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At difficult times, it can feel like life is done unto you, even visited upon you. As broken appliances, freak accidents, and intractable family disputes come one after another, we begin to wonder, “Is this the abundant life you promised us, Lord? Are these the blessings you provide?”
Recently, I had occasion to spend time with a group of women who have gained peculiar insight into the providence of God. What brings them together is a common experience: All of them have a son in religious life. What makes them tick is a common love, a love both for the Lord and for their sons. During the weekend, we tapped into both loves. Doing so meant being honest about their experience and its trials. For, though their sacrifice was beautiful, it remained a sacrifice, and a difficult one at that.
On the one hand, pious people the world over tell them how very proud they must be. What a blessing to have a religious, a priest, in the family! Sure enough. On the other hand, they still have to deal with the sadness (and inner conflict) of losing their sons. For, despite what others might say, it’s tough, and no amount of devout conviction can totally soften that blow. In such circumstances, how easy to feel done unto, how easy to resent (ever-so-slightly) the will of God that seems to require more than we can possibly give.
As we went back and forth over the course of the weekend, the retreat ended up being about their offering. Sure, their sons had made a choice, one that ruled out family dinners, spontaneous visits, and grandchildren, but they were free to choose for that or against that. They could try to take their sons back, whether in thought, word, or deed. Or, they could offer their sons. They could say “Yes” to God in union with their sons.
In the offering lies the key to their happiness and ours. In the end, the changes of life aren’t simply visited upon us, wresting from our grasp all we hold dear. Rather, these changes are for us. And, if we can accept and embrace them, they will prove fruitful. For, when God asks us for these sacrifices, he ultimately asks us to embrace him, the abundant life itself, the only one in whom we receive (and recover) every good and perfect gift.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.