Tomorrow, around noontime, I will turn 1/2 century old. That's kind of a big thing to me. There were so many times in my 20s and 30s that I never imagined such a milestone. Yet, here I am on my birthday vigil, saying ciao to my 40s! What an amazing day.
I was talking to a few women after Mass on Sunday and one of them was mentioning something about the way we are expected to act in public. I asked what the age was that you could stop worrying about what society expects and just do what you feel called to? I think today it's going to be fifty.
So, dear readers, hang a while and listen to all the collective wisdom (not all, really, a few nuggets) that has resulted from my fifty years of failure and beginning again.
1. Beginning again. That's a really good place to start. We were discussing life expectancy at the dinner table the other day and dh brought up the fact that part of the drop we are experiencing is due to the rise in suicide and euthanasia. That led to a discussion of good days and bad and to the assurance to our kids that when they have these bad days...even several in a row...there will always be a good day to follow. I suffered some deep, crippling depression in my high school and college days (one of the reasons I figured I'd never get to my current age). There were days that were just so dark, I couldn't imagine a way out. My mother was so devout during that time, hanging in with me and assuring me that tomorrow would come. How blessed I was. How I pray that I can carry my children through on their dark days to see a fresh, new day.
2. Maturing. Now that I'm old, I can talk about how immature people can be ;0) Not really. Again, I did have the corner on snotty behavior for more than a decade so I can't throw too many stones. I have noticed, though, when I'm forced to sit in a room and listen to a loud, all-knowing, 20-something, I don't get angry like I used to. I don't feel like I have to crush all the stupid ideas out of her head. I just smile and think, if you don't learn it another way, humiliation goes a long way towards teaching humility. Time is the great equalizer, after all. There is a great deal of truth that wisdom comes from age. It's so easy to dismiss the older generation but they've had so many more years of successes and failure. They are have a wealth of information to be tapped if we just ask. Yes, I'm the older generation now...ask away ;0)
3. Patience. Why are we so agitated and rushed when we are young? Have you ever looked at an old person (not in traffic, that's some crazy reality-altering situation for many of them) but sitting, walking, whatever? They take their time. They are deliberate in their actions. They don't need to be first. When does this change? I don't know, I'm sure it's different for everyone. I can tell you I'm closer to "old" person than "young" in this, though. I'm not that rushed to do things anymore and, this week notwithstanding, I don't find as much trouble saying "no" as I used to. When I had a bunch of little ones, I soooo wanted them to grow up. I had them in activities, I ran them here and there. I think that was my biggest regret so far. Little kids just want to hang. That's why they are such good companions of old people. They both "get" what's important...sometimes looking at a butterfly for 10 minutes is important. Sometimes just chatting about nothing is the best thing you can do. There is nothing that makes you realize the immensity of God's creation like listening to the thoughts of a 2-, 3-, 6-year-old.
4. Dark night. In my time spent here on this earth, I've noticed that most of my annoyances still exist, just like they did in my 20's but, somehow (ahem) I'm better able to let them float away (except people who won't capitalize Mass when talking about the Holy Sacrifice...will the headline make sense when it reads, "Today, a mass shooting during mass." See the difference? rant over.) That ahem means the workings of the Holy Spirit in case you've just joined us. If you're wanting more Holy Spirit stories, wander through the blog a bit...you will find many. For now, though, it's important to state and to remember that even as you grow in your relationship with Our Heavenly Father, there will be times, sometimes long times, when He is not as evident as at other times. I think this is probably the blessing and the curse of seeing the workings of the Holy Spirit in life. Perhaps, too often, we become comfortable with those workings and don't see them as the amazing gifts they once were. Perhaps, as I tell myself, God is just really busy with someone else who really needs Him more than me at the moment (I know it's silly but it helps surprisingly often!). Perhaps, as I heard recently in confession, He just wants to know that we're committed, not just in fruitful times but also in the desert. I realized last week that we close on our new house on December 14, the feast day of St. John of the Cross.
Yes! This St. John of the Cross!
So much more on that later but, really, I can totally hear God laughing at us sometimes. In the most cheerful, loving, teaching Father way.
5. Marriage is a life-long journey. God gives us so many good things, sometimes it's hard to parse what exactly is from Him, and what is not. If you have a husband who stays with you on your witchiest day, who loves you even on the days when you couldn't be less loving, who provides for you and your children so that you can stay at home and teach them God's laws and how to apply them to life then returns home in the evening to help with those lessons...that is definitely a gift from God and you need to work really, really hard to choose love, even on the many days when your emotions aren't anywhere near that feeling. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Part of society's woes when it comes to marriage seem to stem from confusing one for the other. (I just wrote #5 for my own use but you can borrow it if needed. )
6. Sin is increasing so we must find and use the overflowing grace. Society is a crazy place these days. There are so many times I look at the news and can't believe what I'm reading. I'm guessing it's not the first time this has happened...check out Romans Chapter 5, near the end. Humanity fell and sin entered the world but through God's gift of His Son, we may be saved from this...we have to just listen, trust and follow. The sins in the Church, the frailty of humankind is on display these days. Again, not new and not even that shocking anymore (sadly) but the result has been interesting to watch. Amidst these sins are those who want ultimate judgment to happen here, in this time and place. Others want to be declared the only "true and right" followers of Christ, with all the others doing it wrong...sometimes heretically so. These are both occasions of sin for me. I've found when I'm in a group that is spouting one or the other, holding my tongue is a herculean task. Still, I've managed to do so...for the most part. When there are those clearly wandering into slanderous waters, I try to reflect enough questions to make sure they intend what they are saying. In the end, we are our brothers keeper and it will probably go more smoothly if we approach it from a place of love and not of superiority.
7. People are people and prayer is powerful. Ultimately, we have to deal with our fellow man and sometimes (many times) it's a difficult road. Even the greatest priest/friend/coworker/teacher/etc. you've ever met has that pesky humanity and, given enough time, will reveal the frailties that they carry. It's not really fair to walk through life, with our full compliment of frailties on display, and expect mercy when we are so slow to extend that mercy to others. This is something I really need to practice more. If there is someone I really can't even meet where they are because their frailties are so incompatible with mine, I just need to pray. Pray for grace to extend mercy. Pray for patience. Pray to be silent. Pray to lovingly educate. Pray to do what God wants me to in the situation.
8. God has a network. I think the most amazing realization of my journey so far has been that, even on the most trying days (and often more so) God will plop someone in my path that is immediate witness to His love and care for me. Most of the time it's dh, who listens attentively to my rehashing of every moment of the day. Sometimes it's a person I haven't seen for a while and in catching up, I realize the important part he or she can play on my journey. Sometimes it's a near stranger who just makes a comment to which I "go into the deep" and respond with "God talk". I have to say, for the most part, the Holy Spirit has been a wonderful guide. I can't remember the last time I had a person look at me strangely and more often we both walk away from the interaction with that inside smile - realizing that God is here and He is working. Oh, and then there are those people whom I rarely see and seldom speak with but who share such a history...they can give me a bar of delightfully smelling soap made by monks and chocolate made by nuns (or vice versa) AND a whole book about drinking with Saints! Not even joking. I mean, that is friendship that is beyond anything human. It's totally, completely God-inspired and for that I am so, so grateful (sorry, friend...the package was too pretty to wait another day!) How good is our God? How far are we willing to go for Him?
9. Doing our part. The last reflection, promise. Do you hear people say, "you know, I live in the world but I'm not of the world. Is this ever actually true? Seriously, all the people who I know that do that would never think of saying it. They wouldn't say it because they know, even in their near-saintly routine, they are still creatures of the world. It's our fallen nature and near impossible to escape. So, should we just throw up our hands, buy that giant tv, spend lots of cash on more toys we don't need, let someone else deal with the poor and lowly of the world? No, of course not. Nor should we think that we are going to become a saint in one day...or by the same road that our good and saintly friend is following. We have to educate ourselves in what it was that Jesus actually said and then listen to what He is telling us to do now. That first part is really, really important because if we hear "Him" say, "let everyone live their lives and live your own life and it's all good...do what makes you happy" it's probably not Him...if you know what I mean. In a world where a mother can talk about the love song her unborn baby sang to her just before she aborted him, you must know the devil is alive and well. Don't shy away from that or shrug it off. We have to get busy on this. The devil will not triumph but that doesn't mean we can just hang back and rely on God's mercy. As I said, each person has to answer her own call. We have been doing things a bit differently around here, I hope with God's direction, and I hope with some results for both our own spiritual growth and for people we may never see. God's network, after all, consists of every child He has created which is, well, everyone. We are in a penitential time...(Yes! It's not Lent and Yes, it's still penitential!) What better opportunity will we have to journey out into the desert to hear His call for our conversion. Who knows? My conversion may very well convert someone else. Ripple effects are wonderful.
Ok, that was longer than I expected but, really, five decades is nothing to sneeze at. I pray that my continued age will help me to draw closer to my Heavenly Father and Our Lady, to draw others closer with me, and to use all the coming trials to help people I know and people I will never meet...on this Earth, anyway.
We are blessed.