My resolution for 2011: Talk less, listen more, and strive for perfect instrumentality in God’s hands. That’s a tall order, I know!

It came to me yesterday in the grocery store, when I observed a mother and her two daughters. The girls must have been about 6 and 8 years old, and caught a spontaneous urge to be a little naughty. The older sister – an opportunist like so many older sisters – had the sudden urge to take her younger sibling by the back of the neck and shove her head between the slats of the plastic curtain and into the cooler. Maybe she thought her little sister needed a little cooling off; who knows? A scuffle ensued, drawing the attention of their mother and a few by-standers.

Rather than take the girls quietly aside and correct them privately, the mother whirled around and began slapping and loudly scolding the girls in a completely demeaning way – much to the horror of the folks standing in the crowded dairy aisle. Now they had the attention of not only a few by-standers, but the fifty-some customers in the dairy department. To make things worse, the mother insisted that the girls stand side by side directly in front of the egg cooler and threatened to further punish them if they moved a single muscle. Then she left the poor things standing there as she stepped away to finish selecting her other dairy products. It was an awkward situation for everyone. Egg purchasers had to figure out how to retrieve their cartons of eggs without disturbing the girls so as to spare them more harm and the girls had to figure out how to allow folks to reach past them without shifting. Ridiculous!

I kept thinking that the awful circumstances could have been avoided if the mother had just taken a deep breath and opened her heart to God and her lovely little daughters. She might then have seen it as a teaching moment or a subtle call from the heavenly Father to pay some needed (and caring) attention to her children. If she only would have thought to ask, “Lord, what would you have me do in this moment?”, she likely would not have humiliated her girls and herself in public.

Sure, we all fly off the handle from time to time. How many times have we demeaned people and made them stand stock still in front of the egg cooler, figuratively speaking? How many times have we let our pride get in the way of discovering the real motives behind someones actions? How many times have we neglected to truly listen to someone else and consequently reached faulty conclusions?

The simple answer is actually the most difficult to carry out: to strive for perfect instrumentality. If we practice it in all the little things on a daily basis, we’ll be more effective instruments in God’s hands in all situations. All it takes is a breath and a few words: “Lord, what would you have me do in this situation?”

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – the epitome of instrumentality. Through her guidance and intercession may we all become more perfect instruments in the hands of God during 2011.

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