Tag Archives: good fortune

God-generosity-gratitude

The invitation of memories

Every Good Friday, I participate in the Living Stations at my church, an adaption of the Stations of the Cross that incorporates eye-witness accounts from those Jesus met along the way to Calvary.

My role is Pilate’s wife, and I share the story of my dream about Jesus and how Pilate was conflicted about condemning Jesus.

The presentation can be very moving and emotional as different characters talk about their encounters with Jesus.

This year, the words spoken by Simon of Cyrene brought back a memory.

Simon talks of how he thought he had bad luck because he was just minding his own business when a guard pressed him into service. But then Jesus looks at him with gratitude and he realizes it was really a privilege to carry the cross.

I was taken back thirty-four years to the day a woman moved into the guest house where I was the hospitaler. I was opposed to her moving in because she had cerebral palsy and was  difficult to understand and very unsteady.  Truthfully, I was afraid to live in the same house with her.

She did not know I objected to her moving in.

Like Simon, I thought it was my bad luck, but in the end, living with Margie was my good luck. She taught me so much about God and myself and the world. She taught me about fidelity, hope, persistence, expectations and acceptance.God-generosity-gratitudeI believe that when memories resurface, they contain something beyond the original event, some message for today. So, what message was God sending me? What invitation was being extended to me by this memory?

At first glance, many things can seem like bad luck, like I am getting the short end of the stick. But with time and distance, what had once seemed unfortunate turns out to be quite fortunate.

Is God reminding me of that lesson because I have been on the verge of forgetting it? Or am I in the midst of something that I am thinking of as bad luck—and God is reminding me that one day I will look back on this as a time of good luck?

Back to the memory of Margie moving in with me. That first evening, she typed a one-page thank-you letter and slipped it under my bedroom door. Her note expressed her gratitude for my generosity. If only she knew!

As I read her words, I was filled with humiliation at my lack of generosity. I had aggressively and vocally opposed her moving in, and was quite angry that my wishes had not been respected.

But in that moment when I felt such humiliation, I was also given the gift of humility.

God showed me that my resistance was just a symptom of my fears and that my fears were unfounded.

Like Simon of Cyrene, I felt “pressed into service,” and it was a moment, an event, that changed my life direction and moved me one step closer to letting go and trusting God.

God-generosity-gratitude

 

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Feeling Fortunate

The light at Danforth Avenue was red as I approached. I had been visiting a friend in Toronto and was on my way back to Michigan. Two cops on motorcycles pulled up in front of me and blocked the street. Other police vehicles entered the intersection, lights flashing. The traffic light turned green and then red again, and I wondered what dignitary might be approaching.

Then a pack of runners entered the intersection. A woman in the middle of the pack was carrying a torch; the Pan Am Games were about to begin. How lucky I am, I thought, to be at that intersection at that moment.

A few weeks ago, our deacon’s sermon was about his ministry in the emergency room and how often he heard “why” questions, people trying to make sense of accidents and illnesses, asking why bad things happen to them.

As I listened to his sermon, I pondered my own “why” questions and realized that I am more apt to ask why good things happen to me—like seeing the torch being carried to the Pam Am Games or any of the many other times I have been touched by good fortune.

Suffering and sorrow are part of life; bad things just happen—a lesson I learned as a child. I have had my share of troubles; but, at those times, instead of “why?” I tend to ask “what?”—as in, “what am I meant to learn from this experience?” Every curse has a blessing; my task is to discover it. Usually it has to do with being more compassionate or letting go of my expectations or thinking of others more than myself or finding some good in the situation and being grateful.

It might be a family trait. When my cousin was being treated for pancreatic cancer, she shared with me that people in the infusion center often wondered aloud why they had cancer, why had this happened to them? My cousin told me she found their questions curious because she thought, “why not me?” Exactly.

As I watched the torch bearer run past, I thought of what a highlight this must be for her. I hope that she is able to savor the experience and be grateful to have been chosen for this honor.

I also thought of how the Pan Am games will present many opportunities for people to ask “Why me?”—when injury or illness or just having an off day affects their performance, and the results are not what they expected or hoped for. In those moments, when disappointment can be overwhelming, my hope is that they will be able to move past their disappointment and rejoice with the winners. And I hope all the athletes will remember the sacrifices of parents and coaches who helped them develop their talents—and be grateful.

After all, to have reached the Pan Am games, these athletes belong to a rarefied group that most of us can only admire from afar. How fortunate they are.