Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Spiritual Seatbelt

Alex, my four year old, informed me on our Friday morning trip to Home-School Pre-School, "No Mama! I can do it myself! I can do everything myself. I can shut the car door and buckle my seatbelt. Daddy says I can do it alone now!"

I end up letting him shut the PT cruiser door himself and then stare stupidly at the glass. Evidently Jon's Father/Son trip to the library the night before sparked some major in-road to independence. Yet how did my husband accomplish this exactly? Once outside the "shut door" how can you tell that a four year old has correctly buckled his seat belt-- a gross motor skill made even more complicated by the fact that he has millimeters of space between the seat belt buckle and his toddler sister's car seat.

What if my son didn't get his seat belt latched in correctly?

I gave up and reopened the door.

"NO Mama. I can do it. Daddy said I can do it. Daddy said I did a good job!"

"Alex, I believe you. Daddy has to tell Mommy how he watched you. I can't let you make a mistake while when we're about to go 65 miles on the highway."*

He shrugged his shoulders and reluctantly let me "baby him" by doing his seat belt for him.

After Pre-School, we hit Old Navy to stock up on $2.50 flip-flops for the family. Alex chose red for himself and blue for his Dad. Hannah insisted that she and I have matching brown ones. I picked up two cover-ups for modesty for us girls. Then I paid for my purchases with my Dad's credit card.

Even thought I had express permission to stock up beach supplies from my Dad, who incidentally is also paying for our trip to see my paternal grandfather, I had a squeamish feeling in stomach.

I'm 34 and I just used my Dad's credit card.

I hadn't really realized that I had started praying about it, until I got into the car and received this answer "What does it matter if the money to buy summer clothes comes from your Father, your husband or your Father in Heaven."

What does it matter?

It's all a gift.

I mean, I'm not earning a penny right now. Every physical need that I have for myself and my children is covered by my husband mostly, with occasional gifts from my father and my father-in-law. Yet all of this comes from my Heavenly Father.

Why am I splitting hairs over whose name is on the credit card?

The answer is "secret pride."

You know that ugly pride that keeps hiding under nice sounding names like "being responsible with money."

It's socially acceptable to use your husband's money. It's not socially acceptable for an adult child to still "need" help from her Dad.

I would never, ever voluntarily pick to be humiliated in this way. When I was in my twenties, I thought that embracing "poverty" as a poverty lawyer would mean that I'd be skipping the $5 raspberry margaritas to embrace a meaningful work. I wanted to save the world while still wearing cute Anne Taylor suits.

(There are many, many glorious days in stay-at-home motherhood-- none of which gave me the slightest opportunity to wear a cute Anne Taylor suit.)

I drove on the highway pondering about the "virtue of poverty" and how far that concept seems to be lost on me now that I'm the one who accepts charity on other people's credit cards.

"It's like a spiritual seat belt."


(This is how the Holy Spirit works in my brain. A thought sort of floats on my inner consciousness which I never would have initiated. My first reaction is always "What are you talking about???)

A spiritual seat belt.

After a few more miles, my rational mind starts to warm up to this idea. A seat belt. I would never have made most of the spiritually sound decisions in my life, if we had extra money. Hannah would most likely be Catholic school, rather than being home-schooled, if we could have afforded her tuition. Jon & I would still survive the challenges of parenthood by going to the movies instead of reading the doctors of the Church. Would Carmel have half the appeal if I had a regular babysitter for my children?

Poverty is the seat belt that keeps me closely tied to my Heavenly Father's will.

There really isn't a way other than to be little, humble, prayerful and thankful since we don't really have enough money to do things "our way" anyway.

Someday, I might rejoice in that "blessed are the poor in spirit" bit. Meanwhile, I'm afraid I'm more like "materially poor but stubbornly proud in spirit".

This Lent is open season on my "sneaky pride" thing.