Tag Archives: trust

On Patience and the Number 235

235 days until my fiancé and I “tie the knot.”

That’s 33 weeks and 4 days, or about 8 months— incase you were wondering (I have become really good at counting backwards since getting engaged).

Fun Fact: Patience is very difficult for me.

Shortly after my fiancé and I became engaged four months ago, people started asking me when the Big Day was going to be.  My reply has been met with varying reactions…

There was the, “Wow, that’s quick!” reaction.  There has also been the, “Oh, why are you waiting so long?” reaction.  And I’ve also had several of the, “Oh that’s a perfect amount of time to plan a wedding,” reactions.

To be perfectly honest though, my feelings (and those of my fiancé) often are much more in line with the second reaction.  It feels incredible to know and be planning for getting married, but at the same time, 8 months can feel like an awfully long time away from now.  We got engaged for a reason—we want to be married!  So what’s the deal with all the waiting??

While yes, it does take a lot of preparation, time, and of course a good chunk of money to plan a wedding, we didn’t necessarily choose a 1-year-engagement because we were trying to ensure the perfectly planned and executed party.  We chose a date that made sense for a number of reasons and we started planning.

In other words: the date is on the calendar; the church and reception sites are booked with actual money; thus, we are stuck with December 22nd.

Realizing that fact is actually very liberating (once I convince myself that whining won’t help the date come any sooner and reflect on the fact that God probably had us pick this date for a reason).  There is nothing I can do to make my wedding come sooner.  It’s not sad; it’s just the way it is.  Just like there may be nothing you can do right now to make summer break come any sooner.  Or just like there may be nothing you can do right now to know with absolute certainty what God is calling you to do next year.  As Christians, we just have to live in this moment with our eyes fixed on God; and trust that everything else will fall into place.

So as for me, all I can do is live within God’s love and trust in the fact that He intends to use every last one of these 235 days to prepare Tyler and me for the sacrament of marriage.  And I guess that is pretty neat. 🙂

Living in God’s Presence

As the aunt of nine nieces and nephews (with another niece and another nephew on the way, I might add), I find myself surrounded by little children a lot.  I also happen to be blessed by the example of each of their parents (AKA – my brothers and sisters) as they seek to raise their children in holiness.  I see a lot of teaching the little ones to pray before meals and before bed; of leading by example and showing them the importance of mass, or of the great gift we have to just sit in the physical presence of God in the Tabernacle or in Eucharistic Adoration.  I watch as my brothers and sisters share with my nieces and nephews the stories of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament and, of course, the story of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  And all of this, upon first glance, appears to be a sort of training for my nieces and nephews in the art of Christian living.  And in a very real and important sense, that is exactly what it is.

But something occurred to me last week as I watched my sister-in-law play with my niece in the backyard while they listened to the “Kids’ Christian Music Station” on the radio.

“This is my niece’s life,” I thought.  The Faith, to her, is not some lofty ideology, or a discipline studied in the classroom between the hours of 8am and 3pm.  It’s the air she breathes—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The idea that there could even be the possibility of a life lived outside of God’s presence is simply nonexistent to my niece.

This thought, taken with Jesus’ words in Matthew, “Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,”  got me thinking.  Yes, we are never supposed to stop growing in holiness.  Yes, there will always be more we can learn about God because God is infinite and we will never exhaust His mystery.  More importantly though, knowledge of God and of religion is just not the point.  My nieces and nephews aren’t taught about Jesus like they learn the Alphabet, because Jesus isn’t an idea; He’s a person.  The point isn’t to learn the lesson and then log it away for future reference.  The point is to meet a person, and to let that meeting transform you.

We don’t study our way into God’s presence. We are placed there.  Learning is supposed to be what happens in the middle of it.

“Everything Happens for a Reason”

I’m sure someone has told you this before, and you have probably even used it yourself.  Something awful has happened.  Your heart is smashed into a million pieces… You just failed a major test for which you studied for weeks… Your #1 college just rejected you.  So you turn to the person you always go to for advice.  With a sympathetic sigh they tell you,

“Everything happens for a reason, you know.”

So wise.  So true.  Yet so vague it’s almost meaningless.

It’s one of those bits of advice that only really means something a few years after you really needed it.  Only, by that point, a new terrible thing has happened in your life— but don’t worry!  Everything happens for a reason.  That makes it better, right?

Maybe a little.  But wouldn’t it help a lot more if you knew right now what that reason was?

So I’m officially proposing an amendment to the classic, go-to “everything happens for a reason” line.  From now on, don’t just tell yourself that this happened to you for some unknown reason.  Tell yourself that, yes, this happened for a reason, and that reason is to bring you closer to God.

Everything we do in life should be for the benefit of our relationship with God.  Even if it’s simply doing the dishes or waking up when our alarm clock goes off, we are called to be faithful in small matters so that God can lead us to the extraordinary that we so greatly desire.  God wants us to grow closer to Him with each new moment of each new day.  Isn’t it fitting, then, that everything that happens to us in our life—no matter how difficult or how little sense it makes to us at the time—ultimately happens so that we are able to accomplish His will for us?

The question is no longer: “Why did this happen?”  It now becomes: “How is this supposed to lead me to God?”

It Was the Worst of Times…

It’s often said that the reason we need to go through difficult times in life is so that we are more able to appreciate the good times.

At face value, this is kind of a nice way to understand suffering.  After all, we more easily recognize light when we see it in comparison with darkness, don’t we?  Similarly, falling on hard times in life can definitely stop us and make us more appreciative of those times we often take for granted.

However, I think if your understanding of suffering simply stops here, you’re going to run into some problems.

We don’t always need something bad to happen to point out to us how good we currently have it.  Sometimes we already know—and fully appreciate—all of the wonderful things in our life.  What purpose does suffering serve then?  …To make us really really appreciate what we had?

Sometimes bad things happen and they make us more appreciative of the good.  Sometimes they teach us something about ourselves, or about someone else, that we never knew, and wouldn’t have known otherwise.  Other times, years can go by (maybe even a lifetime), and we still have no real clue what purpose was served by our suffering.

The truth is that suffering is a part of everyone’s life.  It’s not the fruition of some sort of bad karma sown at an earlier time; it’s a part of being human—and a necessary part at that.

There is a fine line between recognizing and embracing suffering as a necessary part of life, and using it simply as litmus test to tell the difference between good times and bad times.  The good is good no matter how much we suffer.  Suffering is suffering no matter how good (or bad) our life may be.  To say anything else cheapens the true meaning of both suffering and life itself.

Regardless of the apparent reason for it (or lack thereof), suffering is something we are supposed to embrace because the measure of our life is not simply the sum of all of our good times.  Rather, the meaning of all of the events in our lives—the good taken with the bad— can only be understood as one, complete picture.  We play a role in shaping how the picture turns out, but nothing happens on accident.  The hard times, just as important as the good times, are used to paint the picture of a beautiful life.

Impossible Standards

For almost as long as I can remember, I have had the title of a “good student”.  Typically, I take my schoolwork pretty seriously.  I work hard on my homework assignments, and I usually fare pretty well in my classes as a result.

I wish I could say this was because I always cared a lot about the specific assignment, or simply because I am just a really smart individual… but to tell the truth, I think it often has more to do with a kind of fear of failure, and conversely—a near constant and impossible struggle for perfection.

When it comes to school or work, this kind of attitude can definitely have its benefits; but I am realizing more and more as I grow up that there is a significant difference between desiring/really working to be your absolute best, and struggling in vain to meet some vague and undefined standard of perfection out of fear of failure.

As a Christian, I know that God tells me to “be perfect” as He is perfect.  But seeking perfection for perfection’s sake isn’t exactly the message of the gospel.  I think sometimes us Christians get too bogged down in this struggle for perfection, and somewhere along the line we forget that this life is not supposed to be a struggle we face on our own.

The truth is that the minute we start to think we are alone, or that failure is something even worth being afraid of, we have already lost the battle.  When it comes down to it, a Christian is not someone who thinks he or she is perfect.  A Christian is someone who knows and offers all that they are to the one who is.

“…As for me, I will glorify Thee by manifesting how good Thou art to sinners.  In me Thou will show that Thy mercy is superior to all our malice, that nothing can exhaust it, and that no relapse, however shameful and culpable it may be, should make a sinner lose hope in Thy forgiveness”