In our darkest moments, God confounds us with the most unexpected grace. I am awed by the mysteries of His love and how just when I think He has not heard my cries and I’ve fallen into the complacency of self pity, He shows me a miracle. It always reminds me of the scripture that inspired the beautiful song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
“His eye is on the sparrow, Oh yes, I know. He watches over me.”
Oh how He loves us…
On this day last year one of my closest friends, Joyce O’Connor was losing her battle with cancer. She was in the hospital and little did we know that she would be gone in 10 short days. I was visiting her room, and it was just the two of us, sitting together, talking and enjoying each other’s company. My underlying concern, the pain that I was smiling through, was the reality that the moments we were sharing could possibly be our last.
Suddenly, Joyce looked up at the TV in her room, which I hadn’t even realized was on, and said, “Look!” as she grabbed her remote and started turning up the volume. The image Joyce was drawing my attention to was a live picture of white smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in Saint Peter’s square. We stared in wonder and then together we began to rejoice. We had a new pope. We were tickled to share that historic moment together, it made us cry and we held hands for awhile. I was in awe of her. Joyce was an angel in my life long before she left this world. Her courageous heart, her faith and hope imbued into every moment, the love she exuded so generously for others was an inspiration. There we sat; she a cradle Catholic and I, a convert; whooping and hollering in a hospital room.
The Sunday after Joyce passed away was Holy Week and Pope Francis proclaimed at Passion Sunday services in Rome “that a Christian can never be sad, never give way to discouragement. Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions but from having encountered a person, Jesus, from knowing, with him, that we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them.”
Everyday we are led into the desert. Everyday, numerous times during the day, we are challenged by adversity, and in our struggles we are tempted to forsake God, test Him, deny Him. Keeping our eyes on the cross and not giving into to the earthly voice that mocks us and our belief, is task enough in one day to bring forth such a weariness that would not allow for much else to be accomplished. Slaying these dragons and giants of grief and despair that threaten to pull us under the weight of our sorrow and shame is exhausting. We are at times so overwhelmed that when we do stop to take a hard look around, we are dumbfounded to explain how we fell into the pit of victimhood and complaint.
Monsters of self, those dark voices in our heads, would have us believe that we are not worthy of the eternal love that only our Savior Jesus Christ can extend. A love that in a breath can erase and lift from our yolks the weight of every misstep, transgression and assault on righteousness we have ever perpetrated against the goodness of God.
People will argue, fight and raise their voices, yelling, screaming at you in His name to try and convince you that this amazing love is not available to every wounded heart. They will try and package His grace with terms and conditions, limited warranties and quantities. But God’s love and mercy are infinite, not knowable in the measures of this life and His grace more abundant still. Yet we must seek Him. Our part is to surrender to His will in our lives, dedicate ourselves to loving His people, where-ever they are at, no matter how they struggle to still the rage of darkness in their life or overcome the most impossible obstacles.
We are in it together, expectant and full of hope in hospital rooms and church pews and not unlike Jesus in the desert with the devil, we too have the gift of the Holy Spirit and we have each other.
He fashioned us to be of comfort. Collectively called to serve each other as He has served us, out oflove, this is our worthiest pursuit. The fight, the task that is never ending. We are called to bring hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, and demonstrate His grace to those who believe they are not worthy to receive it. Striving in obedience to be holy and steadfast as we are tested daily in our personal desert.
Those are the places where life would have us believe we will be left alone, desolate without food, without drink, without rescue. But just when all seems lost, we approach the well; trying to rub our eyes clean of the sand and sweat, the Holy Spirit stirs. Jesus is at the well with us and His living water and manna from heaven, clear our vision and cool the heat of day that has burned our skin.
Miracles abound. In a perfect moment of love, a bright flashing of grace, we are once again reminded of who we are and to whom our heart belongs. We are His, and oh how He loves us.
J. C. Beichner