It’s a Friday night when you get home from a long day at the office. It was a difficult day, but it’s over and now you can put away your work, pour yourself a drink, kick back, and relax as the weekend begins.
At least that’s how you think it’s going to go.
But as soon as you open the door, you’re hit by a barrage of sights and sounds: your kids’ friends are over, running all over the house, playing and yelling at the top of their lungs. There’s leftover food and cups all over the kitchen and the table, and there are snack crumbs all over the floor. For some reason, there’s dirty laundry all over the house, the sink is full of dishes, and the TV is on.
Your spouse greets you and explains that you will need to take the kids to soccer practice tomorrow morning and that you’ll have to get groceries afterward. This is not what you were planning on.
Do you respond with frustration? With exasperation? With disappointment because this is not how you wanted to spend your Friday and Saturday? Or do you respond with love? With patience? With understanding that when you accepted your vocation as a parent and as a spouse, you freely chose to put the will of God and the needs of your family before your own?
Sr. Tina Alfieri joined Timmerie on Trending with Timmerie recently to discuss how we can remain focused on our vocations, even through the difficulties and obstacles of daily life.
“It’s very important to always remember that we are human beings with feelings. We get tired. We get exasperated. We get angry. We get resentful. We cannot deny our humanity,” said Sr. Tina. “God gave us our feelings and our humanity. Christ experienced everything we experience except for sin. So, there’s nothing wrong in how we are feeling. It’s what we do with it.”
We’ve all been in that situation where we think we’re at our absolute limit for frustration, and life throws another difficulty our way. While it’s often impossible to grit your teeth through the problems without getting angry, giving into the anger isn’t the solution either.
Sr. Tina suggested that when you find yourself facing obstacles in life, take it to your prayer. Bring these problems before God and ask Him to elevate these natural feelings of annoyance or exasperation and embrace the fact that this is part of God’s will, and this is what He is asking you to face right now.
“If God wanted you somewhere else besides where you are now, you would be there.” He knows you are capable of bearing the suffering of this situation with grace and strength and patience, or else he wouldn’t have presented you with this challenge. God is not in the business of breaking us like horses or crushing our spirits. His only desire is that we come to love Him wholly, totally, and freely. To do so, He will give us every tool to grow in our relationship with Him, so ask Him for help when you need it.
Sr. Tina reminded listeners that a practice like this does not come easy. It isn’t some instant habit that will fix your every problem with vocational focus. In fact, it’s a lifelong practice to become better at dealing with adversity. At the end of the day, we are developing virtue, and building good habits takes time, failure, and the resolution to begin again.
We are living with fallen natures. As faulted humans, we are resistant to doing good. We are more prone to doing bad than to doing good, so we must fight against that tendency with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Sr. Tina has a friend who used to work for the U.S. Postal Service, and she had this saying: “What you don’t inspect, you don’t expect.” That means that you have to inspect yourself, the problems, and the causes of your problems if you plan on expecting improvement or positive change. We cannot simply wish or daydream about finding focus, patience, and fulfillment in our lives if we don’t examine ourselves and our environment.
Sr. Tina recommended two different practices: the Ignatian Daily Examen, and the Ignatian Particular Examen. Whereas the general examen attempts an all-encompassing approach of eliminating bad habits, the particular examen focuses on one particular fault at a time. Throughout the day, you keep a tally of every time you engage in that vice, and you check in with yourself once at midday and once at night. With consistency, over time, you can slowly eliminate the bad habits of becoming frustrated, complaining, getting impatient, or letting your anger get the best of you.
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