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Hearing God's Word In Times of Trouble

alec vanderboom

This is what my parish priest said in his homily last Sunday:

"We want what God wants, when and how God wants it!"

A few minutes later, during the consecration, I found myself talking to God inside my church's bathroom. I was so confused by our move, that I went to church without a baby blanket. At 10 weeks old, Baby John isn't the smoothest nurser. So rather than fuss with the whole re-latching process in front of strangers, I opted to take him and my two year old into the bathroom right at the most important moment of the Mass.

I shut the bathroom door and locked it behind me. I sank down on the floor and started to nurse John. My two year old took this moment to reassert her interest in potty training. "You're in a diaper. You don't have to use the potty right now," I explained gently. Logic goes almost no where with two year olds. So rather than continue to disagree, I found myself helping her while balancing a newborn on my chest.

It was one of those "I don't have enough hands" moments of motherhood. I surprised myself by not feeling overwhelmed or resentful. I've been praying for a reader to have a healthy baby after an infant loss. In that second, I prayed urgently that she too would have a moment within a few weeks of having "too many kids to comfortably handle during Mass."

After I got my two year old settled, I sat down again on the floor to nurse John again. I started having an imaginary conversation with God and this reader in my mind. "We want what God wants, when and how God wants it."

I figured out, inside the unromantic setting of my church bathroom, that as I grow in formation I have started to want "what God wants" in my life. However, I am still struggling with the concept of "when and how God wants it." I wanted to have another baby after Leo's loss last year. But I wanted my pregnancy to go super smoothly. I didn't want lots of trips to the hospital and an emergency preterm birth. I also wanted to sell my house and move back to Maryland. However, I want that process to happen either before or after John's birth. I also wanted it to go super smoothly without any hiccups.

In Carmelite terminology "uniformity with God's will" doesn't mean chopping off parts of ourselves. It's good for me to want a healthy baby and want to live on a calm street in a safe community. Detachment is a tricky process of giving up control over how and when God works in my life. I've got to let go of the outcome. I can only control my small part in the puzzle (pretty much simply my own attitude) and trust in God.

Those words are even hard for me to type. Of course, I want to control the outcome. As an ex-lawyer, I want to foresee problems and solve them in advance. I want to control my own life!

My parish priest reminds me that when I want what God wants, I'm only 90% there as a Christian. I still have to step back and work "when and how" he wants to work. As always, none of these concepts make any sense to me unless I think about them in the context of death. Someday, I'm going to die. I'll get cancer and the last round of chemo doesn't take. It's going to be really hard to accept that its God's will for me to leave the earth now unless I've practiced it first. The things that seem the most hard to practice detachment with--my need for shelter, my pregnancies, are exactly the situations I'm going to be most thankful facing beforehand when the big death news comes.

This week when I prayed with Scripture I got more instructions on this concept. John  12: 27-28 says "I am troubled now.  Yet what should I say? "Father, save me from this hour?" But it was for this purpose, that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name."

As a Christian woman, I've spent 40 years praying, "Father, save me from this hour!" prayers. I wanted my baby to be fine. I wanted to get out of the hospital quickly. I wanted to sell my house. I want to move out smoothly and quickly. Those "save me" prayers are fine prayers of Faith.

There is a more grown-up method of Christian prayer that I want to practice more after my 40th birthday. In times of trouble, I want to pray more of "Father, glorify your name!" That prayer is always answered, regardless of the outcome. The last thing I wanted after losing a son in a late miscarriage was to have a scary drive to the hospital with a new baby in preterm labor. Yet God's name was glorified in that moment. I had supernatural calm during my emergency surgery. There were dozens of strangers who helped us. My son is so beautiful and awesome and fun the fact that he made such a surprise entrance into the world only fits his personality.

Christian prayer is not magic. I can't sit there and say a certain type of novena and expect that the world with transform into my will. Christian prayer is a conversation with God. I'm changed by my talks with him. I'm lifted up. I'm consoled. I'm also told to "grow up and start praying my age!"

I'm so grateful to have Mass and Scripture and prayer in times of great stress. I learn so much more about my Faith in hard times, rather than in easy ones.