Carried by Prayer, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Carried by Prayer


July 27, 2010

by Stacey Noem

Two weeks ago on Josh’s birthday we learned that his grandfather had died.  On his birthday.  In Iowa. 

Joshua is the first grandchild on this side of the family and we are all very close.  There was no way he couldn’t be there.  I was hoping that I would get to join him as well.  Then – we saw the airline prices.  Absolutely undo-able for even one of us.  So, we found ourselves, late at night still on Josh’s birthday, sitting by a campfire in the side yard just staring.  Neither of us knew what to say.  We really couldn’t figure out what to do. 

We agreed: He couldn’t fly.  He couldn’t miss it.  He couldn’t take the car.  We only have one and there is only one of him.

Then we realized: what we lack in money we can make up for in time.  Thanks to our wonderfully supportive and flexible work environment we do have time to play with. So before we knew it we decided to throw all three children in the car and drive from Portland, Oregon to Iowa. 

OK, for the record: we don’t take road trips.  The longest we have driven with all three of our children is 6 hours to the Redwoods.  The Redwoods were spectacular but barely worth what we had to go through to get there.  And we have not even attempted something comparable since.  So looking down the barrel of 1600 miles (according to Mapquest) and around 24 hours of driving (one way) I was far less than optimistic.  But as soon as we had made the decision, we just seemed to know it was the right one and we jumped up from the fire and threw ourselves whole hog into packing and prepping the car (which was 1000 miles overdue for an oil change and in desperate need of two new tires).

Part of my job was clearing our work calendar.  To give you an idea of just how freaked out I was about the trip with the children this is an excerpt of what I wrote to our staff:

“So, with faith that God will provide we are undertaking the psychotic step of driving with the whole family to Iowa starting tomorrow morning. 

“Psychotic” is obviously an exaggeration, but I am completely uncertain and “un-confident” in our children’s ability to handle this amount of car travel.”

My boss wrote back one line that began: “Psychotic actually seems just about right” and ended with his blessings and promises of prayer. Most of our friends, family and colleagues wrote with their promises of prayer for the larger family and prayer for our journey. 

Turns out it is 1800 miles (200 more than we thought).  And the children…

…were a dream.  They were great.  They stayed occupied with the activities I brought for them. They were patient.  They did as they were told.  They napped.  They joined us in the rosary and they looked at the whole thing as an adventure.  And the car…

…not a problem in the world.  Smooth sailing 1800 miles there and 1800 miles back.  We are now due for another oil change which I am sure we won’t put off.

I don’t know if I have ever so fully felt like I was floating on the wings of prayer like I did for that 9 day trip.  Travel was almost completely ideal.  Not easy, but no problems or hitches with the car or roads, or food, or lodging, or family.  We would get calls or texts from folks checking in and letting us know they were praying for us.  When we arrived folks were so kind saying what a hard long journey it must have been.  But the truth of it is, I feel like the entire time we were in a state of grace, carried by their prayer.  It was amazing.

Reader Comments (1)

  • Sometimes those last minute trips are the best and most rewarding.

    Of course the reason for your trip was not a great reason, but the Lord does work in wondrous ways and He may have put you on the this trip for a very good reason. Enjoy the trip and God Bless!

    Jason

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My Core Sin

My Core Sin

My main New Year’s resolution this year was to figure out and name my weaknesses.

I started with simply taking a good hard look at what I think I have heard most often as the challenging sides of my personality, whether in work performance reviews or personal relationships. Joshua, of course, was very useful in confirming or nuancing those insights (and adding a few of his own). Then I turned to those friends nearest and dearest to me.

I have had to proceed carefully to get some substantive feedback. The problem, of course, is that folks are generally far too kind and thus struggle to be completely honest in naming another person’s shortcomings.

Almost everything I have learned—almost every insight I have received—points back, more or less, to one core foible: control. The vast majority of my weaknesses, at least as those who know me best experience them, stem from some element of control.

In April, David Brooks wrote an article called “The Moral Bucket List” in the New York Times. He names the characteristics of those people he experiences as “radiating an inner light” or who are “deeply good.” He noticed that such people have been profoundly honest about their own weaknesses and can identify their “core sin.” He names a core sin as a consistent weakness that makes them feel ashamed. The act of naming this sin, according to Brooks, helps them achieve “a profound humility, which has best been defined as an intense self-awareness from a position of other-centeredness.”

I found the article affirming since, by the time of my reading it, I could confidently name my “core sin” as control. I also thought it put some helpful language on why it is a worthwhile endeavor to identify our central downfall.

First, from our Catholic point of view, we understand “sin” to be fundamentally a break from God. When we sin, we separate ourselves from the fullness of communion with God. When I attempt to impose disproportionate amounts of control on my environment—or worse, on the people around me—I am most often exerting my will over and against others. At worst this can be damaging. At best it is severely lacking in humility.

Second, using the next helpful element of Brooks’ article: when we are able to name and own our core sin, it frees us for a “profound humility.” We see and acknowledge our most broken parts, which, in turn, allows us to recognize how that brokenness impacts others.

I realized when I read Brooks’ statement about “self-awareness from a position of other-centeredness” that possibly our core sins may simply be the shadow side to some of our greatest natural strengths. I think that, left unchecked (or perhaps inappropriately oriented), our most unique God-given talents have the capacity to become our most glaring weaknesses.

That is to say, control is my core sin, but it is also the shadow side of my greatest gift at home and work: clear-sighted, comprehensive order. When I humbly put that gift at the service of our family and those I work with and train, it IS a gift. When I wield it unchecked by consultation and in single-minded isolation it separates me from others and from God by breaking down relationships instead of building them up.

Josh shared with me that his core sin is intemperance. There are obvious ways that intemperance can be destructive and unhelpful. But in its most helpful and healthy iteration, it leads Josh (and those lucky enough to be with him) to experience joy fully and unabashedly, to have an unreserved sense of curiosity and wonder, and an utter willingness to give new and unknown experiences a try.

In an interesting twist, you might notice that my core sin, control, and Josh’s core sin of intemperance are pretty much exact opposites. This is likely no shock to anyone who has ever met both of us or heard us give a presentation together. Although they seem utterly at odds, I think our very opposite dispositions allow us to call one another to very specific areas of growth. You could even go so far as to say where we are weakest the other is strongest. In that way, we get to incarnate grace for each other, to call each other to be the best version of ourselves.

After all, isn’t it part of our job as spouses to help one another shed light on our shadow sides? Without that light, how can we hope to grow?


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