I went to bed last night, dead inside and tired. I had heeded a call to share a verse from Isaiah with one of my children who had come home with poor grades. I was reluctant to – initially. The verse was They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant ~ Isaiah 65:21, and it came after I had breathed a prayer for heavenly illumination to handle this escalating problem. Nonetheless, answer or not, I was not sure if I had heard heaven right. In all times past, whenever I was hurt or upset over something, my prayers had always taken me to God’s gentle rebuke or comfort or strength.
If I had read Isaiah 65 at any other time, the verses in the chapter would surely have comforted and lifted drooping spirits. But this time, all I saw in They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant – was a warning.
A warning to my child.
I had come from a life where my mother had liberally used the Bible and God to cow me into submission. I didn’t want to be my mother; I wanted none of her in the way I mothered my own brood. So, naturally, I was more than a little unwilling to take Isaiah 65:21 – as a warning – to my child. There had to be another way.
Everything then went dead inside. No whisper, no murmur. However insistently I troubled the depths of me in search, my spirit stubbornly yielded nothing.
It folded in on itself. And I found myself locked out. All I had with me was Isaiah 65:21.
It was as if by asking God for an alternative, He was answering me by giving me none.
Breathing a silent prayer, I shared the verse with my child.
It was not the most pleasant or easy of encounters.
I had been raised to fear God. My children had thus far been raised to love and trust Him. When they do wrong, we teach them to see the hurt they had caused God. Negative fear of God had damaged my relationship with God for so many, many years, and I swore I would never allow that in our lives now.
Yet, what I sensed in the call of yesterday was that I was not to water down or strip the words of Isaiah of its sternness. I was to give them as they were.
Deeply unhappy, I obeyed, all the while hoping I had read the call right.
As feared, in sharing the verse as it was, I hurt my child – which in turn, hurt me. I was not rewarded with flooding joy to tell me all would be well. All I carried away with me was the wounded look in clear, jovial eyes over the message that if change was not willed and adhered to, there would be consequences to live with.
It was deeply unpleasant to see my hurting child, and worse, to know I was the perpetrator.
This morning, dulled in spirit upon rousing, in the cold stillness of a day still caught in the dark of slumber, I heard the unmistakable strains of Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Ave Maria, in my heart. They followed the tune of a hymn I heard sung in a Fatima apparition video, The 13th Day, that we had watched as a family on Annunciation Day. Most mornings, I say the Rosary of Atonement – the Divine Mercy chaplet, and I had intended to do just that today.
But the Ave Maria strummed stronger than ever against my heart. It blocked out every other hymn I tried to play against it. It was odd, something I had never before experienced.
Hours after I had obeyed, joy began to trickle into my heart and into the heart of my child. This made me ponder the chain of events, the connection between points.
Isaiah. Obedience. Repentance. Fatima. Rosary.
Did this mean the sun would never retreat from this point on? That is not possible, I think. Raising children is rarely a perpetually happy jaunt through flowering meadows. The weeds of challenges and struggles is a constant presence in every family life.
These challenges are not to be made light of. Not to be watered down, plastered over, just to protect our beloved children from the unpleasantness of God’s judgment. Sister Lucia of the Fatima apparitions has said: “The final confrontation between the Lord and satan will be over Family and Marriage.” And she is right. What had happened to our family was not just a simple matter of exams or school. Our child’s problem had its roots in spiritual disinterest. A dangerous spiraling that starts out innocuous, but can see likely ending in spiritual death as it slowly chokes and leeches life out.
And when one life is affected, it hurts the entire family. That is the insidious power of spiritual lethargy. If we step aside and simply allow our lives and hopes to unravel by making excuses for it, by refusing to face it for what it is, then what happens to a single child can extend death to the marriage as well.
A year ago, I had a deeply upsetting dream that satan was hunting our children as recruits for his evil army. Since the dream, my husband and I have assumed the watchman’s post at every plausible point of entry.
But I think we made one mistake. We expected satan to come with a burst and a bang. We were on guard for the inevitable commotion and ruckus that would have heralded his attempt to enter our children’s lives.
But he is not called serpent and wily for nothing. He came to our children alright. But he came in the deadliest of silences – spiritual lethargy. He came in small and light and quietly. Like weeds in the flowerbeds. A prayer missed here and another missed there. Mild disinterest in Mass, lapses in attention. Typically adolescent, we assured ourselves even as we did reprimand and do the necessary pulling back.
We failed to go into battle. Because I came from endless chaos in my growing up years, I wasn’t about to overreact and resurrect that same tumult now. That was my priority. Not God. And that was where we tripped. Satan had come in some distance before the poor exam scores led to some soul-searching.
It was then that we realized we had left one of the gates wide open…..
We will not go meekly. Every child given is to be returned in holiness to God some day. We must go to battle against this darkness as it seeks our children to build its own dark army. We needn’t fear bereftness. Through humility, obedience and the Holy Rosary, we have the power of an army beyond compare.
Any gardener with a heart and will, will fight to save his flowers from weeds.
Even more so, parents. For what we have is far, far more precious.