I guess you never know how little faith you have, until it is tested. Faith never grows, unless it is tested. I have found it to be a vicious lifelong cycle. I think I have faith, it gets tested, and I realize how little faith I have after all.
I have been praying for something for what seems to be a long time. A “long time” in human terms is anywhere from fifteen minutes to decades. In actuality, when I have the benefit of hindsight, I can see where God may have been working in the background lining everything up, but I didn’t notice because I was too preoccupied thinking he wasn’t listening or doing anything. “Doing anything” meaning, what I wanted, how I wanted it, and when I wanted it done.
I am pathetically impatient.
Currently, I am seeing the fruit of what I consider to be about twelve years of praying coming to fruition in a series of unexpected rapid fire events. Okay, truth be told, it was really 8 years of whining and four years of determined praying, but you get it. Unpredicted circumstances have netted us a new pastor, new possibilities, and a renewed sense of hopefulness. Issues that had been stomped down, or placed in a permanent holding pattern are quickly seeing life. New energy and a real sense of leadership have taken a hold of the community. It is refreshing and at the same time, nothing we could have imagined. God’s ways often take us by surprise!
Things can turn on a dime; we all know that. It seems like we wait ages for something to happen and then, boom it happens out of nowhere. I was reminded of that when just six months ago an encounter with a car almost ended my life. Each day when I drive to work I glance at the very spot where I laid on the pavement unconscious. I thank God, in his mercy, for giving me another chance to learn important life lessons, like patience, which I apparently will need three additional lifetimes to advance past even the most rudimentary lessons. I’m impatient even when learning patience.
I want to see things change now. I think I know the best case scenario and of course, share my perspective of this with the Lord. I know he has a sense of humor because he doesn’t entertain any of my ideas. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…” Just last week he reminded me of that passage from Isaiah 55:8. I didn’t think he was listening. Apparently he was.
What I am beginning to realize is that life is like a playground. It is the place where we can play out possibilities, make mistakes, skin our knees, and get put in time out as we work out life. God can make lessons out of mistakes, heal the wounds of bad choices and open doors that were previously shut. Pope Francis likes to say, let God surprise you.
I like surprises. I just hate waiting for them.
As I pray the Rosary or read the Gospels it has occurred to me how much joy and sorrow are intermingled. Life, in reality, is bittersweet. There are times to wait, to celebrate, and to mourn. For example, teenage Mary is pregnant with the Son of God! Scary but great news. The Son is born and with it, the limitless joy of holding your newborn. Then the news about a sword of sorrow piercing her heart. While you are at it, pack with haste and head to Egypt for the child’s life is in mortal danger. All this just in the first couple of years, and didn’t get better for long from there. Over and over there is good news and great joy, coupled with immense sorrow, and pain.
God doesn’t ask us to endure anything that he didn’t ask of his beloved Son and his family. There is a lesson in this for us all and reminds me of one of my favorite prayers by St. Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
“Patience obtains all things.” Thank you Lord for loving me enough and giving me the time to learn the hardest lessons which grow my tiny molecule-sized faith. Teach me patience and trust in you.