Prisms and Purpose

I’ve got this prism that is eternally smudged.

I ordered it in hopes that it would somehow elevate our cluttered mess of a dining room into one of those Waldorf forest homeschools where kids keep all their Montessori materials sorted in rainbow colored sets and listen attentively to poetry as they finish watercoloring their nature journals.

Alas, it sits covered in sticky fingerprints on a dust covered windowsill next to an abandoned Captain American LEGO project that is missing a foot. Cap has been sidelined for the foreseeable future just like my dreams of a whimsical home in which to educate my children. 

The truth is that the prism brought us a lot of joy at the outset of the year, but has been shuffled aside under math workbooks and the flotsam and jetsam of four kids learning at home full time for the first time. The prism somehow got shifted aside as an afterthought because, if I’m honest, I’m not fully sure what I’m doing, I’m constantly doubting myself, and I never followed through on that light unit like I thought I would.

The prism hasn’t been shattered by my raging and screaming yet, so that’s a mercy. Turns out we’re not the quiet woodland family I had hoped we might be.

This morning as I lamented the wads of hair and dust that somehow always live on my stairs, and the shoddy job my children do of sweeping them, and the shoddy job I am clearly doing as a parent, I was struck by the prism. Its once pristine glass was noticeably clouded and foggy and I’m pretty sure it was handled by someone who had recently been eating cheese puffs.

But my breath caught as I watched a rainbow pour out of the dim prism onto the hair covered hardwood below.

None of this looks like I thought it would.

I haven’t managed to create a space that “measures up,” whatever that means. I live in a sea of uncertainty and often wonder what use my gifts actually are to the world.

It’s easy for me to dismiss my days as less than, to chalk them up to unfinished projects and problems unsolved. But when I consider the prism, I see more.

When I consider the miracle that a rainbow is at hand, that it dares to shine in the presence of my mess, that it is bold enough to shine onto my doubt and my fury and my fear, I am forced to stop. When I step back to take that in, I’m reminded that all is grace. All is gift. 

You see, the truth reflected in the prism is that the miracle cannot be stopped. The rainbow is somehow not dimmed by smudges or filthy fingerprints.

However manhandled and bunged up it may be, the prism still exists to turn light into rainbows. The purpose of the prism is to reveal invisible, but ever-present colors so that they may be seen by the naked eye.

The miracle cannot be stopped because the prism cannot deny its purpose.

As a woman I am uniquely called to die to myself that I might nurture and grow the souls of others. As a woman I am designed to gently steward the souls entrusted to my care.

As a woman I am specially created to hold all that in my heart, to birth beauty out of struggle, to give life out of groaning. 

We’ve all been manhandled and bunged up. None of us is the flawless crystal we might wish that we are.

Things don’t turn out like we plan or expect. People fail us, boundaries are crossed, our hearts are wounded in broad and intimate ways every day. Yet we are all capable of casting great beauty into the neglected corners of our world.

The miracle cannot be stopped because this is what we were created to do.

The only thing that can stop the miracle is if the prism is moved out of the light. If I shove my prism in a drawer, there’s no way for the light to touch it.

The same is true of our hearts, of course. If our hearts are hidden away, shoved in closets, shut down and shamed, it’s true that we won’t reflect much light. You can’t shine a rainbow from a shadow, it’s true.

And if I’m honest, seeking the light sometimes seems futile and foolish. It’s honestly kind of silly that I’ve kept my filthy prism on the windowsill through the gloom and clouds of the Cleveland winter.

To an outsider it seems like an exercise in futility but I believe the miracle. Even when there are days on end that I don’t catch a glimpse of rainbow, I have faith that the sun will come through the clouds and the cheese puff smudges.

I’ve seen it happen before and I have faith it will happen again. I’ve seen the rainbow on the stairs with my own eyes. I have witnessed the miracle. 

And I realize the same must be done for my heart. I think a lot about how the Psalmist reminds us not to harden our hearts. He may as well be saying, “Don’t retreat. Don’t build up walls and separate yourself from the light.”

And I know in order for me to achieve my purpose, like the prism, I must remain in the light. 

Every day I must claim the miracle. Every day I must accept my purpose as undeniable. Every day I must place myself in the light, smears and smudges fully exposed so that the miraculous love of the Father can penetrate my heart and cast His love onto the world through me.

It won’t work if I’m not in the light. It won’t work if I’m not reading scripture and attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments, praying with my friends. It won’t work if I believe the lies that I’m fed by the world, if I deny my belovedness, compare myself to others, or allow my heart to become hard. 

To be in the light, we must be in the truth. If we are women who claim resurrection, the truth that should spur us on is that nothing is irredeemable.

If we are women who claim the risen Christ, it is our duty to claim Him, to claim the miracle of resurrection in all we do. Our work is to set our hearts on the miracle, to seek it out, to draw our families and communities along with us as we encounter it.

Our calling is to claim the truth of the risen Jesus in ourselves, to speak it over our hurts and our pains, to repeat that truth to ourselves when we are at our weakest and to speak it over our sisters:

“You are redeemed. You are chosen. You are safe. You are loved.”

St. Josemaria Escriva said, “He did not say you would not be troubled, you would not be tempted, you would not be distressed, but He did say you would not be overcome.” 

My place here in my family is not to curate a perfect home or achieve some other lofty goal. My purpose is not to fit any sort of mold of womanhood that’s been manufactured by the world or the church or anyone in between.

My purpose is to shed light, to cast rainbows into darkened corners, to show up and love despite my dinginess and my bruises.

The rainbow is no less beautiful because my prism is smudged. My gifts are no less beautiful because they come from an imperfect source.

If each day is an offering to Christ, I am receiving His light. If each day is a claiming of truth, I am receiving Him.

And if I am receiving the light of Christ, just like the prism on my dusty windowsill, I can be nothing but a channel through which that light enters the world. 

Mary Susan is so dear to my heart! She creates a beautiful space of vulnerability, humor, and encouragement. She can be found at https://oh-bless-your-heart.com/ and here on Instagram.

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