Why We Don’t Do What We Want To

Yesterday I was elated about the fact that we are souls made to enjoy eternity with God – we are meant to contemplate truth, goodness, and beauty, and do so forever. We climb up the mountain and see God revealed in his glory, and we are filled with awe and wonder and life is magnificent.

And then someone’s stomach rumbles…

Today I’m reminded of the fact that we do in fact have bodies as well as souls. Bodies that demand to be fed, and cared for and pampered and protected, and complain loudly and insistently when those demands are not met. “Who cares about truth or beauty,” they seem to say, “when all I want right now is that candy bar?”

And that is the struggle we each face every day, right? We want to (in fact, we were created to) pray, to meditate, to focus on spiritual things, but at the same time we need to eat, to bathe, to do laundry, to earn a living. In every moment, we choose to focus on one or the other. And we find ourselves, or at least I find myself, careening from one extreme to the other, rarely feeling satisfied.

If I never take time to pray, or to read the Bible, because I am too busy with the mundane duties, then I am not opening myself to the grace God is pouring out on me. On the other hand, if I’m yelling at my child because they interrupted my spiritual reading (ahem… I may or may not have done this yesterday… ), well, that’s not the way to become a saint, is it?

And, as the mom, I’m not just facing this struggle in myself. Caring for my children’s bodies is the bulk of my daily duties, and that includes their minds. So, cooking, doing laundry, reading books, making sure they don’t spend the whole day staring at a screen – all those things occupy my time. At the same time, I need to nourish their souls – show them unconditional love, for sure, but also remind them of their heavenly father who loves them even more than I do.

And sometimes the good of their souls requires me to frustrate the desires of their bodies, because, just like me, they have fallen natures that resist the good they want to do in favor of the fun thing in front of them at that moment. Discipline can feel like dying, when what you want to do is play Math Playground for hours, and Mom says you need to stop and do copy-work.

And the fallen nature in me sometimes resists the pain of listening to them complain and does let them spend too much time on the computer, but then we pay for it later. Or I put off doing the laundry, and then get frustrated because no one has clean clothes. And then some days I flip to being the drill sergeant – when all I’m doing is keeping everyone on task, with no time for fun or snuggles or anything beyond what’s on the to-do list.

So, how do we get off this roller coaster? Or is that even the goal? I don’t have an answer. In fact, this blog is basically my exploration of this question in the hopes of finding an answer.

But I’m encouraged by today’s Mass readings for two different reasons.

One is that this struggle is universal – the first reading tells us that the Israelites in the desert were complaining about having nothing but manna to eat. God was literally giving them bread from Heaven, and they were grumbling about wanting some meat. Also Moses totally tells God he’d rather die than hear any more of their whining, so I feel better about sometimes (yeah, sometimes… rarely even. If only!) voicing my frustrations too.

The second is that Jesus does feed both body and soul – today’s Gospel is the feeding of the five thousand. And ultimately, trusting in him means knowing that he will feed our spiritual hunger, and if he does let our bodies go hungry, it is only because he plans something better for us than that meal we are focused on.

So, the plan for today is to keep on keeping on, and try my best. And trust in him to provide what I need, for both body and soul.