Our life journeys will have twists and turns. But we never walk it alone.
It’s common to describe our lives on this earth as journeys. Each of us weaves a personal history made up of moments in which we are caught up in events—most of which we did not anticipate. And we make decisions and do things that affect others in ways we cannot grasp.
I suspect there are a few of my readers who have kept diaries. I began journaling in 1972 after I had been ordained about 11 years. It was a time when I was going through a bit of a vocational struggle, and I didn’t fully understand all that was going on within me. I smile now, 42 years later, realizing what was actually happening. It was the Lord saying to me, “Jim, it is time for you to grow up and mature a bit.”
After 13 years of isolated religious and priestly formation, I was still very immature emotionally. My intellect had grown, but not much of myself. But growing up was exactly what I needed to do—both as a priest and as a human being. However, in my own circumstances, it felt as though I was being pushed and pulled, knocked down, and shook. I realize now that real growth and maturity are not something we do. It is what is being done to us as we struggle through it.
I’m sure that most married couples come to a point in their lives when they, too, are struggling. The honeymoon is long gone; personality quirks arise; boredom can creep in. What we don’t understand is that what we all go through is perfectly normal in our journeys. Growth, maturity, and wisdom can feel as if we are fighting through a jungle. It’s dark and scary without much light ahead. Maturity brings with it scars and bruises as a result of that journey. That’s why there is nothing on earth as soft and tender as an infant. Mature adults have a different kind of skin.
As we grow older on our journeys, we realize two important truths: life is made up of our actions and decisions; and life is also composed of events beyond our control. Major events can occur, and lives are changed forever. Think of the millions of people who lost their lives to COVID-19.
What is so important is that we understand and embrace the truth that not a single one of us walks our journeys alone. When God made us in his image and likeness, he also destined us to eternal life with him. If someone is not saved, it will be by his or her choice, not God’s. At the same time, God never wants us to struggle alone.
God mercy never turn from us during our journeys. Never forget that sometimes when we fall, we actually fall forward. The miracle is that when we get up, we are better off for that fall. We mature from it. The fact that we can’t make ourselves perfect is trumped by the saving death of Jesus on Good Friday. As we say in modern jargon what Jesus said to each of us: “Just keep doing the best you can even if it’s not perfect. Remember, I’ve got your back.”
My fellow friar, Clifford Hennings, OFM, has more to say about God’s mercy in the video below. Peace to you!