I was clearing out one of the rooms in our house and came across one of my old journals. Giving myself permission to be distracted for a moment, I flipped through and found an entry in which I was talking to Christ about my struggle with anxiety. So many of my struggles remain the same, in spite of all the obstacles that have challenged me to change! Journaling is often how Christ chooses to speak to me, and so as I continued reading, I found this reply: “your central temptation and fear is that you must earn love and grace, that you have to do everything by yourself. My beloved, this is all pride and vanity.”
How often do we try to do it all by ourselves? How often do we refuse help, fearing that we are a burden? And yet, here was Christ telling me that trying to do it all is “pride and vanity.” I began to examine my heart. I recalled moments when I needed help and refused it or failed to ask for it. In some of these moments, my RA was flaring and I was struggling to walk, and still I felt the need to make my own lunch, to get the girls down for nap, to unload the dishes myself, and I had to wonder: why? It was clear that I needed help and rest in these moments, so why was I insisting on doing it myself?
Because I am afraid. I fear being a burden. I fear vulnerability: admitting that I can’t do things sometimes as simple as buttoning the snaps on a baby’s onesie. But most deeply: I fear that I am not enough.
At the heart of my anxiety has always been the question, “Am I enough? Am I good enough? Beautiful enough? Catholic enough? Enough for my husband? Enough for my children?” But Christ sees all this and he says, “No, not alone. But by my Grace, by the passion of the Cross, you are enough.”
If we allow Him, Christ can fill all our deficits. He can make us more patient. More vulnerable. More loving. But the key to allowing Christ to fill in where we fall short is this: first, we have to allow Him. Secondly, we must make peace with the fact that we are broken. It takes a great deal of vulnerability to admit our brokenness even to ourselves, but Christ works in the brokenness. If we can accept that we are broken, we can then more eagerly seek grace, asking Christ, through His Mother, to heal us with His Mercy.
It’s easier said than done. I’m a perfectionist. In arguments with my husband, I will stubbornly insist that I am right even when my flaws are staring me in the face. I don’t want to see my brokenness! I don’t want to admit my failure. I don’t want to be imperfect.
I remember telling my husband that I didn’t want to admit failure, and his response was basically, “so what? You failed. We’re all human. We all fail.”
In my desire to maintain a veneer of perfection, I frequently out my husband and Christ, wounding them both. How often do we fall into this trap? The trap of having to convince ourselves and others that we can earn grace, that we can earn love, and that the only way to do so is through a false veil of perfection? How many arguments could be stopped if I simply admitted my failure and then invited Christ into my heart so that I could be better in the future?
In my anxiety, I want to maintain control. But truthfully, I am not in control and I cannot be. I cannot control the actions of my spouse. I cannot control God’s will. And try as I might, I cannot control my stubborn-willed two and a half year old. And so, instead of trying to do it all perfectly, to earn grace, to earn love, I should focus on asking Christ for the grace to deal with the every day trials and messes, to fill in my imperfections with His Love and Mercy.
It is true that our hearts are cracked and wounded. It is true that we often wound others because of our own wounds. But even more powerful than our own woundedness is Christ’s Mercy and Love. This Lent, I will focus on going to Our Blessed Mother and asking that her Son’s Mercy fill in my brokenness. That Christ’s Mercy may transform my broken heart. I will focus on love and strive to let go of trying to earn love and grace. I will accept and seek help, knowing that it is ok that I cannot do it all. I will accept love when it is offered from my husband and those around me. For in accepting my brokenness, I invite Christ into my heart, and by inviting Christ into my heart, I invite Him into my relationships, and by inviting Christ into my relationships, those around me can be loved, strengthened, and healed as well.