Since our lives were turned upside down in March, you’ve likely been feeling some level of uncertainty about parenting your children in this strange time. Maybe you’re trying to work from home juggling emails and multiple video conference calls while trying to keep your kids on track with schoolwork, figuring out how to use different online learning platforms and remembering a million passwords. Maybe you’ve always homeschooled, but your kids are climbing the walls now that co-ops are canceled and all the playgrounds are closed. Maybe you’re still going to work as an essential employee, and you’re terrified of bringing this virus home to your family. Or you might be one of many parents who have found themselves laid off or unemployed, calling at all hours trying to get through on the unemployment line. Buying groceries has become an anxiety-inducing experience, and your children are more “extra” than ever before. You’re exhausted all the time, but you can’t sleep. You’re watching Mass online, and instead of juggling your kids and shushing them just long enough to be nourished by the holy Eucharist, you log out of the livestream feeling more distanced from your faith than ever.
Wherever you are in this “Stay Home” experience, I want you to know that God is near. He is with you even when every day feels the same and your prayers feel empty and unanswered. Life in this time of social distance reminds me of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. This pandemic has left us unsure of the future. Will schools ever re-open? When can we go to Mass? Will my son be able to receive his first holy Communion? Amidst this uncertainty, we’re feeling more irritated with our family members while we live this long stretch of days in our homes. Earlier this week, I re-read St. Luke’s account of the road to Emmaus, and I felt the uncertainty of the disciples as they traveled along. They were “conversing and debating” about the events of the last few days, unsure if the news of the Resurrection was really true. There was most definitely doubt lingering in the air on that road. Yet Jesus “drew near and walked with them.”
And here we are, muddling through this upside-down world, wondering if our prayers are being heard, how we can possibly replace our children’s teachers and how we’ll ever be able to finish that long to-do list waiting for us at the end of each day. We’re wondering how long this “new normal” will go on, and what the world will look like going forward. We’re feeling isolated from our families, our friends and from our faith. I want you to know that Jesus is with you. He is walking with you now and inviting you to draw near to him. I want to encourage you to continue to pray, even when it feels empty. Continue to seek God in sacred Scripture, and bring your family together to watch Mass from home. Make a spiritual communion daily. Ask the Lord to help you know his presence in this time of social distancing. A wise theology teacher of mine once described this practice as “looking for God’s fingerprints.”
One of my daily prayers these past few weeks has been asking God to reveal his fingerprints in my life. I can tell you with certainty that there are little graces to be found in the mundane yet stress-filled life we’re living over here. I overheard my ten-year-old reminding his younger brother, “It’s not about us,” when he was feeling down about missing out on baseball season. My five-year-old has started to pray spontaneously after saying grace at each meal, asking God to heal the people who are sick and to bless the unemployed. My children are making small sacrifices to “keep the peace” when they can: giving up that coveted LEGO mini-figure to avoid a fight, letting the little kids choose the movie on family movie night or giving up that last slice of pizza for a sibling. I’d like to say that these small but sweet moments have been happening all along — and maybe they have. But what a gift it was for me to see them with fresh eyes, and to know that the Lord heard my prayer and offered to me these moments of reassurance. These fingerprints are signs that we’re doing something right. Are we getting it all right? Are we anywhere near as productive, motivated or organized as we’d like to be in this situation? Of course not. Still, I am allowing those small victories to work in me and to renew me on this uncertain journey.
This road has been anything but easy, and it may get more difficult yet. Be forgiving: of your children, your spouse and of yourself. It’s okay to feel like this is hard, because it is. It’s okay to leave that to-do list for one more day, to take a break from school, or cleaning, or that color-coded schedule you typed up, and seek refuge in the Lord. Bring your worries to Jesus, as he meets you on your road to Emmaus and draws near. Look for God’s fingerprints and know that he is with you.