Spiritually Speaking – March 2021
When Father Clem Metzger gives a retreat, he never fails to tell the story of a middle-aged woman who wanted a new, improved self. This woman ends up injured in a car accident, and paramedics rush her to the hospital. As she floats in and out of consciousness, she begs God to keep her alive. God tells her not to worry, and He promises her a long, long life because it isn’t her time to go.
While this woman is in the hospital recovering from her broken bones, she decides to get a few other things done. She chooses a tummy tuck, eye lifts, nose reduction, and breast augmentations. She’s so pleased with her new body and young face that she can’t wait to show the world.
Only minutes after she leaves the hospital for home, a bus rounds the corner, slams into her, and kills her. When she gets to heaven, she’s furious and tells God: “You said I was going to live a long life! What happened?”
God studies her face and says, “I didn’t recognize you!”
The first time I heard this story, I laughed at the woman; but it took reading it another time for the truth of that story to sink in.
Every so often, I take a sneak peek at another woman’s journey. I want to try on her shoes and walk in them. I stare at my feet and start comparing. Her shoes look prettier, sexier, hipper, and way more comfortable. Of course, I have no idea how those shoes feel on her feet…only how I think they would look and feel on mine.
It’s easy to compare my insides to other people’s outsides and come up short. Every so often I get a blunt reminder of how my problems are really my greatest gifts.
A few years back, I attended a function of hundreds of movers and shakers in Cleveland. I felt intimidated surrounded by a roomful of powerful mayors, Congress members, business executives, and judges. They all looked smarter, richer, and much more important than I’d ever be.
One judge came up to me and just starting talking. She was a bright, rising star in that community; and she asked me if I had any children. I took out my daughter’s picture, and she studied it for a few minutes.
Her eyes grew misty as she said, “I wanted a child so very badly, but I’ve had five miscarriages instead. I can’t imagine how wonderful it would be to have a daughter of my own.”
Now every time I look at that picture I feel blessed.
Most of us are walking around blind to the gifts that we have been given until we see the problems which others have endured. My friend Michael Brittan is a prominent attorney who could very well be the happiest person I’ve ever met. Some find him to be annoyingly happy. He’s constantly smiling, praising others, pointing out the good in every bad situation, and living in awe of every speck of beauty around him.
Those who don’t know him see the suit and tie, and they assume that he’s had an easy life. They don’t know that Michael’s dad lived on the wrong side of the law. He ran some gambling operations for the Celtic Club, which was a local Irish mob. The Italian and Irish mobs had a war going on in Cleveland. Michael’s dad shot and killed a man during a high-stakes poker game a week before Michael started law school. A few months after Michael’s dad got out of jail (while Michael was still studying law), his Dad was murdered. However, it didn’t hold Michael back. If anything, it propelled him forward.
Michael became a lawyer, and years later he became president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. Now he volunteers in the Cleveland schools, teaching the three R’s…rights, responsibilities, and realities. He goes to inner city schools to promote a positive attitude toward the legal system and to help kids finish high school. He tells them that they can succeed with: (1) the right mental attitude, (2) a definite purpose, and (3) the willingness to work hard. Despite the chaos of his life while he was in law school, Michael set a goal; he worked hard; and he graduated first in his law school class.
How can some rich white guy in a suit and tie relate to a room of poor black teens? He relates to the pain, heartache, fear, and insecurity many of them live with by having a dad who lived a life of crime. He is willing to share his wounds.
To God, they are not wounds at all, but gifts. Someone once said that God comes to us disguised as our life. He comes in the mess of our life…in the problems and flaws we’d like to wish away and pray away.
“I was formed perfectly with all my imperfections.”
Merton was a Trappist monk, poet, and social activist who died in 1968 after spending most of his life in prayer and solitude at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky. He believed that:
“We all have a unique destiny, a purpose that matches each of us alone.
God has never repeated it and never will in any other person.
The uniqueness is driven home for me by the prophet Isaiah,
who says in the Bible that…
God called us from our mother’s womb,
formed us uniquely, and will never forget us.
He has carved my name—and yours—on the palm of His hand.
I must give to God what He cannot receive from anyone else…
the gift of me.”
God Never Blinks
by Regina Brett