Tag Archives: Life Lessons

Waiting (for God)

Waiting, it seems to me, is a defining characteristic of the spiritual life. In my mid-twenties, I rediscovered God and eagerly adopted the opening verse of Psalm 63 as a recurring prayer.

“Oh God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.”

These words gave/give authentic voice to an aching for God in my heart that has yet to be fully satisfied. Still today, in prayer or simply in quiet moments, I echo the Psalmist’s words, and I wait.

In my early fifties, I endured a prolonged and, frankly, demoralizing period of spiritual darkness. While in the midst, I repeatedly called out to God for even a pinpoint of light to sustain me, but all that came was this familiar ache.

On the other side of that wrenching experience, I shared the details with my spiritual director. In frustration, I asked him why God had withheld consolation for so long. In his wise way, he quietly asked: “Have you ever considered that the aching in your heart was your pinpoint of light?”

Since that exchange, I have come to view the ache as my companion on the journey. Now, we wait together.

Ripples, Tares, and Bedford Falls (Part One)

I have always enjoyed watching the ripples caused by the dropping of a stone, even a small stone, into still water. There is, I think, a valuable life lesson to be learned from those concentric waves gently moving whatever floats in their path.

It’s a Wonderful Life, my favorite Christmas film, teaches a similar lesson. George Bailey’s small acts of kindness ripple through the lives of his Bedford Falls neighbors in subtle yet utterly transformative ways. “Strange, isn’t it?” says Clarence, his guardian angel. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Even after viewing the film countless times, I find it impossible to hold back tears when George’s loved ones and friends rally to save him in his moment of need.

Ah, the human family!

Recently, I was privileged to attend a presentation delivered by Fr. Michael Himes, a professor/theologian at Boston College. Fr. Himes is a brilliant speaker, and I always enjoy hearing his perspective; but, that evening, I found his subject especially captivating. He spoke of how God has deliberately and intricately interwoven our lives such that even the smallest of actions can have wide-ranging significance. He then logically concluded that, “There are no small actions.”

It’s true! We ripple each other’s lives in countless, meaningful ways. In a sense, we are all George Baileys… or, under the right circumstances, Mr. Potters.

In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tells what we have come to know as the “Parable of the Wheat and the Tares/Weeds.” In the story, a man sows good seed in his field, but weeds grow up alongside the wheat. The man’s servants ask if he would like them to pull up the weeds; but, he wisely concludes that both wheat and weeds should be allowed to coexist lest the wheat accidentally be uprooted during the weeding.

I find that man’s decision strangely comforting, perhaps because I know that my life – and, frankly, every human life – manifests both wheat and weeds. (Even good George Bailey unjustly railed against Mrs. Welch, Zuzu’s teacher, while under particular duress.)

As Christmas draws near, I’ll be praying especially for two things: 1.) insight into the various ripples emanating from my life; and, 2.) the grace to remember that the child born in Bethlehem so long ago came to save not only the George Bailey in me… but especially the Mr. Potter.

Merry Christmas!