When you sit down to pray, do you ever just start to cry?
It’s happened to me a few times. Most recently, it happened last Friday. Scott was working late, and I was doing the evening routine solo. To make matters worse, I had this raging sinus headache that felt like someone was sticking a wide needle of pain way up where my nose and my eyebrow meet. Tylenol did not help. Advil did not help. The other options seemed to be a huge dose of caffeine, or else having my head surgically removed.
The kids, naturally, were doing their normal evening routine. Luke was resisting getting his diaper changed and trying to squirm out of the sleeper I was wrestling onto his body. Matthew did not tell me he had to go pee-pee until after there was a puddle on the floor, dousing his Thomas the Tank Engine crossing gate. And I was snappish and curt and felt totally unloving.
After both boys were finally in bed, I took my throbbing head to the computer and pulled up Loyola’s Three Minute Retreat. Maybe, I thought, a little prayer and some soothing instrumentals and a lovely photograph of nature will do what over-the-counter drugs could not. And as I read the meditation and started to pray, I began to cry. Why? Because I felt like I”d failed my kids, those little beings who often drive me nuts but who mean so much to me. I’m only human; I know I can’t expect to be gentle and patient all the time. Every mom gets provoked and has bad days. But I had crossed my own line of what I think is okay. I had let too much snappish energy get into my dealings with the boys.
And as I sat there wiping my eyes, thinking about it all, something broke my silence. It was a whispered “Mommy?” from the hall outside Matthew’s room. Clearly, he was not in bed.
My instinctive reaction was irritation. Almost immediately, though, something else took over in its place. I could picture Jesus grinning at me and saying, “Here’s your do-over.”
I got up and met my little boy in the hall. He mumbled some fabricated reason for being out of bed — “What is that box in there on the kitchen counter?” And oh, the sweetness of that little guy in his footed sleeper — it made my heart hurt.
I firmly but very lovingly got him back in bed. I patted his head and felt like my normal mom-self again. He smiled at me and snuggled happily into the pillow as if he was now ready to go to sleep. He didn’t come out of his room again.
It’s one of the lifesavers about being a mom: the do-overs, the second chances. Thank God for them. And thank God for quiet moments of prayer, because sometimes it’s the only thing that helps us recognize the do-overs when they come to meet us, pad-pad-padding down the hall, with tousled hair and a tentative little smile.