Walking our faith: A life of the mind aloud (column)
I spend a lot of time talking to myself. I composed the opening of this article in this manner. I’m creating the characters and town of my first murder mystery in my mind, allowing them to incubate until they are ready to be written into life. Often, I grab my little black notebook and jot down the fruits of these imaginary musings before I forget them.
When I was a child, my habit of staring out the window and laughing to myself as my mother drove me home from swim practice, led her to ask the head of her doctoral program if I might have some form of mental illness. The professor, a kindly woman who was also an expert in child psychology, assured my mother that I had only an overactive imagination.
This is a fine attribute for a writer. However, when life’s setbacks occur, this same “talent” causes my mind to race from zero to sixty with worry and fear that the wolf is at my door.
For example: the owner of the house that I rent may put it on the market in June or July. If it sells, I would need to find another place to move quickly, which, given Breckenridge’s tight rental market, could be problematic. Exacerbating this, I have been trying to build my writing business and search for a part-time job so that I can buy or build a home of my own. So far, my efforts leave me unemployed. But not lacking absurd determination, I sometimes answer rejection emails with a list of my attributes.
When I’m not extolling my virtues to Sara D. of Summit County Human Resources, I worry. Sometimes I become very fearful of the future. This leads to long and ardent one-sided conversations with God.
Last Saturday, when I arrived early, as usual, for Mass, I engaged with God in one of these well-worn soliloquies. Luckily, I had a little notebook in my purse and jotted down the following observation: Fear’s greatest weapon is uncertainty.
When I’m not engaged in flights of fancy, I have a keen analytical mind. I know for instance that to find a job, I must apply for jobs. Therefore, I do this everyday. However, when my job applications to everything from Summit County clerk, to financial writer, to bakery help at City Market are met with rejection, uncertainty boils like the trusty percolator that creates my morning coffee.
And so I turn back to God. I imagine He might be tired of my voice by now. Yet, I can honestly report that my relationship with God is closer than it has ever been in my life. I would not trade the past year for any other outcome. My trust in God is deeper, more intimate, and it has allowed me to become less guarded in my writing.
More than that, I have discovered my purpose in life, something I searched for twenty years after leaving Wall Street. That same quality I saw in my brother and my mother, a passion for their work that is so great they both refuse to retire from it. I wanted that too…and now I have found it. I am a faith writer. And with God’s blessing, I will be a faith writer for the next fifty-five years (at which point I will be Breckenridge’s oldest living resident at 109 years of age).
The gift of that discovery, which I’d chased for two decades, would not have been possible without the fear and uncertainty of the past year when my unrelenting failure turned me toward the only certainty in my life.
My stubborn pursuit of God when I only experienced His silence was made possible by the knowledge that no matter how impossible the circumstances, God always guided me through. No, I don’t hear His voice, I only see His hand on my life in retrospect. But it’s always there. That is the great certainty that breaks fear’s stronghold.
This relationship between fear, uncertainty, and God’s certainty is what I was thinking about last Saturday before Mass as I read the letter to our parish from Father Michael Glenn.
Father Michael received the results of the tumor that was removed from his brain a few weeks ago. He writes, “While the tumor appears to have been excised completely, the pathology showed a high-grade brain cancer that could cause future problems and will require ongoing treatments.”
As I sat in my pew, I thought about Father Michael and the uncertainty that he now faces.
Is he afraid?
In his letter, he responds, “My prayer and scripture reading are a profound source of grace. In many ways, I feel God is being very loving to me and giving me constant graces to cling to Him in love. Our Catholic faith is such an amazing gift and I am drawn to pray for those who lack this knowledge amidst the trials of their own lives. I’ve been blessed by this gift since my parents carried me to the waters of baptism, and my faith in the Lord and His love for me brings me great peace and joy.”
Once again, Father Michael inspires us by his own example, showing us how God draws us near in ways that would not be possible under any other circumstances other than our complete surrender and dependence on Him.
And I promise you this: it is through this difficult journey that we become our best selves, do our best work, find our life’s purpose.
Uncertainty waters the kudzu of fear until it strangles whatever hope we cling to in difficult circumstances. But there is an alternative. We can embrace our present moment with the certainty of God’s love and watchfulness. We can reach for the Light of the World certain that He will guide us through the darkness, to an outcome that is better than any we imagined.
Please hold Father Michael Glenn in your prayers, for healing, restoration, and that God will continue to shower him with love and grace that is beyond our understanding.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson writes weekly food and religion columns for the Summit Daily News and is the author of ten books. You can find her at http://www.suzanneelizabeths.com
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