The year was 1970, a few days before the start of lent. I was unhappy, or so I thought. I was confused, frustrated, impatient, annoyed, exasperated, dissatisfied, you name it, I was it. I assumed most teenagers were like me at the time. Except, my teenage friends were enjoying more freedom with boyfriends and girlfriends… while I was stuck at home on a Saturday evening, pacing the floor and airing my grievances to God. “Why wasn’t my life like theirs? Why couldn’t I enjoy more freedom to do what I wanted to be happy? What was the purpose of my life? Why did my parents have to have so many rules and expectations? Why couldn’t my life be different? Why this, What that, How come, and Why me?”
To my surprise, out came a thought, loud and clear. “DO YOU REALLY WANT THE ANSWERS OR ARE YOU JUST VENTING?”
I was caught off guard. Where did that voice come from? I hesitated, but I answered, “Perhaps I’m venting, but I sure as HELL would like to know the answers.”
And the thought spoke. “YOU’RE SURE AS HELL? WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO BE SURE AS HEAVEN?”
“Ok, sure as Heaven,” I said. “So, give me some answers.”
And the thought spoke clearly. “YOU HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. YOU JUST HAVEN’T BEEN LISTENING.”
“How do I listen?”
“BE PRESENT IN THE MOMENT. SEE THE UNNOTICED. HEAR THE UNSAID. STOP BESEECHING. LEARN TO PRAY WITH GRATITUDE. YOU WILL FIND THE ANSWERS.”
And that’s how I met God in my mind. Some of those thoughts that I might have thought as mine, were really God’s thoughts being given to me, and my job was to figure out or discern which was God’s.
The thoughts were spontaneous thoughts. They were louder, and always positive; they captured my attention, although not always what I wanted to hear. But I knew it was God. Through the course of this thought dialogue, He comforts, His voice tells me to trust, He guides, He tells me to be filled with hope. He asks that I find joy in simplicity. He reminds me that I was created in his image and I cannot be anything less than loving, selfless, and compassionate. I must be everything good that was created in his image.
And thus began my true Lenten journey some 45 years ago. I worked on my habits. Instead of prayers of supplication I prayed prayers of gratitude. My perspective changed. Instead of focusing on the 3 or 4 things that went wrong, I began to notice the hundreds of little things that were right every day that I had taken for granted. I became more content. Happier. I became spiritually stronger as I discovered more about faith and myself, about humility, about humbling oneself in the service of others. I began to volunteer in a hospital. The more I gave of myself to others, the more I discovered the truth– that gratitude is the key to inner joy. It sustains the roots in one’s soul.
Once again, we are nearing the end of our Lenten journey approaching Holy week, bringing us closer to the center of our faith. Some of you will have fasted for the first and last week of lent, some three days a week, some may have been completely vegan while others vegetarian. Some of you will have eliminated alcohol or smoking or chocolate or TV (which is probably the hardest especially during Covid). Or you may have tried adding further acts of kindness going a step beyond previous years.
Whatever you chose to do or not do, during Lent, this was a time dedicated to introspection, to discovering who you are more fully. You’ve self-examined, reflected, repented; you’ve sacrificed, struggled, and changed your ways toward kindness. Every step of the journey you’ve learned how much you’re willing to give, how much you’re willing to love life, how much you appreciate the gifts of creation and the sacrifice that was made for you to live. You have walked the wilderness with Christ and deepened your relationship with God. You have reached the top of the mountain — the Holy Resurrection, to witness the great miracle of Christ’s triumph of life over death.
In 1970 I discovered God does not need the filtered, buttoned up version of myself. He wants my reality. He wants my words unscripted and honest. Today, I continue to welcome His voice loud and clear through my thoughts. You too will know, you will hear, you will understand if you listen. God’s thought through you will always be your highest thought, your clearest word, your grandest feeling. Anything less is NOT from God. Listen to thoughts that contain joy, that always speak the truth and are prompted by love. Joy, truth, love…interchangeable.
Listen. God speaks.