In our country, we focus on our personal goals, we do our best to reach them, and we resent any disruptions of our work on those goals, be it a small one, like we’re rushing to meet a deadline and the traffic is slowing us down horribly, or a big one like the death of a person close to us or a serious illness of our own. We don’t really know what to do with these interruptions in our lives. However, as we follow Jesus in our lives, as we work to love God with all of ourselves and our neighbors as ourselves—the summary of Jesus’s teaching (Matt. 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-27)– we find that our reactions to these painful episodes change.
The lens through which I write the blog I’ve written for 14 years, the four books I’ve written, and the spiritual direction I do is one of seeing the value in all the interruptions to our own goals and priorities. I have come to think of this life on Earth as a school which is meant to teach us how to love as God loves. As we process each challenge, there are lessons for us to learn from each disruption, and once we have seen what the lesson is and we incorporate theat into our lives, there is a new life awaiting us. And then it is on to the next and the next. For our lives in Christ are intended for us to continue to grow and change into people who can really love in all that we do. That is so that we can live in the kingdom of God during our lifetimes here on Earth. In the kingdom the highest value is the community of all the children of God, all the people He created.
What I have seen in my life and in others’ is that the worst of these lessons, once the lesson is learned and incorporated into our lives, reveals our purpose to us. Think of the former alcoholic who, in Alcoholics Anonymous, is sponsoring people who are trying to change their lives. Could he or she have been called to support another alcoholic if he or she hadn’t been through what that person is facing? Who do we turn to when we’re at a loss as to how to proceed? The person who has been there, done that. Another example that I read about was a woman who had raised a disabled daughter who had finally graduated from college in her mid-thirties. The mother then turned to helping other parents who were raising disabled children.
In my own case, I grew up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church. By the time I was an adult, God to me was a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for any sin. That church affected me so much that I finally left the church in my late 20’s; I couldn’t stand the effect it had on me. But that negative image of God was so much with me that I had to find a God that I could love. And so, I began a 20-year journey, finding out that there were different interpretations of the Bible, that God was a God of love and forgiveness. And that God was calling me. So, I became a born-again Christian, ready to follow Him wherever He would lead me. I read the writings of the saints and even about other religions. I began to help people informally with their spiritual lives. When I heard that they were training lay people in spiritual direction, I ran to sign up. That training let me to a writing career.
Just recently, I’ve been doing a study of the Sermon on the Mount, and realized that I was still not completely free of the hurt from that early church. So the tears came, and I lifted my pain up to the Lord for healing. If I hadn’t been on this journey myself, how could I ever be helpful to the people I direct or to my readers?
The Holy Spirit highlights the issue He wants us to deal with now. Later, there will be more issues or even another layer of an issue we have already turned over to Him. What we will find, as we offer each thing He suggests to us up to God, is the growth of our ability to love, to forgive, to experience patience and to love. Our purpose becomes evident to us as we give up more and more of our pain to God. The suppressed pain in our lives is the source of our anger, our judgments, our inability to love and so much more that has to go. And all the fruit of the Spirit are the gifts that God opens up in us, as we follow His lead: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control or humility. These fruit, once established in us, are the gateway into the kingdom. It’s not that we are exhibiting these fruit so others can see how loving we are. These fruit take root in the deepest parts of ourselves, thanks to the Holy Spirt, so that we exhibit them in everything that we do. They take root in our conscious and unconscious selves, so that we are finally of one mind, heart, soul and strength.
We need to remember, when we are being challenged, that everyone on this Earth suffers challenges and pain in their lives. We are not singled out or suffer more than most. But, if we keep looking for the lesson that the suffering when accepted brings to us, we do not need to resist what is already in our lives. As we pray about the lesson to be learned, we are already moving into another phase of our lives. Just wait and see what God will do next.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I following God’s “still small voice” in my life in all that I do? What would I need to let go of in order to listen to Him, to follow Him? What do I need to give up that keeps me in the world?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who follow His voice within us, obey His suggestions. May we give up all our worldly connections and connect only to God.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 4.15.22’s is entitled “How do I know that I am following Jesus?” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.