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An Imperfect Instrument

Earlier this week, I wondered what it would be like if I treated every day like it was Easter. Like, what if I approached each morning with the same joy, delight and hopeful expectation that Mary Magdalene felt when she saw Jesus walk out of the tomb? Or when I eat a mouthful of Cadbury’s malted mini-eggs? What if I sat alongside the suffering right here in my neighborhood just like the brave women who sat at the foot of the cross? I've felt inspired by a lot of things this Easter season, but especially by the book I'm reading right now about a woman named Agnes Bojaxhiu who was born around 1910 in multi-cultural Skopje — then part of the Ottoman Empire and now capital of the Republic of Macedonia. The youngest of three children, Agnes was born of modest means to a loving family led by her parents, Dranafile and Nikola.

The Bojaxhiu family cared deeply about their community and often invited the city's destitute to dine at their table. Lazar, the elder brother of Agnes, once asked his mother if the strangers who came to their house were family members, but his mother said, "Some of them are our relations, but all of them are our people." When Agnes had questions about the suffering people that walked through their front door, Drana would softly remind her daughter,

My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others."

This upbringing, as well as the prompting of the Holy Spirit, inspired a life of service devoted to fully belonging to Jesus and caring for those in the slums of Calcutta. After taking her vows as a Catholic nun, Agnes adopted a new name - the now famous name of Mother Teresa.

In 1946, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, which is still led by 5,000+ sisters who live in poverty and serve those who live in poverty around the world. Mother Teresa was inspired to found the organization as a direct response to Christ’s plea that she make Him known to the poorest of the poor by her humble service of love.

And until I read Kathryn Spink's incredible authorized biography Mother Teresa, I didn't know much about the tiny woman with the giant smile who dressed in white saris and comforted the dying in India. Like many people, I knew the abridged version of her story (e.g., Nobel Prize, Calcutta, Princess Diana), but had no idea who she really was or how she started her ministry. In fact, I decided to pick up a copy of Kathryn's book because my brother has frequently joked that I am"trying to be like Mother Teresa" by helping the suffering here in my community of Santa Monica, California.

Now, I'm a faaaaar cry from living like Mother Teresa. I do not live in poverty, I work in entertainment and I bleach my hair every 6-9 weeks. And if you're anything like me, I've always had these kinds of thoughts about Mother Teresa...

"I could never live up to her."

"There was something better about her than the rest of us."

"She was perfect."

Mother Teresa's name alone is often used when describing perfection, which is funny because she probably would've disagreed with that unattainable sentiment. She didn't even want to be canonized as a saint because she thought that putting her on a pedestal would give others permission to stay removed and disengaged from helping the poor themselves. Mother Teresa would tell anyone that she wasn't perfect and she was just doing "small things with great love." She didn't believe she was more special than anyone else.

This has been a very important message for me these past few weeks. I've received dozens of congratulatory messages from readers around the world in response to ways I'm trying to help the homeless community in Santa Monica. I've had to continuously ground myself in the reality that it's not about me. It's not about my efforts. It's not about my talents. It's just about me letting God use me as His instrument and remembering that there's nothing more special about me than anyone else.

But we can all do extraordinary things when we invite God to pluck the strings we dance to or pound the drums we march to. Kathryn had the privilege of walking alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta and beautifully said in her book,

"She [Mother Teresa] consistently countered all attempts to credit her with exceptional skills by protesting her own ordinariness all the more vehemently and pointing constantly to God at work through his imperfect instruments."

Mother Teresa was a perfectly imperfect instrument. Just like you and just like me. And thankfully, each and every one of us is capable of tuning ourselves to the chords of God's brilliant symphony. Among her many priorities, Mother Teresa was deeply focused on the importance of prayer. The work meant nothing to her without God at the center of it all. When asked what her secret was she said, "My secret is simple – I pray!"Mother Teresa often emphasized The Prayer of St. Francis, which focuses on the concept of instrumentality, which was St. Francis' belief that God is working through each of us. The prayer invites God to fill us with His love, light and joy so that we might share it with others.

This morning I began a 30 day practice focused on this specific prayer.

Before I touch my phone or go to the gym or take the dog out, I've committed just 10 minutes to sitting still on my yoga mat and meditating on these powerful words. Basically, just kindly asking Jesus to replace my thoughts with His.

The Prayer of St. Francis

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

where there is hate, let me bring love

where there is wrong, let me bring the spirit of forgiveness

where there is discord, let me bring harmony

where there is error, let me bring truth

where there is doubt, let me bring faith

where there is despair, let me bring hope

where there are shadows, let me bring light

where there is sadness, I may bring joy.”

My hope is that I will actively live out each word of this matter how difficult the situation or person may seem! And as Drana so lovingly reminded her children - everyone we will meet today is "our people." This simple prayer reminds me that I'm meant to live out the spirit of Easter every day by inviting God to make me an instrument of His peace. And I'm far from perfect and sometimes I'm out of tune, but I'll do just about anything to keep playing music in His ragtag orchestra of imperfect instruments.

If you'd like to join the morning prayer practice, please let me know in the comments or send me a DM on Instagram!

1 Comment

Ashley, I cannot thank you enough for this post! And wow, the synchronicity! The book on my table is Mother Theresa's, and I read about your 'List for Good' on a random news feed last week! AND I hand wrote St. Francis' prayer just few days ago! Like, hello Universe??? PLUS you inspired me to start a List for Good in my city, in Calgary, Canada. I think through this simple, honest and selfless action, you were every little bit like Mother Teresa! You inspired at least one person (me) to do something beautiful! Thank you for that...💝

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