One Trick Pony, One Message Fool
At the risk of sounding like a broken record in everything I write, both at Ignitum and elsewhere, let me just say that you can trust God. Always, fully, wholeheartedly, without need for reservation. You can trust God. In every aspect of your life, you can trust God. In the biggest tragedies that crush you like a bulldozer, and in the irritating minutia of life that gets underfoot, like crumbs on your bare feet in an unswept kitchen, you can trust God.
I can look back at my life and see that every, lasting good that I’ve experienced, and am currently experiencing, has come as a result of choosing to abandon myself to the One whose ways and thoughts are . Sometimes I’m blown away by the fact that I’m currently living my dream of being a speaker, paid writer, and missionary, with a strong and vibrant marriage and two beautiful boys, adopted from the island we currently live on.
Please note, though, that none of this is “boastable”material. Quite the opposite. I’m actually trying to show you that I’m a clueless fool who, left to his own devices, would ruin everything, but has found a safety net in trusting God. No matter how pristine the snapshot of my life is right now, it is paradoxically true that whatever good I do have in my life is a direct result of letting go of the sub-par screenplay I’d previously scripted for myself and trusting a better Writer.
In fact, let’s take a glance at this very moment in my life, made possible by the wonderful, productivity-destroying social media site, Vine. See below or click here.
Beautiful, right? I’ve got my ol’ donated laptop, the quiet, luscious Roseau Valley, and the Caribbean Sea. True, it’s all amazing. However, if you look more closely at those 6 seconds, you see hints of what it took to get here.
Did you see that blue, 55-gallon barrel? It represents the fact that our whole lives had to be crammed into a few suitcases and a couple of barrels, leaving behind 99% of the comforts we were used to. Did you hear the rain in the background? It’s been raining on and off for days, which makes it impossible to dry your clothes, which already have the permanent odor of sweat due to the sweltering heat. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the heat; but, I also love having a dryer to give me dry, freshly-scented clothes.
Notice that huge Caribbean Sea? Gorgeous, of course, but it also means we’re island-locked on a 16 x 29 mile rock with very few of the conveniences that we usually take for granted. No Target, no Wal-Mart, no Uncle Louis Cafe (pic on left), no Home Depot, no Best Buy, no super grocery stores, no dollar menus, no vehicle of your own, no family, and far less reliable health care.
Finally, in the last few frames of the clip, you’ll notice a small, green pyramid shape in the bottom right corner. You can’t see the cross, but that’s the steeple of St. Alphonsus’, in our little village, wonderfully named Goodwill. St. Alphonsus is a great community of believers with a vibrant faith life and joyous celebration. The people are wonderful and the music is beautiful. (Click HERE to listen to this week’s processional hymn.) However, as great as St. Alphonsus is, that steeple still represents the fact that we had to leave our home church of St. Benedict’s in Duluth, MN, where we not only had family and friends, but I also had a solid job, with opportunities to speak about Theology of the Body and all the other aspects of God’s love all over the diocese and elsewhere.
Trusting the Rungs
By way of example, let me sum up much of the good in my life and what each rung of the ladder has looked like:
- As a fame-hungry 18-year-old, it took me giving up my dreams of applause and lights to find the vibrant fulfillment that comes from using time, treasure, and talents in the service of Christendom.
- As a female-obsessed 20-year-old, endlessly distracted from God by the girls around me, it took me finally throwing up my hands and begging for “the either/or”, marriage or celibacy, to finally find my way to Jacelyn.
- As a Jacelyn-obsessed 21-year-old, it wasn’t until I entrusted God with my future goals of ministry in America, that I was able to see the exhilarating life being offered to me as a missionary. (Jacelyn had known since she was ten that she wanted to be a missionary, and I’ve known since I met Jacelyn.)
- As bright-eyed newlyweds, if we’d never trusted God enough to work as teachers in China for two years, which was a terrifying decision for us at the time, we’d never have visited Cambodia, where, on one of the 4 roads in the country, Jacelyn had “the light bulb moment” of feeling called to med school.
- As fervent-but-frustrated Christians, if we hadn’t been open to change and willing to admit where we were wrong, even on points of our deeply-held faith, we would literally have been unable to to have found, embraced, and experienced the solid, transforming, and life-altering power and presence of God in the Catholic Church.
- As emotionally exhausted, sexually hopeless spouses, if we hadn’t trusted Christ with our marriage, our intimacy, and our attempts at love, we’d never have been able to experience the intense depth of transformation and, yes, sexual healing, that we now enjoy. If we hadn’t gone celibate for a while, placing every attempted act of affection into the care of the One who created intimacy, we wouldn’t know how to truly love. We’d still be digging the grave for our marriage.
- As a discouraged couple who has struggled with infertility, one of whom was/is in med school, both of whom were/are penniless, it was incredibly daunting to trust that God was, indeed, leading us to adopt two wonderful brothers–Davey and Christian–from a local village; but, having taken the latest of the insane leaps God’s lined up for us, we can’t imagine life without them.
Gesu Confido In Te
In January of 2010, we were blessed to be able to take 6 of my youth to Rome on a pilgrimage. Having lived there for 6 years, Fr. Eric Hastings, my boss in Duluth and our guide in Rome, would just take us walking through the streets, in and out of various churches. On one such outing, we stopped in to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia, not far from St. Peter’s Basilica, and off to the side is a large, vibrant painting of the famous “Jesus, I Trust In You”, or “Gesu Confido In Te“.
At that point in our lives, Jacelyn had been turned down by the one medical school she desperately wanted to attend, and had been struggling with not only the confusion of rejection, but also as to what our next step should be. Kneeling in front of the painting for times of prayer, multiple days in a row, Jacelyn was able to once again let that eternal message, “Jesus, I Trust In You,” permeate her heart and become her desire, committing her next breath, her next 7 years, and her life to her true Beloved.
And here we are today.
If you pry your fingers from all the joys in your life that you’re grasping and allow God to look them over, like inspecting a great find in a thrift store, you will very quickly see God hand them back to you, polished, tweaked, and finished, “that your joy may be full“.
If you invite God to that table full of worries that you’ve spread out in front of you, desperately trying to get your mind around how to keep it all afloat, you will invariably see that the God who told us not to let the good news be choked out by the “worry of the world” is also the God who created water and then walked on it.
If it seems like I’m complaining, let me assure you that I wouldn’t consider changing anything about my life right now. I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl about it. Everything we’ve given up has, after the fact, been a pallid substitute to the radiance that trusting in God can bring. Lewis was right when he said that God “always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.”
You can trust him. With peril and prosperity, dirges and dances, sex and cents. What does a life of trust look like? To me, it looks like the final minutes of this video.