Remember this and never forget it. Even if it should seem at times that everything is collapsing, nothing is collapsing at all, because God doesn’t lose battles. –St. Josemaria Escriva
For those who don’t know me personally, I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I begin a sentence with “Correct me if I’m wrong…” then one ought to understand with painstaking clarity that NO CONTINGENCY exists where choosing to do so would be remotely suitable. I utterly lack patience and am inherently stubborn. Only when prudence has been forsaken entirely will I open with “Correct me if I’m wrong.” For the love of all things holy, don’t step in that landmine, people. I’m snarkier than your average bear when provoked. It’s not something I’m particularly proud about, and I’ve been reflecting on this and some of my other lesser qualities of late. I wonder how can God use someone so impertinent as me at this moment in the history of the world? Why did He place me here right now?
Near the beginning of the ensuing insanity of 2020, I cleaned out my office. One of the treasures I uncovered was this picture of my three sweet boys, in much earlier (and simpler) times, sucking on popsicles on the front step of our house on Garden Gate Way. The baseball player on the left was then a second grader, Z was 2, and that means Drew was 6. I found a little magnetic sleeve in a drawer, and I placed the photo on my fridge. The photo made me feel gratitude for the greatest blessings in my life, and interiorly, I somehow knew I would need that reminder in my line of sight for a while.
Good grief! How right was I about that?
Despite my many flaws, I consider myself to be an empathetic, compassionate and kind person. I’m a good listener too, and these things I think are inherently pro-life attributes gifted to me for the glory of the Lord. I often text or ask “hey, how are you holding up?” In a broken world, meeting people where they are, caring to wait for their reply, it can heal others. Being other-focused can bind up our own wounds too.
Adversity isn’t going to depart from our lives. It may recede for a time or advance in unrelenting fashion like it has in 2020, but I don’t know many folks who have escaped challenge over the long term as human beings living on planet earth.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (Jn 14:27)
Someone kind of holy sent me that lovely little bit of scripture and I am going to be honest. My worries were a mile deep that day and it brought on some fairly serious eye-rolling and an interior rejection. Oh how helpful. That’s super easy. NOT.
I sank deeper. And THEN, I got sort of irritated with Jesus and His admonition. Talking to me about peace when dad had a heart attack he can’t seem to recover from? Mom’s in pain that can’t be relieved for at least 3 months? The father-in-law has stage 4 colon cancer? Multiple friends I adore are in serious marriage trouble? There are folks around me battling addiction, depression, cancer, stroke? The local church is in crisis, in case you haven’t noticed, Lord! What about that? And what about that mile-long list of people who have asked for my prayers? What exactly are you planning to do about those folks??
Sometimes, my best and most honest prayers are essentially silent, exasperated movements of the heart directed with not a small amount of “drama queen” angst to the God of the universe.
That meltdown, along with one similarly angsty sent to an actual (faith-filled) human, were just what the doctor ordered. I felt better after venting, and grace reminded me that I must have extraordinary value in the eyes of God if Love itself gave Himself for me. The price of my salvation was the cross of Christ. I need to quit letting myself get distracted and let it sink deeply into my heart that following Jesus means life is likely to be tricky at best.
So, I’ve been praying about how can I add sunshine to the muck? How can I accept responsibility for my actions now and in the future instead of getting caught up trying to fix blame for wrongs? How can I focus on kindness instead of dipping my toe into the very toxic discourse all around me?
I think the answer is love. We need to understand that people have bad days. People are lonely and isolated. People are limited and they are carrying something. Daring people to “correct me if I’m wrong” with the fiery eyes of satan is probably not the best next move. There’s not one eyeball I could meet with my glance who isn’t equally loved by God. So, now I’ve got that popsicle picture on both my phone and my fridge. It helps me stop and breathe and remember the almost deranged, irrational love God has shown me in these 49 years on planet earth. You all? God is a cuckoo psychopath to rain grace on me like He has. I mean…I can stomp in puddles, take in sunsets, walk on the monon trail, and hold the hands of my guys during the Our Father at mass. Those sticky, popsicle eating cuties are nearly grown now, and seeing their much older, hairy, unshaven faces still fills my heart with such joy. The list of blessings bestowed on me is miles long. Guess what? Yours is too.
The point I am trying to make today is that I can’t fix FOX News or CNN, and I doubt my B in Biology at Purdue is enough to help anyone solve the coronavirus. However, I can share a coffee with a friend who needs to exhale. Also, its simple to skip the complaint. I can listen without interjecting, and I can affirm generously. Supporting, forgiving and enjoying the people around me is not so hard. Love is about serving the next guy, and in that act, I think I say yes to God, to whom I owe endless gratitude.
So, I propose we remain steadfast in prayer, and we each take responsibility today to find a way to serve others with love. Both of these things will help us, and the world, to become less hard hearted and more loving. I’m not going to overthink it. In fact, right now, I think I’ll go make strawberry shortcake for my fellas. A special treat might give them a smile.
“To be able to say yes to God at every moment of our lives is the essence of holiness.” –Mother Angelica