I went to confession before Christmas this year, and spoke to Fr J about how very frustrated I am. I know what I should do, and many times I desire to do that good that I should do. Yet I am falling short so often – even on basics like going to church on Sunday when we are out of town visiting. Loading the dishwasher and running it before going to bed. Setting aside time for prayer every day, more than the few minutes when I lay down to sleep, exhausted. I have the motivation, I know how to do these things, so why am I failing at the follow through? (BTW this is a perennial problem for me. I am great at imagining what I want to do, making a plan, lists, etc. But actually doing it? Well ….)
Fr J reminded me of the passage in the Bible from Romans 7, where Paul talks about how the good he wants to do, he doesn’t do, and the evil he does not want to do – that is what he does. And Fr J talked about the only thing that makes it possible to do the good: God’s grace. I am struggling and experiencing that my will, knowledge and desire are not going to get me there – I need God working within me. (I used to have a killer, will of iron when it came to studying or doing other things I had to do before relaxing or having fun. I’m not sure where that went!)
Fr J said he would pray for me, that I would receive this grace in the year to come. It brought to my mind that this is how I am to receive the Lord into my life at this time. Like Mary, afraid and puzzled but willing to whole-heartedly do what was being asked of her – nurturing and caring for this precious and vulnerable life. Like Joseph, receptive to God’s word, willing to work, provide for, and move into new territories, having confidence in God’s guidance. (I haven’t gotten as far as the shepherds, wise men, animals etc. – but no doubt there are lessons there for me as well!)
I feel that, perhaps, I need to be gentle and open and nurturing to the presence of this grace that I desire. You would think that God’s grace would just sweep in and overwhelm everything else in my life, but I guess that is not how it is meant to be right now for me.
The other Bible passage that I have been praying with is from Luke 13. This is when Jesus heals the woman who has been bent over for 18 years and is unable to straighten up. Jesus sees her in the crowd and heals her – suddenly she is able to stand. Imagine how different the world would look from these two perspectives! Interesting to me – she does not ask for healing – she makes no profession of faith – Jesus just heals her. I am not quite sure why this passage is staying with me, but it is.
So in a way – I hope – I have fewer decisions to make. I just need to decide to settle into the grace that God wants to give me, to do what I need to do in order to nourish and care for the openness to this grace. I hope this is the missing piece to actually *doing* all those things that would make my life, and the lives of those who are connected with me, so much better. If God has called me to do something, or to fulfill some role, surely He will give me the grace needed (if I ask for it) to do as he wants me to do. (I hope!)