Sharing the gift of ‘you’
Be sure of this children, there is not a single instant in which God does not pour into us some divine influence, which we would plainly feel if we were but more attentive; for God is borne on by His nature to communicate Himself unceasingly, and all the nature of our spirit is formed to receive Him.
[Father John Tauler, O.P. (+1361) ]
I find it interesting how God brings up snapshots of my life in prayer. One of those memories this week was of a 17-year old living out of his car. It was Denver, late 1980’s, I was in my mid-20’s and director at a well-respected auto/diesel college. My recruiters had brought in a young man with a GED who seemed to do well in his first classes. But when the financial aid paperwork was returned by the post office as “no forwarding address”, the true nature of his plight emerged. We came to know that he was living out of his car, then also uncovered that his parents actually moved to another state and would not permit family members to tell him where they were.
Somehow, we found a sister who contacted the father who called me. I explained the son was currently in our program and doing well, but it was only his 2nd class. My concern was that if he received his financial aid check, he’d take off and disappear. My greater concern was that he was homeless. I explained to the father that the daytime high was 30 and the overnight low was close to 0; his son couldn’t remain living out of his car or he would freeze to death. Either his family needed to take care of him, or they needed to emancipate him so that he could receive government aid. As an emancipated minor, he would have all sorts of help including career training. The parents would have no financial threats or obligation but could still maintain relations with him to rebuild the family. It was a legal maneuver, but it could give everyone the best foot forward.
The father was hesitant to give up control of his child. Yet he also was unwilling to let the son know where the parents now lived. So he requested the financial aid paperwork, signed off on the student loans, and the kid took off with the money as soon as he received the check. No one saw him again anywhere. As the old saying goes, they gave him the ‘rope to hang himself’ (metaphorically, not literally). Perhaps they had become accustomed to setting up self-fulfilling prophecies of failure. When relations end up in a rut, people become comfortable with that rut.
For some, it is hard to believe families could be like this. But the seeds of bitterness and resentment sprout into many weeds. We have expectations of our family members to love us unconditionally, in spite of knowing that humans are not capable because of their brokenness. And then we measure the other person by that expectation; they always fall short of course because they aren’t yet perfected. The blame game begins, using their behavior to justify our own bad behavior, and it goes on from there.
Our loved ones sometimes choose unsafe lifestyles against which families must protect themselves. When love is present, families do what they can to maintain safe connections with that person. When love is absent, they do what they can to cut off all contact with that person. It is understandable why the person often cannot be let back into their home. However, they need to know they still have a home to which they can return.
In December we awaited the Christ Child. On Gaudete Sunday we shouted rejoice! On Christmas day He arrived, and we celebrated for an octave. Yet for many people Christmas is a time of sadness and struggle, not having the perfect life or family they envisioned; still carrying too many wounds from the past. What if we let go of those expectations and instead let God show us His expectations for us? You’d be surprised at how little He expects. After all, He knows our imperfections. All He wants is for us to seek Him.
Christmas is now behind us and we are well into the new year. Jesus continues to give us the gift of His Spirit in every breath; the love between Him and His Father animating our very being. He continues to give His Sacred humanity to us in the Sacraments. The best New Year’s resolutions will be those that serve to focus us on this very reality every day. Review and revise those resolutions so they can bring you more deeply into relationship with Him, and through that bring His love into your relationships with others.
Then take concrete steps to extend that love. Time is a commodity and there is no better time than the present to check on someone less fortunate, have a long phone call, taking them out for socially-distanced coffee or walk once a week, bringing over groceries or meals, bringing them to mass. In 2021, share the gift of you.
Please always pray for Pope Francis, our worldwide Church and our country:
Grant us holy priests to console those who suffer, to remind all that we are brothers, to bless our homes, our work, our fields so that your kingdom may extend to all souls. Amen.
For the greater glory of God 😊
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