I was remembering one of my professors back in college. We were discussing Advent and Christmas liturgy when he went off on a tangent about family life. He said, “You know, sometimes I think people make idols out of their family.” He then went on to talk about this Christian church around his house that actually had no services on Christmas Eve or on Christmas because they believed that you should be at home with your family and not having to take time away from your family by having to come to a church service. I thought that story illustrated his point perfectly.
For the longest time we faithfully went to Mass every Sunday and all holy days of obligation except for Christmas Mass. Why? Because too much needed to be done at home to get ready for Christmas dinner with the family. Cleaning and prepping and decorating and cooking. No time for Mass.
I have found that it is very easy to make an idol out of family. To put family before even God in my life because family life and problems can be so all encompassing. And this isn’t just about being married or being a parent. This is an issue for anyone who is very involved in their family or may have a lot of family issues like sickness or disabilities.
It is a struggle to put God first when your one year old won’t let you put them down and wants to be carried around every waking moment. It is a struggle to put God first if you have to work and get dinner on the table and do that ever growing pile of laundry and keep up with the dishes. It is a struggle to put God first when you are so worn out at the end of the day because of caring for your family that all you want to do is kick your feet up and zone out watching TV.
I have struggled with this a lot. I’ve always felt like God was my homeboy. I’ve had my bouts with not praying for a while but I’ve always been able to get back on the horse with a little effort. But then again I’ve always been in a setting that was pretty open to spirituality. At Notre Dame there were a gazillion different times for daily Mass, prayer opportunities around every corner, a beautiful landscape to inspire thoughts of the greatness of God. In my jobs I’ve always found it easy to make daily Mass a couple times a week and take some time with the Blessed Sacrament. Then I became a mom.
For the first time I’m actually having to work for my spirituality and consciously make time for it and plan for it and I am failing miserably. I actually kind of dread going to Mass because of how hard Olivia makes it which makes me a lot less likely to go to daily Mass. When I finish teaching I know I need to get home to take O off of Brandon’s hands so I zoom by the 24 hour Adoration chapel on my way home and consciously say no to God every time I do it. I don’t really pray other than when I say night prayers before bed with O. Most of my thinking and reflecting is spent either lesson planning or worrying if I am doing everything I can to help O grow developmentally.
I really am spiritually dry at the moment. I think I have fallen into what my professor called, making an idol out of my family. I give so much of myself to Olivia and Brandon that I seem to have nothing left for God at the end of the day. A diet Dr. Pepper and the latest episode of Project Runway are what I crave after I put O to sleep, not evening prayer and some spiritual reading.
I know it is not bad to be really devoted to your family or to want some down time for yourself or to work hard at your job but I really need to figure out how to fit God in there, too.
The discussion as to what to do with babies/toddlers in Mass has got me thinking about this a lot. Should Brandon and I just split Olivia duty on Sunday so that each of us can go to Mass alone but be able to be attentive, present participants. Is our desire to stick together as a family making an idol out of it? I think there are legitimate arguments on both sides.
I think realizing that I have made an idol out of my family is the first step to changing it. But I still have a lot of questions. How do I more consciously pray throughout the day? Is there a good spiritual book out there that I need to find that will spark my interest more than Top Chef? Do I need to find some other moms in the Austin area that are in the same boat? Do Brandon and I need to take turns letting the other one go to daily Mass alone or go to spiritual direction? I don’t know. But I need to commit more effort to figuring it out.