Betty Duffy

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To Be Transformed

Reruns! All week long!

My friend, Pedge, is gorgeous. Tall, slender, brunette with perfect porcelain skin, she’s shaped like a capital letter S because she slouches, in that hip-jutting fashion peculiar to certain models. And she is, indeed, a model. She’s filmed commercials. This, after having had five children, and being, if I may say so, an entire year older than me.

The other day, I was sitting at the counter in Pedge’s kitchen when she revealed that she’d removed her portfolio from her agency.

“Why did you do that?” I asked, stunned.

She stood at the sink rinsing suds off a sippy cup while she told me that it had been on her mind to do for awhile, that the whole business was causing her stress and internal division. She had trouble getting the words out.

Modeling is something she has talked about pursuing since she was very young. And if I haven’t made it clear, unlike many modeling aspirants, Pedge actually has the attributes necessary to be a model. The first time you meet her she can make one very nervous. What is all this beauty doing here in a church basement prayer meeting?

“It keeps coming back to me,” she said, “What you said about how God could sum up Mary’s life in just a few sentences.”

As often is the case, my moments of enlightenment have a habit of fleeing from my consciousness after I’ve broadcast them. “When did I say that?”

It had been during one of our Thursday morning Gospel reflections, meditating on the Annunciation, how God said that Mary shall conceive a child, call him Jesus, and he shall be set for the rise and fall of many. And then I remembered, “That’s it. That’s Mary’s life in a nutshell. Her purpose on Earth was to give birth to the Son of God. It was not to write a tome about the highs and lows and drudgery of Biblical womanhood. Not to be famous”—though, ironically, her fame is universal due to her unquestioning obedience to God and her humility in bearing her great task.

I had been trying to chastise myself for spending too much time thinking about achieving “greater” things than my marriage and family. Be like Mary, satisfied that God has carved my little here and now out of eternity, and that he can sum it up in just a few words: marriage, children, this quiet life where grace is plentiful but witnesses are few.

I never meant to imply that Pedge should quit modeling, or that I should quit writing. We’re finally doing things we enjoy, finally able to leave the house for more than a couple hours without fearing the baby will suffer and die in the absence of our breasts. Where once, all I needed was to get out of the house, and have a little break for my mental health, now I feel free to come and go, and perhaps, just perhaps, I need to look homeward a little bit more.

“Maybe it is only this motherhood,” she said, “Affecting these five little souls in my family, and not me on a pulpit affecting the multitudes. What do you think it means to really be moved by the Holy Spirit, to be transformed, in our state in life?”

The last time I felt moved to dramatic change of life was when I reverted from a life of sin to a life of grace—nearly twelve years ago. The Holy Spirit in my life now, I’m ashamed to admit, more frequently feels like a subconscious nuisance.

This morning my son was playing with a couple of empty laundry baskets, stacking them up, letting them topple, connecting two together and dragging them on the floor like a train. He, himself was quiet, but the sound of plastic rubbing on plastic nestled into my subconscious, largely ignored, at the same time I realized that I was growing inexplicably more and more irritated. I couldn’t isolate what was causing my shoulders to tense up, the infernal growl beginning to stir in my lower stomach. And then I snapped to—it is that god-forsaken noise over there, that water torture plastic sound my son is making. “STOP it!” I said.

Maybe it’s not an exact metaphor, but my response to the more gentle irritation of the Holy Spirit is the same. I have a feeling that what I’m doing is not good for me or my family, a sense of division when for instance, I mindlessly check my stats on this blog: “Show me Denmark! Show me California! Come on Stat counter, Feed me.” The thrill of watching my audience show up in real time is the validation that every writer seeks, and that the internet uniquely makes possible. But it interferes with what I initially set out to do here, which is write because it is what I love and feel called to do. I have knowledge that I have lost my bearings, but I silence it, “Be quiet and let me have my fun.”

And thus my continued transformation into the person Christ wants me to be is postponed, for another day, because I’m having my time. There are so many ways in which I do not want to be transformed, so many ways in which I’d like to continue garumphing along this path of mediocrity.

Pedge continued, “I’m not saying that I’m going to just sit at home and do nothing. I just know that for here and now, taking my name off that list is something I had to do, and whatever God wants to do with me from here on is fine with me. And already, I feel so much more peace about it.”


I was recently chastised in a friend's blog combox. Commenter, Soundtime, said, “Be an active agent, or don't, but don't blame something else for one's own lack of agency.”

The internet is not responsible for my vanity or loss of concentration. Hiding in my house won’t make me a more humble mother. A global cataclysm might cure my addiction to stats, but it will not transform my soul.

To be transformed I need to fight the battle at hand. Turn off the damn statcounter. It’s not that hard. And then listen to that voice I don't want to hear--the one that only wants my peace.



Alishia said...

Pedge is epic!

Lizzie said...

I so needed to hear this today as I have become distracted from my son and my job recently by reading oh so important emails and blogs. I have become complacent about that nagging voice of the Holy Spirit and this Advent, have been quite shocked at how proud I have become and how I feel I've 'arrived' in some way.
My thoroughly selfish and sinful nature and my dire need of a saviour have hit me like a ton of bricks this Advent.
Last year, I felt so proud that my Advent was a 'model' one - daily liturgy of the hours, quiet spiritual reading each evening, keeping a Christmas Novena, thoughtful prayers each evening with my son , being generous spirited and loving to family even when they were driving me crazy. This year, all the paraphernalia is there but none of the humility or discipline or, quite simply, faith...
God help me..I need a Saviour this Advent and Christmas.
Thanks Betty.

mrsdarwin said...

Reruns about Pedge! I see someone beat me to the sentiment. Give us more Pedge.

BettyDuffy said...

Yes, Pedge is quite awesome! Still!Though I haven't written much about her in later days (I was worried readers might think I like her better than my husband)--she continues to edify as she graciously awaits a sixth baby. Good to have good friends.

Lizzie, I'm with you. Which is why I'm digging up the old stuff from my model Advent rather than posting new material. God sometimes gives us so many consolations and other times, a dose of humility. My husband and I were talking about our goals for the upcoming year, and after we'd sorted out the things we intended to buy, the improvements to make on the house, the increases in savings we planned to do, I said, "What about spiritual goals?" and we both sort of looked at each other like..What?...we're going to grow something besides our bank account? Oh gosh--we've become that family. Fortunately--it's not too late to have a good Advent and Christmas. Another reason I'm not writing this week. I need to shut up for awhile.

Katie said...

Why is it so hard to convince oneself that no actual happiness comes from blog stats or the number of Twitter followers? It's all vanity, with no substance behind it.

Your friend sounds wonderful.

Anne said...

Love this. I recently deleted my stat counter and comments (although people can still comment, they just don't show-or they can email me.)

I had realized that the title of my blog was meaningless-I wasn't releasing my inner jeremiah-I was begging for attention.

Those two little changes changed everything. I feel that I have found a freedom-I write when I feel that there is something inside of me that needs to get out or needs to be shared, not because I want to please others. And I hope that in having taken a closer look at my priorities, I have become a more useful servant to God.

I'd love to see what Pedge looks like, but even more so,I'd love to know if Pedge is her real name or a nickname. Either way, it sounds as if she is a good friend to have.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Marie said...

And thus my continued transformation into the person Christ wants me to be is postponed, for another day, because I’m having my time.


Margie said...

This past year I've come to recognize that my time on the computer (read: blog) takes me away from the world around me - my kids, my husband, prayer and meditation, and impacts the relationships therein. And the comment box can make or break my entire week. But I've found that when my posts receive few or no comments, I experience a freedom from care-of-what-others-think, and afterward do some of my better writing and am generally more focused on my family.

That freedom is, I think, at the heart of all our struggles - to openly love, and to respond to love, and to live out our faith in the world. And although I don't make specific New Year's resolutions anymore (believing they are recipes for failures), pursuit of being truly free is, I think, something toward which to strive.