Today is my birthday. Why, then, am I spending my precious nap-time composing a blog post?
This is more of a "spur of the moment" post, so I'll be brief...ish.
So, today has been an ordinary day; Tim is working, I am watching the kids. Nothing dramatically different from the usual routine. It's funny how God speaks to us in the utterly mundane details of our lives. God revealed the idea of not being able to do a single thing without him with immense clarity today. Norah wanted to make me a card, and had been telling me, in intricate detail, when and how she would make this card. When she went to make it for me, Norah was met with her limitation -- being a four-year-old, she could not get a card for me by herself.
She asked me for one.
So I give her a card to decorate.
Then she needed a better pen to make her designs and asked me to get one.
So I gave her my pen I use to journal.
After she finished decorating the card, she couldn't slide the card into the envelope and asked me to help her. So I did.
Minutes later, with all the flourish she could muster, she presented me with the card. The card I helped get, the pen I supplied, the envelope I helped seal. I did most of the work, but it's her gift to me. And I accept it with a smile.
This is a rudimentary example of how we offer our gifts to God. They're his. He gives them to us, and we, beaming and full of happiness, hand them back with our little efforts peeking out. A scribble here. A sticker there. I can't even praise God without the gift he gave me in my voice, my breath, my knowledge and memory of songs. Even though he does the heavy lifting, my participation matters, makes a difference and it pleases God, even though he gains nothing from this paltry gift. He is in need of nothing. And yet, he is a good Father and delights in his children when they offer themselves in love to his glory.
Lately, I have been reading the writings and about the life of Blessed Concepción Cabrera de Armida (A.K.A. "Conchita"). In short, this woman was incredible. She had nine children, was married for 17 years, established three religious orders and is purported to have over 22,000 pages of spiritual writings. Her spiritual union with Christ is nothing less than miraculous, as he united himself with her in something called "Mystical Incarnation." If I was smarter, I would go into more detail, but you should just read about it for yourself in this biography written about her spiritual life.
However, as amazed and, if I'm being honest, totally envious of Blessed Conchita's depth of union with the Lord, it has begun to be abundantly clear just what union with Christ really looks like. It looks like the Cross. It is suffering. Yikes, now that is a downer. Doesn't your nature just recoil from that idea? Mine does. I want to be close to Jesus, but I want to just cuddle in and be cozy. But, as Jesus has told the Saints he has had intimate conversations with, including Conchita... total union with Him lies in the wood and the nails of his death. And that brings joy. Joy?! What!? Our minds cannot even grasp that concept intellectually. How is suffering a joy? However, you look at the Saints and that's what you see -- you see joy. In all their writings, there is suffering, pain, feelings that God has left them, yet they say, "Bless the Lord!" How intense did their love burn for the Lord, that even suffering could not shake them.
St. John of the Cross wrote, “Do not seek Christ without the cross.” And that's it, isn't it? Look around at much of the Christian world today in America. We have Christians who are living a half-life, who have claimed the Lord as their King, but live in an entirely self-serving way. We attend church on Sundays, but spend the rest of the week gossiping, complaining, grumpy, and forever "inconvenienced" by our neighbors in need. It's convicting. I have certainly lived that way. I still do.
I want control.
Of my time.
Of my money.
Of my talents.
Of my schedule.
Of my home.
Of my body.
And yet, to be Christian is to understand I have ZERO control. I am not in control of any of the things I just listed. Not in any real way. I have the illusion of control...when things are going well. But throw a well-placed temper tantrum, or a frustrating encounter at work, or with my spouse, and BAM! My life is a spiraling mess. That is how quickly things fall apart when I am doing it alone. That's when we can find wisdom in the saints. They really took to heart the words of Jesus:
"Apart from Me, you can do nothing." John 15:5
My husband likes to quip when we talk about this concept, "You mean you can't tie your shoes without God?"
No. No, I cannot do a single thing without Him. Even something as simple as tying my shoe. I may "think" I am doing it alone, but without Him animating my body with the perpetual immensity of His love...I cease to exist.
I do not tie my shoe.
I am working my way through this consecration called "33 Days to Merciful Love," which is about uniting ourselves in trust to the mercy and love of Jesus. It is based off of St. Therese of Lisieux, who has been a powerful intercessor in my life this past year. Today, I read these words and decided that they would be my guidepost for the next year:
"[Therese] knew that after God conquers us and humbles us with his love, he then saves us with love by giving us his own divine love. In other words, after God flattens us with his overwhelming love, God then lifts us up and fills us with his love so we can actually love him as he loves us."
I don't know about you, but I am in need of conquering. Flattening. To come so close to my sinfulness and poverty that, when I look at God, I see just how weak and miserable I am, caught in my pride and desire for "self-sufficiency." How desperately I need him in order to accomplish any good in this world -- and that good starts with loving him as he deserves, with the love he will supply.
Gideon is awake. Nap time is over. Maybe this post will bless you. Maybe you'll think I'm crazy. Either way, let's go and love the Lord with all our hearts, understanding that it is his love alone that overcomes all obstacles.