Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Tapping into transforming power

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the March 18, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell Change is hard. Whether you’re kicking an old habit or learning a new one, change requires lots of energy and strength of will. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve re-committed to flossing my teeth. The light dawns each time I visit the dentist’s office, and then seems to fade as time goes by.

Sometimes even our best intentions dim immediately. In Luke’s Gospel we hear the story of the transfiguration. Peter, James and John see Jesus appear in glory along with Moses and Elijah. They hear God speak from a cloud identifying Jesus as Son of God and Chosen One. We might imagine an experience like this would make change easy. Yet a few short verses later we find the disciples squabbling over which of them is greatest. Their hearts not yet converted, they remain their old selves with their comfortable worldview.

It is the full experience of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit that motivates them to become like new, willing to sacrifice their very lives. Can we experience this same transformation today?

Christ’s empowering love presents itself today in the Body of Christ. It is through our relationships with family, friends, parish or small Christian community that we are moved to take off the old and put on the new.

Ten-year-old “Josh” complained every night when it was time to do homework. His mother “Charlotte” often ended up nagging and lecturing him to get it done. Homework became such a burden that Charlotte knew something had to change.

A “Love and Logic” parenting workshop provided the transfiguring moment.

“I saw that every time I acted as though my son couldn’t do his homework without me, I was putting him down,” says Charlotte. “I had never understood that my nagging and reminders were sending him the message that I didn’t believe he could be responsible for doing it alone.”

Charlotte struggled to drop her involvement in Josh’s homework. She was afraid of what would happen if he didn’t complete it. She wasn’t sure if he had the organizational and time management skills to keep track of assignments and finish them.

“I sought out people who would understand what I was trying to do and believed it was possible,” says Charlotte. “It was the initial realization that made me feel I needed to change, but it was the support of other parents that made it less scary. Without their support I would have felt like I was going off the deep end.”

Charlotte began to change her behavior. When Josh complained about his homework, instead of telling him to get started, she asked, “What will happen if you don’t do it?”

Josh said, “I’ll have to go to homework center tomorrow and miss recess.”

“Can you live with that?” She continued to ask questions, letting him decide what consequences he could live with.

“I’ll probably fail reading,” he said at one point.

“That would be sad,” she said. “But I guess failing reading in the fourth grade wouldn’t be the end of the world.”

Charlotte grappled with this idea a long time before she was able to accept that it would be OK for her son to fail. But in the end, she was empowered by letting go.

“He was in this pattern of complaining about it, and not realizing he had choices. now he realizes he does have choices. His homework is not my problem.”

Josh is choosing to do his homework. Sometimes he doesn’t finish on time, but he’s doing well. Charlotte enjoys time with Josh rather than spending every night nagging and lecturing about homework.

Like the disciples we parents may not change instantly, but whenever we open ourselves to new insight, or reach out for support and encouragement we tap into the same Spirit that moved Christ’s first disciples. Change is hard, but through the Body of Christ transformation happens.

© 2004, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. She is a contributing author to the new book Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, from Skylight Paths Publishing.)

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