still-of-henry-ian-cusick-in-the-visual-bible--the-gospel-of-john-(2003)-large-picture“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you…”

Well, that’s pretty bold of James and John, the sons of Zebedee!  In Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10: 35-45) we hear about how these two practically demanded the choice seats in heaven.  And yet if we see God as a Loving Father, he encourages us to be bold in asking him for what we need. Not what we want…what we need. There is often a big difference!

And receiving the gift always comes with a price.

It was late New Year’s Eve 2002 and I was snuggled on the sofa—thinking of what my resolutions for 2003 would be.  No more long lists of things that never happened or weight I’d never lose. I wanted to make one, simple-but-profound resolution that was manageable.  I wanted to look back in December and be proud of the year.

What would that one thing be?  Hm-m-m.  I’d been divorced and single almost eight years and had come a long way in my walk with the Lord. I was trusting him more and had made both big and subtle improvements in my life. I was even happy and content being single!  I wanted to be good. I wanted to be holy.

That’s it!  I will simply ask God that, however he wills, I move closer to being holier this year. So I prayed, “Dear Lord, in 2003, make me holier!”

Be careful what you ask from God; the year was hell.

My mother died a horrible death in February.
My best girl friend of 15 years and I “broke up”—it was like another divorce!
I almost lost my life-long friendship with my sister and her children.
I lost a big, new book contract.
The real estate market (my major income source) petered out.
My income dropped in half and my rent went up.
My paid ministries at the parish were terminated due to budget cuts.
I developed gall stones and had lots of medical bills.
My father…the only man who’d ever loved me faithfully and unselfishly… died in December.
His death brought out all manner of angry, cold dysfunction in the rest of my family. 

There’s more, but these were the big ones .

When Christmas came I was a mess. I went to a quiet place and asked the Lord what the heck had been going on all year. Why this bottleneck of troubles?  I looked back and realized that everything I’d held dear, everything that gave me a sense of security, was either lost or threatened:  parents, family, best friend, career, income, health. Wham!

And because I had been learning to listen, not just blabber to him, I pondered what I knew and through that I heard him say:

Rose, dear daughter, you asked for holiness. That was a grace! You’ve learned that holiness means “being set aside for God” but that doesn’t mean just sitting there alone . I didn’t purposely plan all these things you experienced; they were the natural results of living in this world. But I knew they would happen, and when they did I sent you lots of graces to draw you closer to me. You opened up to receive them and you drew near. Closer to me. Leaning on me. Making me your center and finding your ultimate security and love in me. Letting the other things go and, despite the sorrow and fear, still remaining sane and even joyful. That’s holiness. And you did pretty well.

I felt better but, believe me, I didn’t ask for anything quite so grand for the next year! And I’m still working with him  each year to let go of anything that becomes more important to me than him.

What about you? What people, relationships, things, possessions, jobs, or bank accounts are you counting on maybe a little too intensely to make you feel loved, secure, and happy? Would you go to pieces if you lost them? Or would that clear your vision to see more clearly the Love and Security that last forever?  Put Your RELIGION in Your RELATIONSHIPS by moving God back to first place. Every day. Every hour if you have to. Putting holiness above “happiness”.

Teacher, we want you to do for us what we ask . . . give us the grace and courage to unclasp that which we hold onto so tightly so that we can more readily OPEN to receive YOU.