Today as I was sitting by the water, enjoying my Einstein bagel and cold brew coffee, I found myself staring at the movement of the water, paying attention to the warmth on my shoulders, breathing in the beauty of an especially peaceful morning. It felt good to sit, not be rushed and have the time to sit with my thoughts.
I had a few things on my mind, but the question I was sitting with was, “Would I have wanted it any other way?” Reflecting on my life and where I was: the friendships I had, the friendships I’d lost, the journeys I’d been on, I kept thinking, “they brought me here for a reason and I can’t say that I regret it.”
One thing the Lord continues to share with me is how every thing that happens can be an opportunity to know His love and tender care in a deeper and more intimate way. But I have to let the “growing pains” take their course. I have to let Him move in my life or I won’t be able to see His consistency, His care, His love, His presence. Sometimes in the toughest moments, I am later able to look back and say, “yeah, I get it now. I see why that needed to happen. I see what I was holding onto and I’m glad you asked me to let it go.”
But the getting to that response can be and usually is tryingly hard (although, I also don’t think we’d appreciate or recognize the depth of its goodness and beauty so well later, if it wasn’t this way). I hear St. Paul say to the Romans:
“We rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 5:3-6)
The endurance born out of suffering or difficulty “produces character.” I read this last week and the idea of character made me stop and think. When we talk about someone having “character” we think of it as a shaping, the uniqueness of someone. It usually references their virtues, strength and wholeness. If you look it up in the dictionary you’ll see it defined as, “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual” or “strength and originality in a person’s nature” or finally “a person’s good reputation”. These all sound like good things. Things we would all want to hear said of our own character and personhood. One of the things that makes us distinctive as Christians is our ability to see suffering as an opportunity.
How do we view suffering? Is it an opportunity? Can it produce a good in me?
The ability for suffering to produce character and thus a truer hope, I think depends on our willingness to let the Lord meet us in our sorrow, our hurt, our fears. And that is when we can begin to see the transforming good of suffering.
Earlier this year, I had a particular intention on my heart and I remember praying a novena to St. Joseph with the intention to be very candid and honest in what I asked for. I prayed for clarity in the specific intention on my heart, but even more so, clarity to the extent that if it was a “no” that I would take it for an answer and not persuade myself that St. Joseph was being ambiguous with me.
It’s funny, but that prayer began an area of conversation with the Lord that I had not realized I needed to have with Him. And the thing is, that in the midst of that deep feeling of sadness that my prayer was answered, but answered with a “no,” has led me down a path of “wrestling with the Lord”, in which we speak frankly to each other: I, of my fears, hopes, experiences; and He, of my worth, His presence and goodness.
“We enter into the experience of the present moment, even if it involves pain, with a trusting attitude that God is at work. In our anxiety, the temptation is to run away from the place we are rather than remain steadfast.” -Henri Nouwen
More and more, I am being reminded that I want to engage life. I don’t want to passively go through it, doing anything that will avoid pain or risk. Rather, it is in seeing each moment that comes our way as an opportunity to allow the Lord to move in our lives, that we begin to see the garden of our life unfold and grow. Looking back we’ll be able to say, “ahhh, yes, Lord, I see where you began to till this area”, “where you planted that seed,” “where you grew this flower in me”. It will be a garden in which we see, blood, sweat, tears, joy, hope, fear, uncertainty, dedication, attentiveness wield a space of beauty, of peace, of life lived and lived well…to the fullest.
Hailing from Maryland, she doesn’t know a whole lot about crab and lobster, but she definitely does know a thing or two about coffee.Appreciator of road trips, hammocks, and all things
doused in Valentina. Bridget is a former NET missionary
with a heart for ministry and a strong devotion to
St. Gianna Molla!