How far will you trust God? A different kind of #PrayerStory

Photo by Kenny Orr on Unsplash

This morning I cracked open my brand-new Ave Catholic Note-Taking Bible, wondering what God might have to say to me as I begin a new work day. Craig is in Portland on a business trip with his brother, and though he called me last night to tell me they had arrived safely, I couldn’t shake the sense of dread I felt about them flying in his brother’s jet. Small planes terrify me, and the thought of two sixty-something brothers cavorting in the clouds does not ease my mind one iota. I am not prepared to let my husband fly away to glory. Not yet.

Before he left, Craig and I talked about someone who would be going on that same trip, that same plane, someone whose destructive life choices had fractured his family. I had reminded Craig of the great lengths God will go to at times to get our attention, to get us to turn back to him. “We need to just keep praying,” I said to Craig. “That God will get his attention somehow.”

So … imagine my horror to open the Bible this morning and read…

Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life,

for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice,

that he should continue to live on for ever, and never see the Pit.

Yes, he shall see that even the wise die,

the fool and the stupid alike must perish

and leave their wealth to others…. .

Psalm 49:7-10

The thought came to me: What would I be willing to sacrifice for this person to turn back to God? Would I be willing to trust God to do whatever it takes … no matter what?

The answer is “I don’t know.” I hope and pray God doesn’t require that of me, and that Craig will fly back and return to me unharmed. But at that moment all I could think of were my self-righteous words yesterday, and how God must have heard them and decided I needed a lesson in compassion. How quick I was to wish folly on another human being (in the guise of “spiritual awakening”) so long as it didn’t cost me anything, and all I had to do was sit back and wait for the fireworks.

But this morning I was reminded: redemption always comes at a cost. And very often, that cost may be the one thing we hold most dear. Am I willing — as Abram was willing — to trust him by putting my all on the altar?

So help me, God.

40-Day Challenge: Palm Sunday

   Happy Palm Sunday!

 On this final Lenten Sunday as we head into Holy Week, let me congratulate you on making it this far in the Challenge. With each passing day as we abandon ourselves more fully to our vocations as Christian wives, God takes up residence in the spaces left as we abandon old habits and seek to establish loving virtues, to strengthen our marriages in perfect love.

In honor of Palm Sunday, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite hymns, written by my confirmation namesake, Amy Carmichael (whose biography A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot, is one of my all-time favorite books), entitled “From Prayer That Asks” (to the tune of “Faith of Our Fathers”):

From prayer that asks that I may be sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fainting when I should aspire, from faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things; from easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified; not this way went Thy Crucified.
From all that dims Thy Calvary, O Lamb of God, deliver me!

Give me the love that leads the way, the faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire, the passion that would burn like fire.
Let me not sink to be a clod; make me Thy fuel, O Flame of God!

Weekend Ponderings: Holy Week Break

Tomorrow is the final day of Lent before the Triduum begins. Easter is the one time of the year I miss living in California … especially my “home” parish of Holy Family in South Pasadena where I was welcomed into the Catholic Church. This is where I received the Eucharist for the first time, where I took my confirmation name after a Scottish missionary Amy Carmichael, whose writings and hymns inspired me along the unconventional path I believed God had called me to follow. 

I was thirty years old at the time. I was restless, caught between the life I wanted and the one that I had because of a series of my own less-than-optimal choices: a dead-end job, a dead-end relationship, and feeling completely isolated from those who loved me most.

That Easter Vigil provided the impetus I needed to get a fresh start on life. Within six months, I had relocated halfway across the country to begin my dream job as an editor of a religious book publishing house. A few years later, I met Craig. A few years after that, we had our family. 

Of course, becoming Catholic wasn’t a cure-all. From time to time, there is still a disconnect between the life I want and the one I have. And I still harbor flaws and weaknesses that, try as I might, I find difficult to shake.

For example, tonight an extended family member gave us a generous gift — a summer excursion for Craig and the kids and me.  While I was delighted at the prospect of taking this trip, a part of me was bothered by the fact that we were being sent rather than taken. We wanted to spend time with this person … but that desire never seems to be reciprocated.  

One of the dirty little secrets “extraordinary families” sometimes face is that extended family doesn’t always embrace the new family unit with as much enthusiasm as we might wish. Some discharge “familial responsibilities” as perfunctorily as possible, lavishing the lion’s share of attention on those with biological ties. Helping such family members overcome their natural reticence can be a real challenge — and there may be times when it’s better to simply overlook it.

This is much harder to do, of course, when the children notice. “How come ________ gets to spend Christmas with ____, and we never get to see them? How come we don’t get to sleep over _____’s house?” Responding to questions like this can be tricky.  Striking the right balance between honesty and kindness is key. But even more important is to find a way to exorcise any residual resentments you may be harboring yourself.

This is the explanation I’ve been practicing, to serve up at the right time. “People show their love in different ways. Some people like lots of hugs, and spend lots of time together. Others like to give presents. Some people have lots of love in their hearts to share … and others are more careful about sharing their hearts. It’s sad, ’cause they miss out on God’s best gifts that way!  We need to be patient, and ask God to help us show love, no matter what. That’s what Jesus wants us to do.” 

During Holy Week, we remember all the people in the life of Jesus who didn’t reciprocate the love He so freely gave them, in the way He must have longed for them to show it. With some notable exceptions — Mary, who anointed the Lord with oil and dried His feet with her hair; the beloved disciple, who never left His side and who took His mother into his own home; St. Veronica and St. Simon, who came to Him along the Via Dolorosa — after those who had followed Him most closely during the three years of His public ministry, fell far short of fidelity. And yet, He loved them still.

This week, we have another opportunity to love not as we are loved by other frail and flawed human beings, but because of the divine love that has been poured out upon us, especially during this holy Easter season.

Happy Holy Week … and Happy Easter!