What He Wants

March 26, 2010

 

Dear Claire and Ella: 

If there’s one thing I pray you understand at a young age, it is this:

God is more interested in your holiness than He is

in your temporal happiness.

This is a lesson I’m still learning but I do know it starts with understanding that holiness comes by way of love — His love for you flowing through you to others. That is is why He wants all of you. He wants all of your heart so He can fill it with His love.

Because He wants your heart He’ll allow all kinds of circumstances in your life in order to draw you to Him. Sometimes He’ll court your heart with wonderful consolations and blessings in this life. Of course we all love these sweet circumstances and moments in life.  But, He also knows our human weakness and tendency to become attached to the consolations instead of The Consoler, attached to the gifts instead of The Giver.

Amazingly, instead of abandoning you in your weakness, He loves you enough to do whatever it takes to get your attention so you will let go of those things which get in the way of love. Sometimes He withdraws his consolations and waits for you to seek Him, to seek His heart and not just His gifts. At other times He redeems the painful consequences of living in a fallen world by using them to draw us to Him.

His desire for your holiness is not based on some puritanical rule but instead a desire for you to have a  heart of pure love for Him and for others. This is what we were created for. 

That’s why he won’t leave you where you are, even if you are happy. No, if you truly desire Him, if you truly want to love Him and love like Him, then He will use the circumstances of your life to challenge you to let go of your selfish attachments to this temporal life and grab hold of Him, of His love, mercy and grace.

It may surprise you to hear this but, this is His gift of grace to you.

Anything that draws you to Him is a grace because left to our own devices we would not seek Him. The key is recognizing his hand at work in these difficult circumstances. Seeing that something greater is going on. This seeing requires eyes of faith. It requires you trust that He really does have your best interests at heart. Acknowledging this truth is the first step in surrender. I say step, because surrender is a process.

Surrendering means you stop fighting His will and you finally let Him do the work in you and through you. But remember, surrender does not make everything all better. The work He is doing may still be painful and difficult. But, when you begin to trust that He is working all things together for your eternal good then you can begin to find moments of peace in the midst of the pain, moments of trust where there used to be fear and worry.

Those moments most often come when you seek Him, when you place yourself before Him in worship, adoration and in stillness and quiet. They come as you receive Him and His strength in Communion. They come as you renew your mind and heart with the truth that this is not your final home; this temporal life is just one part of the journey. And they come when you serve and sacrifice for others.

This is why I take you often to Mass and Adoration. I want you to learn to give Him all of your heart in worship, to turn you eyes from your own circumstances and pray for others, and to spend time contemplating what Jesus did for us on the cross.

I want you to learn now because as you get older there will be times when it seems hard to surrender. In those moments remain faithful, continue to seek Jesus. Things may not change overnight. You  may not change overnight. So be patient with the process. Be patient with yourself.  It’s natural to want to avoid difficulties and pain. Your emotions will tell you to protect yourself in selfish ways, to run or to fight the process. And there will be times when you might give in to your emotions. Do not worry about this. Repent and turn your heart and mind back toward God.

As you give more of your heart to him and learn to constantly turn to Him for your strength you will find that you are more than your emotions; you are His and His Spirit can transform you. And as He transforms you, you will know more of His love and see it flowing  through you to others.

And finally you will see what He has known all along…

In holiness there is more happiness than you could have ever imagined!

Love,

Mom

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on bumpy roads and detours…

February 11, 2010

Adversity is the shortest road to sanctity.

(Fr. Don Vitalis Lehodey)

It seems the times in my faith journey I’ve grown the most have always been during the trials I’ve met on the road of adversity. Yes, the hardest parts of my faith journey have also been the most fruitful parts of my life.

I must confess that even though I know this correlation between adversity and spiritual growth exists I still prefer the long scenic route to sanctity (if such a road exists).  I think it’s human nature. Who doesn’t prefer the smoothly paved roads of life over the bumpy ones; we embrace the good times (which is ok) and we’re quick to look for a detour so to escape unpleasant circumstances or our suffering and pain (usually not so ok). 

Avoidance and detours work for a while. However, in the end, if your heart desires to be like Jesus, you soon realize there are no other roads worth taking and you fall to your knees in full surrender like Jesus did in the Garden and pray: Not my will but yours be done. 

 If you’re on the shorty bumpy road of adversity today then here’s a good verse to hang onto:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1: 2-4)


Recognizing Grace

November 6, 2008

“The greatest grace God can give someone is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers–and then sustain him with his grace so he may endure to the end and be saved.”

St. Justin Martyr (100-165 AD)


Longing…

September 13, 2008

 

 

The past couple of days have been a little tough. I have this longing in my heart. It’s a desire that will probably never be fulfilled. Circumstances and events of the past week have reminded me of this longing. Slowly, the dull ache in my heart has become a sharp pain.

There’s so much in life for which I have to be grateful and I am. But this one thing, this one longing, it cuts to the core of my heart. It cuts to the core of my being and my vocation in life. It pushes me to my knees where I can do nothing but cry out, ask for, and then, finally surrender.

Deep in my heart my greatest desire is for  God’s will; for only that which will be good for my sanctification and salvation. Deep in my spirit I want what God knows I need in order to be holy; what I need in order to love Him and my neighbor as myself, for that is true holiness. “Thy will be done.” This is what I pray for each day.

And yet, I still have this longing…


The Correlation

August 25, 2008

I’d like to think that I am a compassionate person. However, I’ve spent time examining some of my responses to friends when they’ve suffered or struggled through difficult circumstances and I’ve realized the depth of my compassion can be very shallow at times. 

In his book, Turn My Mourning into Dancing, Henri Nouwen has this to say about compassion:

 

The word [compassion] comes from roots that mean literally to “suffer with.”‘ To show compassion means sharing in the suffering “passion” of another. Compassion understood this way asks more from us than a mere stirring of pity or a sympathetic word.

To live with compassion means to enter others’ dark moments. It is to walk into places of pain, not to flinch or look away when another agonizes. It means to stay where people suffer.

 

I don’t think any of us really like “staying where others suffer.” I know I don’t. Consequently I am quick to offer solutions and advice. I am quick to suggest that “we must pick up our cross” forgetting that even Jesus had help carrying his cross (Luke 23:26).  I wonder how many times my words of “exhortation” have only made a friend’s cross seem even heavier? As Nouwen puts it:

 

We try to help our friends quickly process grief…All the while however, we act less out of genuine suffering with and more out of the need to stand back from the discomfort we might feel…Our hesitation to look squarely at another’s suffering, to sit or stand with someone in pain, weighs on conversations an obligation for the other to “act happy”…Our evasions do not help others but rather cause them to put up defenses and drive away those who need someone to care. By offering premature advice on how to cope, by rushing to reassure, by prodding with advice, we say much about our need for easy closure. When we barge in with such consolation, we make hurting souls into objects or projects.

One reason we react to others this way grows out of our skirting of our pain. We resist getting near the suffering of another partly our of our unwillingness to suffer ourselves. For another’s hardship suggests to us what can also hurt us. 

 

As I’ve reflected on Nouwen’s words I’ve come to the conclusion that I often lack compassion because I do not suffer well. When suffering comes my way I am slow to accept the trial and quick to complain. If I cannot embrace my own suffering and difficulties then how can I sit with someone else in the midst of their suffering and pain. I’d never made this correlation before but it does makes sense.  Those who embrace their own pain and suffering (like Jesus) are better able to show compassion, better able to suffer with others in the midst of their pain. 

I am hesitant to even write this next sentence because of what it implies.

Father, help me to be more compassionate.


A Good Reminder

August 19, 2008

 

I really like things to go my way. So, when I read the title of the following excerpt from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, I cringed and considered putting the book away. My initial reaction aside I’ve read it many times over in the last month. It speaks truth and it’s a good reminder. Here it is…

ON THE ADVANTAGE OF NOT HAVING EVERYTHING OUR OWN WAY

It is good that everything is not always to our liking; for adversity makes people look into their hearts in order to realize that they are exiles and must not put their hopes in any worldly thing.

It is good for us to run into opposition and to have others think badly of us, even when our intentions are good. For these things help us to be humble and rid us of pride. Then we seek God more earnestly, Who alone knows our inmost self, when outwardly we are ignored and discredited by others.

Therefore, people should rely so entirely on God that they have no need to look for human consolations when adversity comes. When  people of good disposition are afflicted…then they understand the need they have of God that without Him they can do nothing.

Then too they grieve, while they sigh and pray because of the miseries they endure. They grow weary of this life and long for death in order to be with Christ, their Lord. It will also be clear to them that there is neither perfect peace nor security in this world.

Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ 


The grace of an imperfect life

March 7, 2008

 

When we think of God’s grace we often think of the grace of forgiveness and mercy; the grace of salvation.  You know

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like meeeeeee.”

But over the years I’ve learned and still am learning something. While I desperately need His grace when I sin and fall short of living the ideal of a life fully surrendered and directed by the Holy Spirit, I also need His grace when life falls short of my ideals, hopes and expectations.

We all have ideals for our life. Many of these ideals we seek are “good.” These hopes or ideals we have for our lives, our families and our friends are very often born out of virtue and the very nature of our created being and our vocations in life.

The man who desires to provide for and protect his family.

The missionary who wants nothing more than to care for the poor and feed the hungry in her midst.

The woman who longs to carry a child in her womb.

We hold onto our ideals. We dare to hope for what is good. All the while knowing that we live in an imperfect, fallen world; a world where often the distance between our hopes and reality is marked by disappointment.

This disappointment of the man or woman who never dreamed they’d end up divorced.

The disappointment of the parent whose wayward child is off doing a Prodigal Son tour.

The disappointment of the one who gives up their personal dreams to serve and take care of a sick relative.

The disappointment of the widower who loses his beloved and must live the rest of his days without her.

When our disappointments are rooted in an unfullfilled desire for something that is essentially good it can be especially difficult. It’s at times like these, when life is less than our ideal, less than perfect, that we need God’s grace.

We need grace to live with disappointments and still hold out hope for what is good and virtuous.

We need grace to offer up our disappointments as a sacrifice and see them as part of living in this fallen world and sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings.

We also need grace to see that sometimes our loss or disappointment can be a gift of grace itself.

It may well be the grace we need in order to allow the Holy Spirit to align our ideals, hopes, and dreams with his will and ways. Or, our loss or disappointment may be the grace we need to see a sin that we didn’t even realize we’d latched onto.

Big or small, our disappointments, our losses and sufferings make up the landscape of grace in our lives. Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty of this landscape. We’re so focused on a specific disappointment or loss that we can’t see the forest for the trees. But if we are patient and we keep our gaze on him, we will eventually see the big picture and appreciate the grace of an imperfect life.