What if I’m exactly where I need to be today to do God’s will in this world?
What if this is it? There’s no big plan. The plan is now. The plan is my life – my vocation as a writer and wife, gardener and herbalist, sister and friend.
What if…what if God doesn’t have a big fanfare of expectations for me except to ‘be who I am, and be that well?’
I’m a Salesian. By this I mean that I am, at heart, a follower of the way of St. Francis de Sales, a lay Daughter of St. Francis de Sales. Lay means someone not ordained to a ministry but a part of the people’s ministry.
St. Francis de Sales is best known for his writings such as An Introduction to the Devout Life (highly recommended) and his letters of spiritual direction. He’s a Doctor of the Catholic Church, which means the Church, in all her wisdom, has found him to know his stuff inside and out; and as someone captivated by his wit, wisdom, and good counsel some 400 years after he originally shared it with the faithful of Savoy, Geneva and Paris, I can attest to the wonderful ways my life has been enriched by his guidance in all matters of faith.
There are several tenants of Salesian life which people who are Daughters (or Sons) of St. Francis de Sales follow. One of them is “Liberty of Spirit.” Nothing asked of us by constraint or force or fear by the Lord and by one another but everything through gentleness and guidance by the Holy Spirit.
That shows up mostly in my prayer life. I used to think that as a Catholic the only ‘right’ way to pray was by saying a rosary or reciting the prayers my mother and the sisters at Our Lady of Victory taught us as children: the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Apostles Creed, the Memorare, Hail Holy Queen, St. Michael Prayer.
During the decade of my 20s when I studied Eastern spirituality and learned meditation through the Self Realization Fellowship, I learned there were new ways to pray. Meditation was one such method of prayer. Scriptural prayer became another way to pray – memorizing or reciting passages from the Bible, psalms, letting the word of the Lord just sink into my soul.
Lastly, however, came heartfelt prayer. Just talking to Jesus like a buddy. It didn’t come naturally to me. Jesus was the guy on the mural in my Catholic school with the perfect shiny hair and the distant, beatific smile.
Did He care about me? Did I care about Him? You can only care about someone you know and I didn’t really “know” Jesus despite receiving His body and blood in the Eucharist. I knew His teachings, His stories, and His words, but I didn’t know Him.
It was only later, after watching Joyce Meyer, an Evangelical minister, on television that I learned people prayed another way. They just talked to God like he was a good friend.
When I returned to the church, I finally heard priests talk about prayer like that, too. What a relief! It was a Catholic thing too.
Why it took me almost 40 years to realize that just goes to show we have a long way to go, as Catholics, in educating our people on the faith. Either that or I wasn’t listening when the message was given along the way. That’s likely, too.
It took a long time to dawn on me that God was my Father, Jesus my Brother, the Holy Spirit, my comforter; they were my family and loved me like family. Stories of the Prodigal Son meant that God loved me no matter what crap I pulled on him. Run off and squander the fortune then return home and eat from the pig trough? Cut that out and step back in – Daddy still loves you and wants you home.
I must say, it felt weird at first thinking about God this way. He had been for so long the Big Scary Dude in the sky out to send me to Hell (thanks again, scary nuns of my youth!) rather than a friend for me.
I can’t say enough thanks to St. Francis de Sales for writing in his letters of 400 years ago, the same sentiment.
God loves you. Talk to Him.
Prayer can be meditation on the word of God, it can be reciting memorized prayers, or it can be a conversation. All are welcome. Liberty of spirit, y’all (I added the y’all. Francis de Sales was from Savoy, not the South).
I began to talk to God like a friend.
All. Day. Long.
Mostly it was thanks. Thanks God for this and that. Sometimes it was complaints. Mindful of how my own spouse hates hearing me carp all the time about little things, I tried to manage my complaints against thankfulness. Sure, God is big enough to hear me out, but I also figure he gets bombarded by requests and complaints all day long. Might be nice to hear something good for a change.
One thing I do, every day, as part of the spiritual exercises of St. Francis de Sales in the Introduction to the Devout Life, is offer each day to God. The next 24 hours are yours, Lord. Go for it. Thy will be done.
St. Francis de Sales had a lot to say about God’s will to the point of writing a whole book on it, Finding God’s Will for You. The gist of it is that God’s will is twofold: what He wills for you, personally, for your own good, and the guidance He gives us through the 10 commandments, the teachings of the church, etc are His will expressed in law. Follow both and you’re doing good.
Part of my daily prayer life now is to give Him that gift, every day, of the next 24 hours. All yours. Take it away, Jesus. Steer the ship of my life. I’m in the boat and on the water, you can walk on the water. Steer me to the shore of tomorrow.
This week I’ve felt very restless. Questions keep coming up for me – am I really where God wants me to be in my life? Am I doing what the Lord wants me to do? Am I using my time and talents wisely?
Part of this is feeling my own mortality as I approach the big 5-0. Another part is remembering the four year anniversary of the death of a dear friend, Denise, who died on July 29th. As I near the anniversary date, I think of her often. Songs on the radio, especially Erasure, make me think of her. Dancing at our senior prom, a big crowd of kids just having fun. Singing in the senior year talent show. Our aerobic dancing routine for Mrs. Piner’s gym class. Sitting next to Denise, a devout Lutheran, during a Mass when she came with me to Our Lady of Victory, and hearing her delight and wonder, “Hey, this is almost the same as my church!” (Close, but no cigar thanks to Martin Luther, but that’s another blog post. I still love you and miss you, Denise.)
There’s something about considering the death of a dear friend, someone so beautiful in spirit who died too young to make you consider your own mortality. And to remember to have Masses said for her. Even if Lutherans don’t believe in Masses for the dead, I do. (Note to self: call the church, request Masses be said for Denise.)
You can picture me sitting on the porch with my ever-present cats swirling around my feet and just leaning back and mentally asking, “God, can you please let me know what you’d like me to do? I feel lost and sort of bored right now. What would you like me to do?”
Suddenly across my consciousness it dawned on me. What if this is it? What if, what I am doing now, is EXACTLY what God wants me to do?
What if doing what I am doing now is the blessing someone else has prayed for?
What if my work, my stupid cat pictures on Facebook, cooking meals for my husband, welcoming his sister into my home next week for a visit, rescuing these crazy cats, and just being a wife, sister, friend, good coworkers and mentor to my team is exactly what the Lord wants of me?
Many of us pray for things every day. Some of you reading this are praying for health or a new job. You may be praying for a home, or a spouse, or the fortitude to get through another team-building exercise at your workplace. I get it.
But somewhere, someone is praying for your unique gifts. Let’s assume that you are praying for a house. Someone else is praying to SELL their house. The Lord knows and matches you guys up. Answered prayers.
I’m simplifying this like crazy, of course. The Lord of Like isn’t just playing dominoes with us matching a three to a three and calling it a win.
He does more than that, but He knows all. He knows where we fit in and how He made us and what He made us to be. “Be who you are, and be that well” is a central motto of the Salesian, and it means we should flourish in our gifts and share them freely and not fret about what we are not.
Some of us are good at numbers, some at words. Some paint beautiful pictures but sing like crows and others sing like larks but paint like a two year old with his hands in mittens. It’s all good. Our gifts, if given to the Lord, can be used for the good of mankind.
My daily prayers, the exercises from an Introduction to the Devout Life, are my daily offering back to the Lord of all the good he has given to me. He’s given me good health; he’s given me lots of love to share; he’s given me a gift with words and people. He’s put me in certain places in life right now, today — wife, mother of cats, mentor to colleagues, servant of clients. Writer, teacher, gardener, herbalist, friend, sister, wife, animal mother. That is who I am and how I made to be, and I am made in the image and likeness of God.
There are many things I am not, but what I am is wonderfully made. What I am is what I have to give back to God and what He can use to help others live in love and light.
So what about my prayer? Asking God for direction on my life?
What if…He’s already given me the answer by placing these people, these animals, these things in my life now? The here, the now, this is the answer to my prayers. The future isn’t important. If I give Him my love and gifts on a daily basis, He will take care of my future. Maybe by being who I am, and being that well, and living my life today, now, to the best of my abilities, talents and treasures, I am doing exactly what He would have me do.
I expected a Big Answer to my prayers. I admit it — I was waiting for a Voice, a burning bush, a sign from the heavens.
Instead, I received a burst of insight in my consciousness which I felt compelled to share with you today. This little Salesian insight: Be who you are be that well, so as to honor the One who made you.
Life isn’t what you’re waiting for. Life is what’s happening now while you wait for the Big Thing to Come, and that Big Thing may be here, now. What if this is it? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
You are the answer to someone’s prayers. You, today, just as you are, are wonderfully made. God delights in you. Give him a shout out, thank him, and offer Him today to do what He will. He’s your Dad and loves you and only wants good things for you, so you can’t go wrong. Be the answer to someone’s prayers. Be who you are.
You’re right where God wants you, even if that’s sitting in a recliner with a cat on your head.