Walking our Faith: If life is unpredictable, how should we live? (column)
April 13, 2018
On the day my father died it was sunny in Florida, where I was living at the time. But in Kiev, Ukraine, where my mother lived with my father, it was a dark, autumn evening. My father had died of a sudden and massive heart attack. As I looked around the bedroom where I stood, in the midst of just another day, I understood how in an instant everything could change.
It was snowing Thursday night. Yet when I drove into town in the morning, the puffy vest I'd thrown over my linen jumper seemed too warm. Which perfectly describes springtime in the mountains, and the surprises of life.
In the evening, I saw Barbara at Adoration at St. Mary's. Barb is one of my favorite people, loved by many, especially me, she has done so much to bring me closer to God. One of the most important things she has taught me is the need for consistency in spiritual practices, such as Adoration. In consistency we form the foundation that allows us to deepen our relationship with God, which becomes our anchor when life becomes inexplicable.
A week ago, I heard of a young girl who ended her life after a long struggle with depression. This week, two young lives, skilled and experienced outdoors people, were lost in avalanche accidents while they were enjoying our beautiful mountains.
On the other end of the spectrum, I began reading, "The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully" by Joan Chittister, essays on how to approach retirement, which in the past might have meant five to 10 years after we stopped working, but which now may encompass 20, 30 years or more. Years to be explored and given new meaning, not endured, but a 'gift' for exploration of new horizons and new life goals.
Earlier this week, after I heard about the young girl who ended her life, I wanted to write her a letter, to tell her how I remember what it was like to be young and feel hopeless, and to tell her to please hold on because it would get better and the pain was only one part of how glorious and special she is. To tell her she is loved by family and friends and by God, all who know she is so much more than the weight of her depression.
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And I thought of the skier and snowmobiler, living their lives in the moment, loving what they were doing, and my heart broke for the tragedy that extinguished their lives in a moment.
How fragile our lives are. How should we live when one moment to the next is not certain?
I believe we must live with passion, hope, generosity and love. Most of all, in the face of uncertainty, we must live with the certainty of God's love for us. To step into the unknown calls for us to plant ourselves firmly in God.
When I began my prayers during the hour of Adoration, I was feeling optimistic and hopeful. But as I ruminated on my life, my mind quickly turned to a litany of how things could be better. The power of our attention determines our perspective in each moment. Even the carefully considered choices we make with the best of intentions, may turn out to be terribly wrong. And our choices are influenced by the season of our lives and how we perceive ourselves in that moment. We need to be kinder to ourselves and others, to forgive past mistakes and focus on the possibility of the present.
During the hour of Adoration as I felt myself slipping into familiar desolation, I turned and spoke to Barb, went and lit a candle before the Virgin Mary, then knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and prayed. As I drew myself into the present, back into God's presence, my heart was lifted, and my mood lightened by the light of God's love.
The length of our lives is not guaranteed from one moment to the next. But we can find safe harbor in each moment as we hold fast to love, hope and God, who is the creator of all these things.
I believe God gives each of us a special purpose in life. Not just one thing we accomplish and then live looking backward. I believe God calls us to a continuous unfolding, always becoming more the person he meant us to be. Always growing richer in meaning, always growing closer to him.
How do we live our unpredictable lives? We live with our eyes fixed on God, dedicated to becoming the best version of who he created us to be, yet knowing that he loves us just as we are. We live in the moment, knowing each is precious, and we are here to be our best and do our best. We pursue a deeper, more authentic relationship with God daily, just as we pursue deeper relationships with those around us.
When we feel defeated, God tells us we are enough. When we feel our best days are behind us, God calls us to see each day as a new beginning, a time to go forward to share our talents and wisdom in service to God and our neighbor. And when our days are shortened, God embraces us and tells us we are loved just as we are, without limit on time or depth, we are loved.
Suzanne Anderson writes a weekly religion column for the Summit Daily News. She lives in Breckenridge.