Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Lent Project #6 The Secret to Peace, Lent and Everything

The cool thing about being Catholic is that we don't have hidden knowledge, the secrets are all out there. We just have to open some boring looking books like the Catechism, or the Bible, or read the writings of the Church Fathers, and it's all there. Like my 8 year old niece informed me gravely a few days ago, "You can't judge a book by its cover".

One of the biggest secrets I am learning is the secret of dealing with frustration, anxiety, suffering of any kind, issues with people, hot days, sleepless nights, you know, pretty much most problems in life.

And the answer is...


Just kidding.

It is this- Choose what you did not choose. 

That's actually how Fr. Jacques Philippe phrases it in his book 'In the School of the Holy Spirit'. What am I talking about? Well, mostly about abandonment to divine providence, about a peaceful and trusting acceptance of the circumstances of my life that I cannot control. But neither a passive, rolled eyes, 'Fine, Lord! If THAT'S the way You want it!", nor a passive fatalistic pessimism ('Crap* happens.')

Instead a trusting acceptance that somehow, somehow, God can help me bear whatever it is, and that somehow, somehow, He can turn it into something good, if only I will offer it to Him with love, so that He can join it with His love-suffering on the Cross.

Simcha Fisher just wrote a great article about it: "Suck it Up" vs. "Offer It Up".
'When we offer up suffering, we turn pain into an act of love. We turn something passive into something active. We turn a painful rupture into a door through which good can come.' 

We see that sometimes in very practical ways. My friend R is pregnant and horribly sick every day... for the sake of the beautiful baby growing within her womb. I was told about a time when one of the Christian leaders in the community I grew up with was suffering from a terrible headache, but patiently listened to the person who he was with instead of snapping or retreating or complaining. A young mother can't sleep through the night because her sick baby can only sleep when she is holding him tight.

Most times the connection isn't as obvious. We kind of have to take it on faith. But sometimes, the Lord has sweetly and kindly showed me that yes, He did indeed use my weird and silly sacrifices to bless someone else. Like the time I spilled a pot of hot water on my leg, and instead of trying to muffle profanities, I quickly said, " Lord I offer this up for ____, that they will come to know you!" A few weeks later I heard from that person, saying that she was open to hearing more, exploring her faith, giving it a chance. I wept sweet tears.

It seems like the rupture is a breaking through of the barrier between God and the world, through which God can pour His grace.. that He was waiting to pour. He allows a special irreplaceable role in making that rupture a channel of grace.

I am naturally an impatient person who wants to control everything, and think  know I know best. (I told you, INTJs' theme song is 'Mother Knows Best'.) I feel frustrated when things don't go the way I feel they should, when people or situations don't meet my ideals, when cloudy thinking or misconceptions or prejudices cloud the clarity of an issue. This of course had led to tons of frustration and irritation with the world.

But now with the knowledge that God's got it together, even when people (or I) mess up the plan, when the world is a mess, when sometimes people are sabotaging the Church from within, when people just don't get it, when God surprisingly doesn't cooperate with my well-planned suggestions for how my life should go, when life is just broken, or messy, or tiring, or imperfect... I can still be at peace.

When I take a moment to remember God is God, and I am not, that He can bring good from seeming evil, that I have the choice to allow Him into the situation, and that the only control I have of the situation is to CHOOSE WHAT I DID NOT CHOOSE, I am once again resting peacefully in His arms, instead of my beating my fists angrily against His chest, or sulking in a corner. And sometimes even when I don't FEEL at peace immediately, I've learned that that's okay.

A couple of nights ago I was tossing and turning in the heat, mosquitoes chewing me up, and I knew I had to wake up in a few hours for Mass. I crept out of bed to try to find the mosquito repellent cream, and IT WASN'T WHERE I PUT IT! I was MAD! For a few seconds. And then I remembered, And I offered it up- all of it, my tiredness and discomfort and irritation and the Odomos not being where it should have been. And the frustration dissipated... though not the discomfort. And peace returned. (And then I found some Odomos.)

I'm learning that the sacrifices the Lord is asking of me this Lent are often not the ones I planned for at the beginning. He asks that I trustingly and lovingly choose the ones that He sends me each day. And saying yes changes everything. There, now you know the secret.

Lenten challenge: What is one circumstance of your life you find intensely frustrating? Actively choose to accept it, join it with Jesus' sacrifice, and ask Him to use it for one intention close to your heart. (And let me know how that goes.)

Related Good Books:
Let Go by Fenelon
In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade (pdf)

* Forrest Gump. You know.


  1. Shady. Thank you so much for this post. Hope you are well. God bless

  2. Shady. Thank you so much for this post. Hope you are well. God bless