When we are out among people, it is often easy to hide our true selves. When we live together, sharing everything, it is much harder to hide. Every day is filled with thousands of "trivial actions", and those closest to us know if we generally perform them to ourselves or to God. Those who share our spaces, and tables, and hours know if we move quietly, speak low, choose to wait patiently for our portion, or push forward to get our share. Those who clean up our messes know if we are attentive and grateful for their service and sacrifice."Perfection in outward conduct consists not in extraordinary things; but in doing common things extraordinarily well. Neglect nothing; the most trivial action may be performed to ourselves, or performed to God. If love be in your heart, your whole life may be one continual exercise of it. Oh, if we did but love others! How easily the least thing, the shutting of a door gently, the walking softly, speaking low, not making a noise, the choice of a seat, so as to leave the most convenient to others, might become occasions of its exercise." ~Mere Angelique Arnauld
Of course children almost never engender these qualities. Patient instruction and growing maturity will eventually produce this fruit. Every day gives a thousand opportunities to practice.
All of us may improve by practice, from the cradle to the grave. All of us may influence the spirit within the home by asking ourselves "Is love in my heart? And if love be in my heart can there be a complaint on my lips? If love be in my heart, can I leave this mess for another tired person to clean up? If love be in my heart, can I insistently demand what I want?"
And what if we are living elbow to elbow with a person who has not love in their heart? What if our closest companion always pushes forward to get the best portion, and then complains loudly that it is not enough. For this I do not have all the answers. I know what I ought to do, but still it stings bitterly. In theory, all that we do is performed to ourselves or to God. In practice, that which is performed to God is frequently played out in the arena of loving others. And "others" can be so uncooperative, so ungrateful, so unkind. I am often crushed by hard angry heels pounding across floors, doors slammed, angry complaining voices. I am often angered by the jostling and jockeying for position to get the largest portion, the pouting when another manages to get it instead. I nearly always simmer when I see laziness devouring the fruit of hard work and sacrifice. I am infuriated when laziness picks its teeth and belches, and then critiques the menu.
I have no easy answers, but I suspect it has more to do with me than my companions. This is not the answer that I want, and so I often reject it. I am intolerably unhappy, and still I reject it.
"It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a door-mat for other people's feet. Suppose God wants to teach you to say, 'I know how to be abased'--are you ready to be offered up like that? Are you ready to be not so much a drop in a bucket--to be so hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served? Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work and remain saints because it is beneath their dignity." ~Oswald Chambers