Meandering across the church parking lot waiting for kids to come out of school, I ran into another carpool mom, a woman with whom I am familiar, but we are not close friends.
Oh gosh! What happened to your knee? Are you okay?
The moment I asked, I kind of regretted being nosy. Classic Shelly, I thought. However, then came her truly hysterical reply.
Honestly, I am totally fine. It’s just that I am SO incredibly out of shape that I can barely breathe even walking super slow on the treadmill. With the brace on my knee, people will assume I am rehabbing and working out is less humiliating.
HAHAHAHAHA!! You are both funny and brilliant!
I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. I so completely identified with this authentic, sunny woman.
How many of us feel both ashamed and humiliated by the shape we are in, by the way we look? If it’s not that, then it’s something else, right? Based purely on the utterly unscientific data I have collected from my “vast sphere of influence” (ie, other carpool moms, facebook, and in the stands at HS basketball games), literally EVERYONE has some issue about which they would prefer NOT to be judged.
Here’s the thing. This itty bitty slice of my life was just a fantastic reminder to me. Never look down on anyone. Only God sits that high. Here’s a little quote I love, written by St. Josemaria Escriva. He said, “If you have so many defects, why are you surprised to find defects in others?”
So this was just a tiny interaction in the carpool line. At first blush, it was just the most fantastic giggle. Laughing is my favorite, so I shared the small story about the knee brace with a few friends. I was hoping to share a smile.
As I looked back on that encounter, I realized it was something much more. It was God talking to me. He does it all the time; it’s just that I’m not always listening.
Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” –St. Josemaria Escriva
Christian optimism should encourage us to demand a little of ourselves. Let’s open our eyes and hearts. As Lent begins, this is an important struggle for us to undertake. Responding to God’s call, being aware that we are free to do so or free to reject it, is the most wonderful experience of grace.
For instance, I found myself just this week having a conversation about the power of grace. I was trying to point out to a couple of struggling parents that the benefits of Catholic education outweigh the frustrations that they were feeling about the experience. A woman sitting near me, who overheard part of the chat, interjected and told me she’s not religious and she isn’t sure if she believes there is a God. She asked me why do I think there is? It was clearly not the moment for a big theological response—which is good because that is NOT my area of giftedness. She was judging, being cynical, and truth be told, it was clear she wasn’t really interested in my reply. So, I just said, “Because He winks at me, ALL THE TIME.”
She put down her drink and looked at me, and said, “He does, does He? Tell me about one of those winks.”
So, I shared with her the first thing that came to my mind. I told her about hearing that a priest had been relocated from the east coast to here in Indiana, and that I had further learned he didn’t have any mass intentions. So, I sent him an encouraging note, along with a few bucks and some mass intentions—mostly for family members who had died. There was my grandmother who had just died, my mother in law, the parents of some close friends, etc. The last mass intention was for myself. I sent it off to Muncie, expecting to never hear another thing about it, but confident I’d done a good thing.
Some weeks later, I received a reply note from the secretary of this parish in Muncie. It listed all the dates of masses being said for the intentions I’d requested. The last one listed was a mass being said for my intentions—ON MY BIRTHDAY.
I don’t know this priest, nor do I have any connections with the secretary. God just loves me so much and He wanted me to feel it. Only He knows truly how much I love the mass. For my birthday, He gave me the greatest gift I can imagine. It was a God wink that took my breath away.
Mostly, I think God’s little moments for each of us are meant to be private consolations. They’re just between us and Him. But this one came tumbling out when I heard “prove it”, so that’s my sign that it’s a Holy Spirit moment.
My little story was perhaps poorly conveyed. I kind of meandered through it, attempting to “put on a knee brace” throughout. It’s a tad late in the game to try to hide the fact that I’m a Jesus girl, but in certain company that really does make a person feel like a unicorn. I was exactly like that acquaintance from the carpool line. I didn’t want to be judged, but I really wanted to do the right thing anyway.
That, folks, is the power of grace. In all our weakness, God still manages to work His magic through us in all His magnificence. It’s pretty freaking hilarious and breathtaking at the same time when I think about it. There I was trying to explain why I know God exists while trying to be “casual” about my Jesus girl-ness…what even is that? Good grief.
This Lent, I plan to take a little time to fast from some things—like harsh judgements, complaining, and bitterness. It seems like a really appropriate time to focus on gratitude, kindness, and forgiveness. Also? Maybe less carbs. Less carbs would be good too.
It seems kind of perfect to me this year that Lent starts on Valentine’s Day, because here’s what I want everyone to know. Know you’re loved – infinitely–by our good and gracious God. Let all He has done out of love for YOU seep to the very center of you for the next 40 days. Happy Lent.