Living with ambiguity

Last year began with Jim and I learning that we were going to be grandparents for the 21st time – but not knowing that midway through the year another blessing would be announced. On Jan. 1, my husband and I had no plans to cruise the Inner Passage of Alaska, tour the Highlands of Scotland or spend four days with family in Michigan.

Two weeks into the year, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to be the retreat leader for our 2019 Christ Renews His Parish group having little understanding of what that entailed or what an enriching experience it would turn out to be. Though we know death is always a possibility, our families did not expect to lose so many loved ones in a year’s time. If you reflect over your own year, I am sure that you would say the same about many of your 2019 experiences

And now, we stand on the threshold of ambiguity again. While we may have some plans in the works, there are no guarantees that any will occur exactly as we predict. We are a people of uncertainty, promised only the hour or even the minute in which we exist presently. That thought can be frightening or exciting, or perhaps a bit of both. Much depends on where or to whom we turn for reassurance.

After pondering that notion and doing some soul searching, I determined that my spiritual resolution for 2020 was twofold. I will strive to see God’s presence in everyday events and, more importantly, put my faith in Romans 8:28: “And we that know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

Yet, even as I type these words, I know I will fail time and time again – especially when life throws pain and sorrow in my direction. However, I have been incrementally improving, it is a slow but gratifying process, which began in earnest when a daily rosary was my 2018 spiritual New Year’s resolution. Agreeing to a weekly Adoration hour, attending daily Mass on a somewhat regular basis and more intentional prayer has also changed me in a quiet, gradual way – similar to how a small child learns to speak.

Prayer has made me more aware of the Holy Spirit in my life. What I used to view as coincidences, I now believe are God’s notes of reassurance, encouragement or consolation. Most are small moments but a few stand out. The Holy Spirit has become my go-to when I need help, particularly with my writing.

Last fall, while struggling to write a talk for a presentation on discipleship, I again asked for guidance. I didn't even have an opening idea. Out walking, I rounded the corner on Maryland Street and words flooded into my mind (If you caught December’s column, you have read them). Later, while concluding the talk, I felt compelled to end with a favorite quote from St. Catherine of Siena, “Be who God made you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” I love that line, so inspiring and so challenging, too.

A few days later I turned to the last chapter of the book our group had been studying. I often waited to read it right before we met. You can imagine my utter surprise when the chapter began with (yep, you guessed it) the above quote. That was a loud AMEN from Him.

More recently, our CHRP group decided to conduct another small group book study in January. We tossed around various ideas and then chose Sri’s book on discipleship, short and quite inspiring to us everyday Catholics. We also decided to read a chapter of the gospel of John each day in Advent. Guess what! The last chapter of John contains the same gospel reading as the introduction of our chosen book. Coincidence?! You will never convince our group. We believe he was giving us His divine seal of approval.

So make those new years resolutions. Continuing to listen better, of course, to eat more healthily, and spend more time with those I love are mine. But, I wholeheartedly believe that if our primary resolution is to focus on our spiritual lives, the rest will follow in order. God bless all of you and may 2020 bring you more joy, faith and love than ever before.