Now, I’m a Junior

“My last actual year of school was 8th grade. Now, I’m a junior.”

Last night, these words spoken by my youngest son gave me pause. Holy cow, he’s absolutely right, I thought. Z clearly feels ill at ease about his reality and somewhat unprepared to be a high school upperclassman. In all honesty, it seems equally obvious the very fact that he’s recently turned 17 seems somewhat shocking to him. It’s as if in a ludicrous, peculiar way, time has stood still in his mind. All the while, it’s been marching cruelly forward without his permission. Our lives have all been a little kooky, am I right? They never quite go as we planned.

My gut response upon realizing Z’s frame of mind over the last few weeks was interior unease, anxiety, and perhaps even a little mama bear despair over the losses and trials of his academic life… and the costs to he and his fellow young people from a developmental perspective and with relation to spiritual formation experiences lost during the COVID-19 insanity. I mean for gosh sakes, his confirmation prep was done over zoom with a group of young people he never met in person even once, and how do you learn chemistry by watching someone over a video do the labs you’d normally be doing in person yourself?

A gal can let herself into quite a lather over things about which she has no control. Also, the Lord is in charge here and Zach’s life ultimately belongs to the one who loves him most. Perhaps I need to once again look at things in the light of eternity and encourage him to do the same?

The Holy Spirit still showed up at Z’s confirmation, by the way, even though there were less than a dozen of us in the pews at that lovely mass. He also passed all his classes with flying colors even though every single one of them contained more virtual classroom experiences than one really needs in a lifetime. He was also a valuable member of his high school tennis and basketball teams. The Lord ordained all of this, just as He made each of us for the where and when of our Covid-timed lives. None of this is by chance or error, and our good God loves my son MORE than I do, because, well, HE’S GOD AND I’M NOT!!

Fr. Richard with Z on the date of his confirmation

Sinners that we are, by the way, we don’t deserve the best. Sometimes, it feels like we think we do. Actually, we don’t deserve anything. That said, God is still out there waving His freak flag full of love over each one of us weirdos, with good plans for each of us. In order for us to be truly happy, I hate to break it to you, but we have to surrender control. Just the thought of that concept makes me want to scream, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!” I’m not sure all of you have picked up on it yet, but you’ll not be shocked to find out my amazing mom STILL calls me “bossy moo cow.”

Here’s the thing. At every single mass, when the priest holds Jesus up for us all to see and be seen by Him, I always quietly tell Him that I love Him and I ask Him to help me love Him more. The Lord is crazy amazing at answering solid prayers like that one. He is always giving us opportunities to grow closer to Him and work on our failures and weaknesses.

For instance, I’ve been whining and complaining to just about everyone within earshot about my eyes. Both corneas are infected and have some damage and for reasons as yet unknown, the damage isn’t healing as expected. In the meantime, I’m fine, and wearing my old and rather ill-fitting glasses. I’m a super sweaty human, and now I’m also extra light sensitive. So, picture me with my glasses under giant old man wrap around sunglasses purchased from Walgreens. You know the ones. I was on my daily walk with 100% humidity today, basically wearing the equivalent of two layered ski goggles. I seriously could not have been sweatier. I had to take off both pairs of glasses about every 100 yards to wipe off my face while attempting to not walk my sorry blind rear end into a tree or off a curb. Did I mention I’m blind as a bat without the aid of my contacts or glasses? It’s the most irritating, patience testing experience. Also, I am grateful to God. He’s exposed me and my sorry, asininely impatient self. AGAIN. I’m pretty sure He’s up there laughing at me as I struggle. “She said she wanted to LOVE more.” Ah yes. We can’t be love to the next guy (which is one of the main ways we love Jesus, you all) if we are short-tempered control freaks.

Me, with my multiple pairs of glasses on.

Here’s what I know. Practice makes perfect. I thanked Jesus for the glorious sunshine and the stunning flowers as I walked and “glistened” today. How blessed am I that I have the gift of sight? I apologized to the Lord for taking this great gift for granted. Also, the effort to triumph over impatience, or an ill-temper, or the desire to control our lives and those of our loved ones, or lack of charity…whatever the weakness or sin might be…is a victory. When we give ourselves and our sins over to the Lord, we’ve won the spiritual combat for the day and our souls experience peace and joy. Self-control, the ability to correct our thoughts to be steeped in gratitude and trust in God, these are the things which lead us to kind hearts, words, and deeds. I’m working on it.

I read in a book recently called, The Hidden Power of Kindness that “Whenever your soul cherishes a gracious thought, it is as if God see His own Being reflected in a silent, sacred likeness. A kind thought is like the image of the Savior in your soul. God beholds it and rejoices at it and blesses your soul because your thoughts and sentiments are so much as His own heart.” Oh yes, I’d like a slice of that!

So, today I’m trying to remember that God is in control. I’m learning to trust Him, and to thank Him even when He’s a wee bit annoying. Finally, I’m remembering that I have a lot more time to be kind and spread the light of Christ when I’m slightly less focused on myself, and the pruning the Lord is doing in my life.

Jesus, it’s not a mistake that I am living in insecure times in a place that’s difficult and sometimes frightening. Please help me to draw my security from You and not from the world around me. Show me how I can be Your instrument of peace and healing here and now, how I can shine with your love and joy, and how I can share the good news of who You are with those around me. Amen.