Most weeks at Mass we recite the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
Think about that for a second. God is GOD. He’s The One. Everything around us is created by God. Each one of us is created by God. He willed us into being. Each day, each minute, each second only happens because God wills it. The sun, the rain, flowers, trees, dogs, cows, all of it was invented by Him. Those creepy bugs we find under rocks? God. That enormous halibut my son wrestled out of Prince William Sound? God. That cute puppy who runs in circles toward her food and is excited beyond reason to see me every single time? God. Those beautiful children who just don’t stop being amazing? God. It’s all Him. It’s the ultimate game of Life: only we don’t have to drive in a purple plastic car.
So we start with that. God is almighty and He created heaven and earth. As such, He also gets to create the rules that govern us. It’s His game, after all. Enter the Ten Commandments. They are so important they are written on stone, not the top of the box the game came in. As Catholics we believe God gave us these rules to help us, to give us direction, to discern our next step.
He also gave us free will. Think of it as house rules. Every family has them. In our house when we play Catan, we make it a little softer and friendlier, a little less aggressive. We can choose to follow the rules or not. Except, unlike house rules, there are consequences.
The question then becomes: how do we apply these rules of Life to our own life? How do we navigate through the morass that has become our culture? How do we accept and live by guidelines that our society tells us, or we feel, are wrong? How do we adapt big rules to our very personal situations?
How does a woman follow the rule inspired by God not to use contraception when she’s had four babies in five years and her body needs a break but her cycle isn’t reliable? What does a woman do when she and her husband disagree on this? Sex was given to us for babies and bonding and we are called to be open to life, but what if another life is potentially physically or emotionally dangerous for one of the people involved? What if, what if, what if?
The adage is that God will never let us experience that which we cannot handle. OK, actually it’s God will never “give us” that which we cannot handle — but that implies that the bad things we experience come from Him. It’s more accurate to say He allows things. It’s a consequence of free will.
So we start with that premise. We factor in his tremendous love for us — beyond our capability of understanding in its depth and constancy.
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Think of how much you love your kids and multiply it by a jillion. It’s still not enough.
Then something crappy happens. Pick one. In my case it was the loss of a job I loved. The only thing I knew about my future was that I wasn’t going to that office anymore. Add in that my oldest moved eleven hours away to college and I turned 50 in December and there were valid reasons to wallow.
I don’t know why God allowed this to happen, but I do know that he cried right along with me. He never left my side. He showered an avalanche of love on me that I never expected. Still, it’s hard. But it’s not impossible. Because God held me up when I couldn’t hold myself up anymore, I got through it. In some ways the 2018 highlight reel was a little dismal. In other ways, it showed a battered woman who realized on a deeper level the importance of trusting God and the comfort that comes along with that trust.
I’ve learned that God will take such good care of us, such perfect, loving, gentle, beautiful care, if we let Him. Those last four words are the cornerstone. We have to let Him. And if we are calling the shots, playing by house rules, we aren’t letting Him. A dear friend received wise words from a priest about how to handle the commandments while living a very human life. He advised her to talk to people who are where she wants to be. So if it’s birth control, find someone who’s mastered NFP and ask questions. Keep looking until you get answers from someone who can relate to your particular situation.
God gave us hard rules that don’t always make sense to our human minds. They don’t have to. It’s not ours to understand. We don’t even have to like all the rules, but we have to do our best to follow them. We have to keep trying, keep searching and let Him take care of us. We can pray for the grace to follow. We can pray for the desire for the grace to follow. If we keep praying and keep trusting, He is going to help us out.
He’s our Father Almighty. He wants us to be happy. Maybe we need to pray for the grace to believe that first.
There is no easy answer. God’s rules are challenging, and Jesus warned us that following Him would be rough. But He also told us we will never be alone. The enemy might have one side of the rope in this spiritual tug o’war, but the Holy Spirit has the winning side. It comes down to faith and whether we are willing to throw ourselves into the giant question mark and believe God will catch us.
Copyright 2019 Merridith Frediani