Advent day 17

In the first reading from Zephaniah, I read this verse: “She listens to no voice, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God.” (3.2) I read it over and over. I’ve been praying to draw closer to God, that He will draw me to Him, especially during this advent season. But maybe I’m not listening, not accepting correction, not trusting. It seemed like Zephaniah was talking directly to me. Like he was warning me.

So I pray to God that He will help me listen, accept correction and trust because I’m certainly not able to do it on my own. That’s the thing about being in a relationship with God. My feeble efforts amount to nothing. All the goodness and virtue and growth comes from Him, not from me.

Help me heed this warning and place all my trust in You, my God. Help me to listen and to accept the correction that You send. Draw me close to You.

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Advent day 9

God was speaking to me today of fear and trust.

The first reading for mass today was from Isaiah. The verse that particularly struck me was “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!'” (35. 4). I think my anxiety boils down to having a fearful heart. I fear that I’m not teaching my children well enough, that my confirmation class won’t learn what they need to, that I won’t touch their hearts. And why do I fear? Because I’m relying on my own strength, not God’s. I have to empty myself of self, stop relying on myself and my abilities, and completely surrender to God.

Then in The Noonday Devil I read that “Holiness consists of such a state of poverty that at every moment one is obliged to ask everything of the Holy Spirit, one is dependent on him, convinced that without his grace one can do nothing” (p.177). In my mind I know this to be true, but I seldom put it in to practice. It’s not me who is going to get anything done or teach anyone or plant any seeds. It’s God.

This brings me back to the spiritual childhood that I’ve studied and tried to implement. Since I am human and not divine, I’ll never “graduate” in love or perfection. I’ll never “attain” in this life. I have to remember, every moment beginning again. Conversion of heart, day after day, minute after minute. Even in heaven, Bl. Newman says, we will be in this state of spiritual childhood: “and so on for eternity I shall ever be a little child beginning to be taught the rudiments of Thy infinite divine nature” (Lead, Kindly Light p.120).

Lord, remind me that I am Your child. That I always will be. I’ll never graduate or complete a level. Remind me to begin again each day, each moment. Help me to trust Your strength, Your knowledge, Your power.

 

In God I trust?

“Father Abraham, had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham…”

The story of Abraham is one long narrative about trust and surrender. God promised him a son, promised that he would be the father of many nations. Hard to believe that promise when month after month, year after year, your wife remains barren. Still, Paul tells us, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4. 20-21).

My spiritual reading for the past few months [Into Your Hands, Father by Stinissen; The Diary of St. Faustina] has been tending this theme of trust. And so I’ve been asking myself, do I really trust Him? Am I growing strong in my faith and giving glory to God, fully convinced of His ability? Are my prayers of surrender, of proclaiming my trust in His goodness just empty words?

I say that I desire to abandon myself to Him, but I keep tight hold on the reins of control (or so I think). As soon as something happens that I didn’t plan or expect, I freak out, wondering, “What have I done wrong? Did I not cooperate with His grace? Why is this happening?” I may relegate to Him one or two paltry things. Or maybe I give Him a big thing and then won’t let go the little details. It boils down to this: I think I know what is best for me and fear that He won’t give me what I think I need. I don’t acknowledge His great love for me.

Of course, He knows this and so is trying to teach me through what I read and hear.

A couple of weeks ago, the homily at my parish focused on the idea that God, as Love itself, always wants what is best for each of us. Even the perceived bad events, God allows or wills that I may become the woman He has loved since before the world began. Stinissen says, “Is it not ridiculous to think that certain things could be lacking to us or that someone or something could put obstacles in our way? God knows exactly what we need…When we complain we usually do it because of our imaginary needs” (34).

Guilty.

He continues, “Frustration comes when we do not get what we think we need, when what we expect does not happen. Those who trust that God is guiding everything can never be frustrated. If they do not get a certain thing, they know they do not need it. If something they have waited for does not happen, they conclude that it is not meant for them” (35).

I get frustrated just reading that.

Then St. Faustina chimes in: “Nothing under the sun happens without Your will. I cannot penetrate Your secrets with regard to myself, but I press my lips to the chalice You offer me” (#1208).

Isaiah gives me a picture of God’s great love for me. “I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flame shall not consume you…Fear not, for I am with you” (43.1-2, 5). Jesus Himself teaches His apostles, “Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7.9-11).

In A Western Way of Meditation, the author states that God’s goodness and willingness to give good things is “limited only by our weaknesses, our insincerity, and our unwillingness to accept the consequences of our communication with him” (Bryan, 9).

What’s the answer? Love. He loves me. I love Him. Not nearly as much as He deserves. But in His goodness, I pray that He sees my attempts. That in His mercy, He keeps showing me, little by little, areas of my life I need to entrust to Him. My self-image. Food. Finances. Educating my children. Schedule. Personal reading. Relationship with my husband. I’m like a little toddler with my fist clenched around a little pebble. He has to peel my fingers back one by one. I wish I could just let go. Fall in His arms and just be.

Lord, teach me how to let go. How to fall. How to be. How to love You.

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Oh, and just a note. Abraham didn’t always get it right, either. So Lord, please teach me to fail. And try again.