When we first moved to Minnesota 17 years ago, I worked for a marketing agency in downtown Minneapolis. I was conspicuous as one of the only conservative folks on staff, and my honesty, joy and general lack of cynicism earned me the nickname “Farmboy” from at least one colleague. I was regarded as a good writer and editor, but so naive and old-fashioned as to be quaint.
At the time, our oldest son Brendan was in in early elementary school. Someone on the bus began to mock him for believing in Santa Claus, and Bren responded that if Santa didn’t visit their house, it was because they didn’t believe in him. When he told Jodi and me about it afterward, he ended the story with, “I’m glad you guys still believe in magic.”
Recently, in prayer, I felt called to do a small, good deed. It’s a simple enough thing to do; it would not cost much and is well within my ability. It is also unsolicited, impractical and somewhat odd—and from an earthly point of view, it should not make a dime’s worth of difference.
Our faith is not magic, but it can seem so if we are not looking through the eyes of faith. The absurdity of a whispered pray, a tiny gesture, a small and silent sacrifice in the face of the powers arrayed against us can make us feel foolish or lose our resolve. But a friend of mine often speaks of putting a grain of sand in Satan’s gears—a seemingly ridiculous or insignificant act of love that causes the Enemy’s machinations to grind to a halt.
And who are we second-guess God? Aside from the broad truth expressed in Romans 8:28—”We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”—we have no idea what He’s doing. Is He executing judgement or showing His loving mercy? Is He blessing our nation or chastising us? Is he trying to win hearts and minds to a particular cause or save souls? Is He called us to repentance and conversion, or is He calling the notorious them?
The answer, of course, is yes. To all of it.
God does not judge our success or failure in worldly terms. He is not a God of practicality: He created an entire universe for us. He pours out His life-giving love in superabundance, without ceasing, to a people who, more often than not, squander it to run the rat-race of this life instead. He took on flesh; He wet Himself and cried for His mother; He scratched a humble living from dead wood in an obscure Jewish village. He associated with the wrong sort of people, said the wrong things, and was slandered, beaten, spat upon and killed—for what?
To show us the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are not called to victory in this world, but to humble obedience and sacrificial love.
So whatever we are called to do—even if unsolicited, impractical or odd—let us embrace the impossibility that a single yes can chance the course of history. It already has.
Holy Family, pray for us.
Note: This post appeared as a column in the Sunday, September 27, issue of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.