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Blessed are the weak and incompetent.

I can't believe November is here already. It seems we've scarcely become accustomed to our family's fall schedule, and now it's time to start getting stressed about Christmas preparations. The challenges of homeschooling four children and meeting the needs of a preschooler and a baby have stretched me to my limits. Then there are the mountains of laundry, editorial deadlines, household chores, driving the twenty-mile round trip thrice weekly for the kids' music lessons and choir practice, plus coping with my husband's occasional absences due to farm work, community service, and business travel. (And they also expect me to cook--every day!) I don't mean to be flippant, but some days even Purgatory looks good.

I'm having one of those days. Actually, I'm having one of those decades. And now here I am, supposed to write a column about how we should all relax, trust God, and have a peaceful Advent. I've sometimes thought the way to avoid accusations of hypocrisy would be to quit writing and live my life of under-achievement in total obscurity (if there is such a thing in the spiritual realm). But I think in the long run, the only one who would be pleased with such a plan would be Satan. He loves to sit on our backs and remind us of our deficiencies. If he can succeed in tempting us to discouragement and despair, we might even abandon our vocation or apostolate.

Have you ever said to yourself, "If I can't do the job perfectly, I won't do it at all."? G. K. Chesterton would counter with the pithy: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." We can't wait until we've reached perfection before we decide to serve the Lord. Even if perfection (or even being consistently competent) were humanly possible, it probably wouldn't be good for our souls. Weak and foolish as we mortals are, we would inevitably think our success had something to do with our own ability instead of with the grace of God, the only source of all that is good and productive in our lives.

If Jesus had wanted disciples who were perfectly efficient, disciplined, organized, self-assured, etc., He would have chosen Pharisees instead of fishermen and tax collectors. He does call us to perfection, but only through His grace. The Lord is hard-pressed to show His power and salvation through someone who is hell-bent on proving herself clever and self-sufficient. Jesus doesn't want Superwoman; He wants a lump of wet clay. And if there's anything I'm fairly good at, it's imitating a lump of wet clay.

Wet clay isn't pretty, but if it hides a docile spirit, it's all God needs to make a work of art. As St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10: "My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection. And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong."

Trying to do everything on my own strength will not ensure a peaceful tidy home, well-behaved children, or success at homeschooling and freelance writing. I must turn to God, seek to please only Him, and keep my eyes on the prize (Jesus). Faithfulness to Him may not ensure "success" by worldly standards either, but as Mother Teresa has pointed out, God does not call us to be successful, only to be faithful.

I'll close with another favourite quotation from Chesterton: "The snail does the perfect will of God slowly." Likewise it can be said that the sinner does the perfect will of God imperfectly. But at least he strives to do the will of God. If you wake up some days feeling like a failure, rejoice! You're probably on the right path. Praise God for His goodness to you, commit your way to Christ and follow Him.

Blessed are the weak and incompetent, for they shall rely on the Lord, and His power will be made manifest through them. Relax, trust God, and have a peaceful Advent.

Mariette Ulrich is the mother of six girls and writes from Scott, SK. Her column appears every other month.
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Author:Ulrich, Mariette
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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