The alarm goes off at 5:30 AM each and every weekday, and with a strikingly similar frequency I push snooze and groan over the thought of having to get out of bed. Luckily, I typically have an 18-month-old’s elbow jammed in my back, so I at least have some motivation to get up.
It’s the same routine, day after day.
Shave, shower, beg children to get dressed while their oatmeal is being made, make peace with the fact that they refuse to get dressed and would rather steal my beloved Grape Nuts than eat what they actually asked for, and then hop in the car for an hour-long commute.
I walk into work only to find my desk rearranged, 63 emails waiting in my inbox, and a work bathroom that was evidently used by a full-bladdered blind man with a sense of direction far worse than his sense of sight.
And all of this, happening day in and day out through the monotony of life, is but the icing on a cake of the actual trials, tribulations, and suffering of life.
When you’re using every drop of mental energy simply to find the strength to care about frivolous issues at work amid the pain of the impending loss of a child, for example, you can easily feel pushed well beyond your limit.
All it takes is for one more well-meaning acquaintance to remind you “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” and you quickly find yourself ready to hop in your car with your spouse a la Thelma & Louise and drive right off the cliff.
Life, as it is described in the Salve Regina, truly can be a “valley of tears.”
Or, to put it in the words of the Man in Black from The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
I cruised all the way through Lent holding this disposition as the medicine to my aching heart.
But the second reading from Mass on Easter Sunday turned my perspective upside down.
St. Paul dropped eleven words into my heart that made me realize my focus is all wrong.
“Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
This simple little sentence from Colossians 3:2 opened my eyes to the fact that I am truly stuck thinking of what is on earth.
The hard mornings, the monotony of work, the immense struggle of having the gift of a child ripped away from my wife and me; these are all “what is on earth.”
As hard as it all is, as unfair as it all feels, I need to recognize that all of these things (including and most importantly the loss of my child) are “what is on earth.”
The answer to my challenge and pain, and to your challenge and pain, isn’t simply continuing on through life with the understanding that life isn’t fair. It isn’t, of course, but simply recognizing that doesn’t magically make things feel better .
Instead, the answer to my challenge and pain, and to your challenge and pain, is to “think of what is above.”
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying based on Hebrews 12:2, “Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and everything will be okay.”
While this is obviously admirable advice, I think the bigger challenge is to “think of what is above.”
Everything we face here on earth has a meaning in heaven, and putting in the effort to remember this can lead to huge spiritual growth.
Those challenging children? They are an opportunity to choose love in spite of my desire to choose frustration and anger.
That lengthy commute? It’s an opportunity to choose prayer, rather than road rage.
That misused and abused work bathroom? Well…that’s just disgusting.
But, the expected loss of our beautiful baby just minutes after his birth? After the tears run dry, it’s an opportunity to solidify our belief in Heaven, in the saving power of Jesus even in the darkest moments, and in the truth that God will use this trial as an opportunity to strengthen my wife and me beyond our wildest dreams.
All we have to do is think of what is above.
Copyright 2016 Tommy Tighe