After you have made a decision that is pleasing to God, the devil may try to make you have second thoughts. Intensity your prayer time, meditation, and good deeds. For if Satan’s temptations merely cause you to increase your efforts to grow in holiness, he’ll have an incentive to leave you alone. –St. Ignatius of Loyola
A couple of weeks ago, a total stranger reached out to me. That, in and of itself, is fairly ordinary. Usually that sort of introduction comes at the behest of a mutual friend who wants me to use my powers of persuasion (and maybe a caffeine-laced latte) to help said beautiful soul feel a little more comfortable in his or her own skin. Life is full of battles. It’s easier to stomach them over Starbucks, some affirming words, and a smile.
Generosity of spirit is what I aim for, in general. This time, I hesitated. You see, the request was for me to come and speak to a Mom’s prayer group at a nearby parish. After I thought about it for just a few minutes, I decided it was a bad idea.
Allow me to walk you through my excuse-laden brain. First of all, I’m not a speaker. Secondly, the event was in just a few days. Thirdly, I’m not a speaker. Did I already mention that? It’s not that I am afraid of speaking. I used to do it as a regular course of action in my job. However, that was a million years ago and also I was definitively not speaking to those folks back in the day about Jesus.
So, the event was a no go. I mean, also THIS parish? My mind began to wander to the most comedic and ridiculous places to avoid this assignment. These poor women are probably super nice ladies but I guarantee they aren’t even aware that Jane Mullin issued sanctions against them and their cheater pants 4th grade CYO coach 15 years ago. Allow me to explain. The whole parish lost their sainthood. Yep. Stiff penalty, I agree. We took away the word “Saint” in front of their parish name and referred to them henceforth with just the name of the Apostle after whom the parish is dedicated, ha? Very mature, am I right? I don’t know if those were lifetime sanctions or not. I’d have to check with Janie about that one. Maybe it’s time to let it go…? Ha? As I read that back, I’m not sure that our 15+ year grudge over a 4th grade CYO basketball game feels so classy? I mean, it was the championship game…but still?
I’m joking because that’s what I do when I’m in the middle of making bad decisions.
Interiorly, I was angsty. I’ll be as elegant with my diction as I was able at that moment. I freaking love You, Jesus. Where I was compared to where I am now is the epitome of pure grace. It’s just that I’m not right for this particular job, Lord.
I confided in a friend who never lets me off the hook. Clearly, I’m mentally unwell. He replied by telling me that when it comes to speaking about faith, the important thing is that we love Christ. He went on some rant about a guy called “Herman the Cripple” who had cleft palate and cerebral palsy and all sorts of daunting disabilities and limitations but evidently, he was a remarkable man who achieved much, and who wrote one of the most beautiful prayers ever conceived– The Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina).
I think I just texted him back and said something like, “Come on. Really? This is total BS!”
He texted “Hahaha! Google him! It’s possible other people can see your gifts more clearly than you?”
Yep. You can bet your sweet hind end the guilt trip worked and I said yes. I might be confused about why I am being called, but once I’m fairly certain what God’s will is, it’s very challenging for me to say no. The Lord speaks to all of us, but I personally think His voice and methodology is a little different for every person. I mean, I’m not sitting by a bush waiting on the God of the universe to catch it on fire and talk to me like He did Moses.
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t think the Lord is into confusing me. He already knows I confuse easily. We’ve chatted about it. We have a relationship. He does know I love Him sincerely and I ask Him every day to help me love Him more. I want to do what pleases God. I mean, I fail to do it…like a lot. But I really do want that.
The (very) senior associate at my parish is a joyful priest named Fr. Dan Gartland. He won’t like the adjective I put in parentheses in that last sentence one bit. He told me the story of a parishioner bringing him a t-shirt that said “SERMONATOR” on it. The man is a gifted speaker. We all know it, and he does too. He’s entertaining, accessible, and just a guy who makes me laugh and want a piece of whatever he’s got. At a daily mass recently, he told a very hilarious story about a bunch of high school kids he used to torture a little during his years in Lafayette, but then he always finds a way to pivot to a meaningful conclusion. On this day, he implored us all to “do what is right as a sacrifice to the Lord and then trust Him with the rest.” A to the MEN, Padre.
So, I’m no “Sermonator”. I wish I could speak with ease like Fr. Dan. I was marginal as a speaker. Actually, I do think my message was solid. Thanks be to God. It’s simply that I talk too fast and I read from my notes a lot.
However, these are challenging times we live in. People need to be reminded that they are deeply loved by the Lord of the universe and that our faith matters. Our little kindnesses aren’t little at all. Jesus uses us to be His hands and feet. If He calls, He’ll provide the grace. I stood there living the message I was trying to share. So, at the very least it was genuine.
Naive and foolish that I may be, I didn’t give in to the temptation to forget God’s call to serve Him that night last week with the lovely ladies and their prayer partners at their end of year dinner. For that much, I am proud.
I did what pleased God the best I could– nothing less, nothing more. When given the chance, I hope you will too. It might be as easy as taking the trash cans up the driveway for the old lady next door! Goodness is usually available and simple.
This Holy Week, I am feeling called to remember that the cost of my sins is more than I can pay. His gift of love for our sake is so much more than we can imagine. This week, I pray I can be a touch more still than normal so that I can hear Him whispering “I did it just for you.”
The only response that makes sense to me falls very short. It’s all I’ve got. THANK YOU, JESUS. I LOVE YOU BACK.
Holy Week is a privileged time when we are called to draw near to Jesus; friendship with Him is shown in times of difficulty. –Pope Francis