the will and the will can do nothing without grace-St John Chrysostom.