This week, a dear friend posted a beautiful family selfie of herself, her husband, and their precious four kiddos. The sweet caption described a fun day in their family homeschool – they’d travelled on pilgrimage to the countryside, visiting the Painted Churches (if you’re ever in Central Texas, be sure to visit them – they’re gorgeous!) to close out this Year of Mercy. It was obvious to see that she had shared the photo in a moment of pure joy, relishing the role of homeschooling mom and mother of many. It was lovely, truly it was.
So why did I break down sobbing when I saw it?
Because in that moment, instead of being truly happy for her and thanking God that she is joyful and content in her own life, I saw instead what I wished was mine. I was envious, jealous of what she and her husband have built together. Jealous of their schooling choices, the fact that he owns his own business and can take a day off if he likes, jealous of their goodness as a family.
That homeschooling life? I dreamt of that for my children, but it was not meant to be – at least not now, and not for the foreseeable future. Opportunities for parents to play hooky from work and create wonderful memories with their kids? I’m not able to do that just now, either. The joy written all over their faces? Where is that for us? Why doesn’t God want that beauty for my family? Why doesn’t He make it so that I can homeschool my kids, nurturing their souls every waking moment? Why did He let us wait over a year for my husband to find a job after graduation, and then when He finally did, it’s a job at our parish that barely covers childcare costs?
Doesn’t He want good things for our family, too?
And then, shamefully, I realized how idiotic my reaction was.
At Edel 2015, I heard a talk from Rachel Balducci, who emphatically shared that “comparison is the thief of joy.” So many times, I have to remind myself of this simple truth. God has my family on our own perfect path for holiness. Every stumble, every setback, every obstacle we’ve overcome has been to refine us and make us holy. Our life circumstances, challenging though they may be – financial stress, our small rental house bursting at the seams, a borrowed vehicle – were hand picked and allowed by God to bring us closer to Him. Maybe my children need the unique, loving environment they experience in our classical charter school to become the saints that God is calling them to be. Maybe my friend’s children need the specialized, small-knit group of homeschooling friends they have in their co-op to nurture the aspects of holiness that will sanctify them. Maybe my husband working at our parish is less about monetary compensation and more about nourishing his soul. Maybe our friend’s business is perfectly suited to God’s call for his own life and vocation as a small business owner. Maybe our inadequate square footage is helping us to stay humble and interdependent on one another, and to learn to become more grateful for His Providence. Maybe our friends’ beautiful home in their newer neighborhood is exactly where God needs them to be, to evangelize those on their street and experience God’s provision for them.
Maybe, just maybe, if I let God do His thing and joyfully accept my own circumstances, I will be a little further down my own path to Heaven.
So today, I’m smiling at my friend’s beautiful family and the choices she’s made to raise little saints. And I’m smiling because through God’s grace, I’m raising my own saints, too.