A Promise, Not a Threat

This post appeared in the Sunday, May 9, edition of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.

I spent the past week with my folks in Michigan, in the log house we built together when I was in high school. It’s surrounded by trees and green pastures, flowers and birds, with deer wandering through nightly and a plump woodchuck burrowed in beneath an old truck-box-turned-storage shed.

We built this place from scratch, from tall, straight pines some of which we felled ourselves. We drove the well ourselves. At the time, there wasn’t a thing my dad couldn’t do with his mind and body—and I, who had a very different mind than his, was amazed by what he could see and accomplish.

Over the past few years, time has taken a toll on my father. His strength is diminished; his hands, unsteady; that creative inner vision, not as clear as it used to be. His machine shop is largely idle these days, but he stays busy keeping the lawn and pasture mowed, the birds and wildlife fed, and my mother loved and entertained.

Mom, in turn, has more to manage. In addition to Dad’s health and her own, she has to take care of more and more things Dad used to do. Snowplowing, home maintenance, car repair and the like, they often hire out now. She works hard to keep things going, to keep them both fed and healthy—and she loves her man fiercely and laughs with him often.

For my sister and me, coming home has long been associated with peace and rest—and we still find our best naps under pine beams and high cathedral ceilings of the log house. But it’s different now. Things are changing, and we can see it.

For me, it looks like God is kicking out our crutches. My dad could always count on his head and hands to solve any problem—he prided himself on his ability to fix almost anything!—and that’s being stripped away. My mom could always count on my dad to take care of her—and that’s being stripped away. And Jill and I, who could always go home and find things just the way they were, are watching that solid ground shift beneath us.

We used to lean on each other when we were struggling, and now God is taking that away from us. Why would He do such a thing?

Because He wants us to lean on Him.

It’s as though He wants to show us how small we are, and how weak without Him. These things we pride ourselves on—ourselves, our gifts and abilities, our families—are not even ours in a meaningful sense.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21

Our heavenly Father doesn’t do this out of wickedness, or course, or a sense of retribution. He does it out of love—the love of a Father who knows what we are made for, the desire of our heart, and knows we cannot achieve it on our own. These little prides we cling to are obstacles to the end we seek—an eternity of life in perfect love with each other and with Him.

He’s teaching us a lesson: that He alone can bring us home. But from the God of Love, it’s not a threat; it’s a promise.

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