I used to know a woman who constantly fretted about God's will for her life. She kept saying that she wanted to know what He wanted her to do, while at the same time entertaining dreams of gargantuan missions for which she did not have the requisite skills or the physical, mental or spiritual stamina. He kept giving her the little mission that was suitable for her, but she refused to take it because it did not conform to her dream of greatness. Many of us fail to hear God when He is speaking to us because we want to hear something else. We are so busy telling Him what to say to us that we can't hear Him speak.
In the last year, my son has died, my service dog died, my television died, the computer died, and I learned that the cat I had raised from a kitten for more than 10 years will likely die soon because he has stage 3 renal disease. All of my acquaintances who call themselves Christian but who do not actually practice their faith have blown out of my life, making more space for holy endeavors. At the same time, I have been asking the Lord to show me his will for me, but He was already doing that.
During the time the computer was on the fritz, I had lots of time to pray, and I finally got around to listening to God AND to telling him that I officially abandon myself to his will. I said it and really meant it. Shortly after that, my eyes were opened and I saw that, for some reason, He is clearing the decks...or allowing them to be cleared. In any case, my life was being simplified. Instead of fighting it, I have decided I need to embrace it.
In the moment that I resolved to embrace it, I became calm...and joyful. No longer wasting my energy on fighting what IS, I am fully available to participate in the work God is doing in me. I am simplifying.
Even the "good" things can be too much. There are a plethora of excellent Catholic newsletters from a host of inspiring sources, but how many can I actually read? How many HAVE I read since signing up for them? Very few, really, because my need for knowledge has its own flow, pace and direction. I know where to find information and inspiration when I need it. I went through my email box and unsubscribed from every newsletter today. It took surprisingly little time, considering how many unread missives were in my inbox.
Kitchen gadgets; dusty old spices that have lost their flavor; clothes I no longer wear and will never wear again; multiple vases for flowers I can't afford to buy; filing that is so old it no longer needs to be filed, A bar-b-que set that has never been taken from the box, much less assembled; an old fabric cat-carrier; costume jewelry and boxes of other extraneous possessions are finding their way to St. Vincent de Paul for their thrift store.
Last week I sold all my silver jewelry except the necklaces of religious medals I wear. The proceeds funded the cat's expensive new cat food and medicine. The jewelry box is almost empty, and I couldn't be happier.
I am eyeing every possession with the calculating attitude of a corporate raider who takes over a corporation and then slashes all the excess personnel.
The less stuff I have to care for, the more serene I feel. My monastic vocation, although it may not be realized in someone else's establishment, due to my health and age, has been rekindled nonetheless, and I am feeling a lightness of spirit that lends itself to more prayer and contemplation.
When I am finished simplifying, perhaps the Lord will reveal a little more of his plan...or maybe he won't! Maybe I will just keep bumbling along, following his clues as best I can. That's alright with me because I am not in charge, and I am glad about that. I will just keep saying "yes" to Him, as did Mary, and maybe some day it will all make sense.
Silver Rose Parnell
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