I’m in the front half of an “at home” retreat with a friend using the book 40 weeks by Fr. William Watson, SJ. We are in week 11. I am to write a letter to Jesus asking for his help and healing in my life story; a snapshot of my whole life – in 1,000 words. That’s a tough one …. a thousand words is like 15 minutes of thought and typing! Covering my whole life in those few words is a bit daunting! Already though, our Lord has started to show me how it’s part of his plan for knowing both myself and his love.
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there. Exert from Matthew 13:47-53.
I cannot deny my past, and live only with knowledge of the present; nor can I ignore the future, because it helps me to see where I am to go. It’s true I have to LIVE in the present; but it is from the experiences in my past that shapes who I am today; it helps me to stay on the path to where I hope to end up – HEAVEN! Phew … that was a mouth full! So let me unpack what I’ve gleaned.
The old testament reading from the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer 18:1-6) was my first clue. The Lord took Jeremiah out of his own comfort zone to receive his message. He brought him to a potter who was working with clay. If you’ve ever done this, it’s not easy. You think you got it and then, wham! It’s misshapen. One little finger or thumb out of sync and what you thought you were making has now changed. SO LIKE ME! God created a plan and boy have I messed it up. I don’t know what that plan looked like, but I can’t imagine it would have taken the twists and turns of highs and lows I’ve experienced in my life. But under God’s hand, wearing his yoke upon my neck and being humble under his direction; his steady and faithful hand can mold me to his likeness. I do have to keep my hands off the wheel or it will once again move out of shape from his plan! But God is so good and will work with whatever I do when I repent in humility and love.
Then Psalm 146 piped in! Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD, his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. I lack hope. It’s a core virtue I was born lacking. I always want to try to get ahead; go, do, and fix and then check in with God. More often I should be waiting for him to invite me to what he wants. But because I lack hope, I often think I have to do everything and not rely on God. I have a trust issue – I’ve been let down before and will be again. I have learned that spending time in prayer to hear his invitation – which could be what I had in my heart already – is necessary! For nothing is impossible when it is God’s plan. He loves and wants the best for me. I need to trust! Mary lead me to trust you Son in everything.
Lastly, the Gospel of the new testament. Like a bride who needs something old and new, borrowed and blue; I too need to look at past and present. How is it my past sinful ways led me away? What kept me on the tarmac with Jesus? Why didn’t he write me off as lost and look for others easier to transform? It’s because he came for the sick – the sinner – and guess what – that’s everyone of us. No one is exempt. He came for everyone – and knew they would carry both the insecurities, prideful, selfish ways of their past; but also, the beautiful, generous and kind things that were tucked in around our desiring, yet disordered hearts. We are not all one way or another. I am whole – you get it all; past, present, future. Like I said in a previous post– both the 6 year old Cathy and the 60 year old one.
I’ve learned where to put those harmful, hurting and sad memories so they can be used for good. I try every day to walk in step with Christ, not ahead. It is like standing in the middle – walking the center line, hoping I don’t fall one way or the other like a drunken person. Keep my eyes on him. Spend my day with him – in Mass, Adoration; in thought and prayer in every moment I can. Yes, it is in looking back I see the patterns of my life; looking forward my journey as he leads me. Praise God His love and grace gives me one day at a time.
Sweet and precious Jesus, my source and summit, my strength, my all; thank you for helping me see your teachings and how they apply to my life. Help me to always look for how the experiences in my life were allowed by you for a greater purpose. Help me to set down the hard, hurtful things and offer up my feelings and to just trust. Open my heart, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son and follow him.