Ever feel like the tree you’ve worked so hard to nourish is twisted and mangled by the tornado whirling around you?
Lately it seems like I’m walking a journey I walked many years ago for the second time. This time the journey is harder and I’ve struggled to embrace the lesson I thought I learned. A lesson I’ve written about many times.
Surrender and trust!
Thankfully God acts in a greater capacity and still shows up even at my weakest moment. As my heart crushed under all the anxiety and pain, He revealed Himself in ways that only He could.
Air seemed to escape as quick as it would enter and nausea filled my being. I decided to take a walk to clear my mind. As I walked, praying, asking God to take this away, He revealed our Lord’s Sacred Heart. As I imagined this crown of thorns piercing His heart, I saw the thorns in my life wrapped around my heart. As I kept walking, I began to notice crosses along my path, a typical observation I have during my walks. Only this time a small voice in my head told me these crosses represented His walk with me as these thorns pierced my heart. I began to name each thorn as I passed a cross on the trail. God didn’t stop there as He reminded me of a few other graces He showered me with through His love story, the Bible.
I read Romans 8:28, “we know all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” in one of the daily readings of the Catholic church this week. On Friday morning when I turned on the radio, the DJ was reading James 1:2-4, “consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverence. And let perseverence be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
These two verses alone make a huge statement in the midst of struggles with trials in life and are great reminders of God’s perfect plan.
Guess what? God thought this cake needed a little icing.
Today, despite my best effort to convince myself not to attend this day of prayer on virtues I registered for, something nudged me. I woke up early and drove to the event.
The opening talk – Virtue of Perseverence
Humor me Lord!
Liz Kelly, author and speaker, defined perseverance in the words of Fr John Wickham as “the graced ability to continue giving one’s deepest heart.”
Quite a new perspective on persevering. Yet it aligns with James’ perfection of perseverence that will make us complete.
Liz’s example of perserverance was through the life of Blessed Benedetta Bianchi Porro who suffered many illnesses that left her body non-functional, crushing her dream of becoming a doctor. Despite her illnesses and her limitations she gave all of her heart by surrendering to Christ as she carried her cross with joy and love. On one occassion she writes to a friend asking why this is happening to her. Her friend’s response was something I needed to hear.
“Don’t force yourself to feel what you believe, or to understand why it is fair that you suffer so much. Don’t panic if you seem to be rebelling – this is not important in God’s eyes. He knows the truth. Before this vast mystery, He wants only our ‘yes’; it doesn’t matter if we say it badly.”
You see, not only have I been struggling to embrace the lesson I’ve learned many years ago, I’ve also been struggling with my faith and God’s presence in the midst of this trial. In other words, I’ve been saying my yes badly. It was heart warming to hear that God knows what I believe even if I don’t feel it in this moment. He knows I believe Romans 8:28 and James 1:2-4. He knows I trust Him and know He is present with me. He knows that I’ll carry my crosses no matter how hard the thorns pierce my heart. He knows He is mine and I His.
My struggle is still real, but I have hope that God will bloom a rose around the thorn and that the twisted tree is temporary. I am in awe of how He showed up in my greatest moment of despair this week. Perhaps it is in these moments that faith truly strengthens to carries us yet another foot forward, giving us gifts of other virtues to bring us closer to His heart.
I share this story with you to point out that sometimes we think our faith is strong and we have grown in our relationship with Christ and nothing can really shake it up, twist it and mangle it. It happens but it doesn’t mean we have failed, are lost or God has abandoned us. In those moments, pray for the virtue of Christian perseverance and envision God looking at you as you look at Him, accepting He knows you and what you believe in your heart. The result will be completeness and endurance through the trial.
Perhaps this is the invitation of accepting our trials and giving the deepest portion of our heart to those around us and to Christ.
Lord, today I pray that I can accept that my yes will not always be when I am at my best, not always be excitable but it will still be my yes to You. Accepting all that I am and persevering through love in all that is placed in my path. May I trust You in those things I cannot control, especially those that affect my family. Amen