The image of the Polish Madonna was one I never really cared for until a few years ago. In the artwork, Mary is hanging clothes on a line as Jesus sits on the ground nearby, playing with a couple sticks that form a cross. While I didn’t initially love it, later I realized the beauty of the image. In the simple, ordinary events of everyday life, Mary was pursuing sanctity. Laundry (clearly, a result of the Fall) was a part of Mary’s life and she did all of it with a gaze towards Our Lord.
The past few days I have been cooking for a summer camp that I attended in my youth and was a counselor for in my college years. Now, I spend hours in the kitchen, preparing food that will be consumed in mere minutes. As soon as one meal is finished, preparations begin for the next one. The work isn’t overly complicated, yet it is more tiring than one would think initially.
I strive to meet Jesus in the ordinary moments of the day, knowing that I am helping nourish bodies so that the souls may be formed. Yet it is an encounter with humility, too. My heart wants to make some sort of impact, so I flip the hamburger patty on the grill and flinch when the flames flick toward my hand. I desire the campers to encounter the mercy of God, so I wash the same pan for the fifth time that day. I want to create a space where the Lord can move, so I reach into the ice water, crack the egg on the counter, and peel off the shell.
What Mary seems to do so naturally, I struggle with achieving. I tell myself this work prepares me for the mundane sacrifices of motherhood or the dry tasks of teaching. If the Lord can be found in the beauty of the created world, than He can be found here, too, in the wiping down of tables, the slicing of onions, and the mixing of lemonade. Christ became incarnate so as to redeem all things for Himself.
Heaven knows I need more than that reassurance, though, little that I am. At the end of the camp, the kids have a chance to share graces they received over the past three days. Selfishly, silently, I listen and soak it all up. Nobody mentions the food, but I know that the labor in the kitchen provided the physical sustenance for the camp to function. As student after student testifies to the goodness of the Lord, I rest in the knowledge that I played my role, little though it may be.
In family life, teaching, and the ordinary encounters of the world, the small moments of “yes” make way for larger moments. The Lord uses faithfulness in small tasks to remind me that I must stay close to Him and that I am drawing nearer to Him one fruit bowl and one tray of muffins at a time.
Yes, Lord, I will follow. Yes, Lord, I will strive to be little so that you may reign over my life. Yes, Lord, I have encountered You and I will proclaim Your goodness as You bend my stubborn will to conform to Your perfect will.