I think I am God’s special ed student. You know the one — the one who always needs a little extra attention to learn even the most basic lessons, and will, eight times out of ten, apply the wrong skill set to an assignment.
At least, that’s the conclusion at which I arrived today when I realized He switched liturgical seasons on me. In the past five years, I’ve switched jobs (or found myself unemployed) four times — only once of my own volition. Two of the three employer-choice changes occurred during Lent. The first time, I entered more fully into Christ’s passion than ever before because of the circumstances — betrayal by those I trusted, abandonment by those I considered friends, no real opportunity to defend myself against riled-up accusers. By entering into Christ’s suffering and allowing Him to enter into mine, I found myself on Easter Sunday fully prepared to begin the healing necessary for new life. The second time wasn’t nearly as traumatic. On that occasion, I simply opened myself to the resurrection experience God was bringing into being. I was exhausted from working long hours at a dead-end job for an employer who didn’t even appreciate the effort. I was ready for something new.
That job didn’t last long, though. However, the move brought into my life an experience which is transforming me from the inside out. I found a parish family in which I have begun to experience community. Nearly a dozen years ago I sought to enter religious life, in part because I was hungry for community. I became a lay associate when that door seemed to close simply to be part of some kind of spiritual community. But, for the last four years, I haven’t even had a prayer group and I have been incredibly lonely — even though I’ve had a couple friends with whom I could, from time to time, share my spiritual journey.
Now I have that for which I’ve longed. A few weeks ago, I looked around me at Mass and realized I knew by name everyone with whom I exchanged the sign of peace. I’d met each one through a different church activity. My eyes filled with tears of gratitude. God is so good to me, I thought. God is so good.
His goodness has extended into my life in a new way. He has called me to trust Him as I have never trusted him before. He has called me to surrender not just my heart, but my life to Him. These days, these hours which stretch from first waking awareness to the drowsiness of sleep’s lure, He has asked me to surrender to Him so He can lead me through them.
He is tutoring me patiently. I have to admit, I like the prayer part. I like sitting down at my prayer desk with a cup of coffee to light a candle and begin my devotions. I like meditating on Scripture, sinking into the silence where I can finally hear God’s whisper, writing in my journal about what I am learning. A morning disappears quickly in His company.
I also like puttering around home — doing all those little chores that are a necessary part of life. I’m not nearly so fond of the other stuff — job hunting, figuring out how to pay bills, battling a former employer over unemployment. Those things can tie my stomach in knots and fill me with fear. But God, in His inimitable way, has been teaching me that responsibilities are a gift, too.
Of course, God being God, He’s being creative with His lessons. Words with Friends is a good example. I play this game on my iPhone with four family members — all of whom are better than I am. More than once, I’ve looked at a tray of letters and thought, “I have nothing to play.” Then, I’ll shuffle the letters and a great word will pop out. At those times, I can almost hear God whisper, “See, Mary? It’s just how you look at things.” With that seed planted, some of the tough stuff is slowly becoming easier.
Today, I experienced another one of those kaleidoscopic changes in perspective. The possibility occurred to me that God chose Advent rather than Lent for this set of lessons because He wants me to live this transition with anticipation. That’s a new take on being unemployed, but I’m willing to give it a try. And, it makes sense in light of a recurring motif in my prayer life.
Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mom, and Abraham’s wife Sarah keep coming to mind. Both gave birth late in life after being barren through their childbearing years. I don’t think God is preparing me to bring a child into this world, but I do think he’s telling me, “It’s never too late.” My professional life has been barren (obviously), but God has given me a great many gifts. I think he is preparing me to use them.
So, watch out world! God’s up to something! I can’t wait to tell you about it.