Thursday, October 25, 2012

A less-than-welcome lesson in spirituality

All this long week and a half since my back went out, I have been on the receiving end of an uncomfortable lesson in the spiritual life. Maybe you know what it's like, too. Out of the Scripture, from an unexpected verse in the Liturgy of the Hours or a "random" something that I read, I keep finding the invitation: "Just for now, let this pain be what you do." (My mom would put it a different way: "Offer it up!")

In fact, one of the frustrations of these days has been precisely the sense of limitation. I've only been to Mass three times since this kicked in. I'm pushing it to do anything at the computer, so my various projects are on hold, except for the ones I have figured out how to carry forward in ten-minute intervals on my feet, or while flat on my back--and that doesn't work very well, to tell the truth. I had to cancel plans to offer a book display of Theology of the Body materials for tomorrow's conference on Protecting Families from Pornography because--not only can I not carry the boxes of books (someone might offer to help with that part), I can't stand for long periods of time. Not that I could manage the long drive to the Green Bay area. "Offer it up!"

God is "offering" something, too: to work more with my inability than with my abilities.

And there's the rub: I would really rather God use my talents. And why? Partly because of the sense of satisfaction that offers me--but I have to admit there's something more than just that honest and appropriate enjoyment of the exercise of a gift God must also delight in... I also want something to point to; some "trace" or record of my achievements. Something I can look back on for reassurance that my life is meaningful, or that I am making some sort of worthwhile contribution to my community. And that's just not there when God chooses to use a backache to carry out His work!

On the other hand, if God chooses to use my inability, and in fact uses it to work outsized marvels of his mercy for someone I may not meet this side of eternity, that means I will never be out of work! I will always be able to cooperate with God, and on a vaster scale than my "abilities" would ever reach.


Anonymous said...

What artist did you employ for that caricature of a person with a backache? If you designed it yourself you will never be out of a job. Problem solved.
Now about the pain, I am counting on my novena to Mother Thecla to resolve that one.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

I cannot tell a lie...the image is clipart from the Internet. Here's the source:

Anonymous said...

Physical disability changes everything -- one's ability to maneuver in the world as well as one's spiritual perspective. I have learned this the hard way myself, but I think what God asks of each individual is a pure heart. Good works, yes. But there is something about physical suffering and limitation that especially promotes introspection, refines our self-concept before God, and makes us more senstive to our dependence on Him for everything. As for a personal legacy, you have probably touched more lives than you realize and in ways which you are unaware -- just by being you. I believe that God accepts all your works and that you will be rewarded as a faithful servant, and that any disability will also produce fruitfulness in its own way or will afford God the opportunity to heal you. "Thy will be done."

Anonymous said...

Aunt Melanie's comments are so deep and soul searching that they call to mind a dear friend of that ilk who has been characterized by many as a seer. I will however still continue to pray for the intercession of Mother Thecla for your healing. "Ask and you shall receive".

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for finding value in my writing. Although I do not think you meant to infer anything, I felt the need to clarify something for the record -- so please bear with me. I do not have any special gifts and, in fact, I identify as a prodigal. I just try to be supportive of people who seem to be trying to learn a lesson and to move on with their lives.