I am a cradle Catholic, which means I was brought up in the church; but for many Catholics this is a catch phrase for “I don’t’ know what I am doing here” or “My mom made me come“. Until I became a young adult, I fit into this category (going to church but unsure why) with the exception of knowing it meant I should volunteer at my church. For some reason, from my early teen years into adulthood, I periodically showed up for just about anything in the bulletin that said “help needed”. At one point I was even the youngest member of the Bell Choir. Later I helped with the youth group, and taught classes like “Clown Ministry” and “Meditation” and attended workshops to be a youth leader, even though I had no notion that I would someday become a youth minister. As a young adult, I worked through the difficult bureaucracy of my mild-mannered day job–disability claims adjudication–with large case loads that made me feel as though I made little difference in the big world. The church environment where each and every person was important and valuable was a stark contrast to the daily grind of the cold world, so I continued to volunteer.
A Call From A Stranger
I suppose volunteering is how he found me. One day I got a call from a gentleman in the parish who was recruiting people to speak briefly at the end of the masses about how they integrated faith into their jobs. It was the first time I ever spoke in public, outside of public speaking class in college. I was shaking so hard that I am pretty sure I caused a 4.2 on the Richter Scale in the sanctuary.
As I stood terrified and excited before hundreds of church goers and our pastor, sharing what my faith meant to me in my work, I had the sense that I found my groove; a niche—something I would be doing again and again in my life; something wonderfully natural (although intimidating and new) and perhaps worthy of where I could glorify God with the gifts He had given me. I don’t remember exactly what I said that day, but what I do remember is the poem I had come across and decided to include in my speech. I found it had affected my heart in such a powerful way, that when saw it again, many years later, I snapped a picture and kept it in my phone to revisit regularly.
The Way God Loves Us
Striking at my heart where my words could not go, this poem has been an essential part of my faith journey. It isn’t about doctrine, but a concept; that the way God loves us is different than the way we think His love should look. We think things should be according to our plan and ideas and we can be like spoiled children when it doesn’t go our way. He knows better, like the loving parent should. We can choose to see things the way God wants us to view them, through His eyes, or we can focus on how things just aren’t right in our world because we don’t have it our way all the time.
The title is “God said No”.
GOD SAID NO
I asked God to take away my habit. God said No, it is not for Me to take away but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole. God said No. His spirit it whole, his body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience; God said NO. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations; it isn’t granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness. God said NO. I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain. God said NO. Sufferings draw you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said No. You must grow on your own but I will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked God for all things, that I might enjoy life. God said NO. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me. God said Ahhhhh….you finally have the idea.
My daughter’s theology teacher once suggested that God doesn’t actually say “no”…He says “yes” or “yes but not now” or “yes but not your way”. Whatever way you choose to view it, take a look at your day through the eyes of these amazing words; and then when you feel things aren’t going your way next week, read it again. At any given moment in our lives, when things feel unsteady, we can turn that inside out and look at things with the perspective of never-ending love that wants the best for us, and from us.
These black and blue butterflies come out every June; they are very approachable and will flit up for a visit when I walk my dog. I look forward to them every year.