picture source: http://www.myshutterspace.com/photo/photo/show?id=1177697%3APhoto%3A167517
For God, each person is absolutely unique. Holiness is not the realization of a given model of perfection that is identical for everyone. It is the emergence of an absolutely unique reality that God alone knows, and that he alone brings to fruition. No individual knows what his own holiness consists of. Holiness is only revealed to us by degrees, as we journey on, and it is often something very different from what we imagine, so much so that the greatest obstacle on the path to holiness may be to cling too closely to the image we have of our own perfection.
— In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.18 Fr.Jacques Philippe
This is kind of a relief to hear. It is difficult not to always look upon our life in the light of comparison. To other people, the saints, Jesus Himself (WWJD?), and even our own ideas of ourselves and how holiness should look on us. I wonder how many times I have totally missed the helping hand God offered, because I was toiling away at something I thought I needed to do, sweat on my brow and trembling with effort. If I just was listening for Him, for all I know He was right there, saying, hey! Here I am! I want to give you some grace! Yoo hoo! But because I had my head down, singularly focused on my own efforts, I missed Him.
Moreover, one small act of obedience to God can sometimes cause us to make more progress spiritually than years of effort according to our own plans. Fidelity to small graces draws down bigger ones.
—In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.59
When I read this, I think of something that happened to me about 26 years ago. It is something I can look back on and practically see the big ole hand of God coming down, Monty Python-like, in a certain moment of my life.
I was living in a very sparse apartment in Manayunk (a section of Philadelphia), next to a pizza shop. (*note-If you like rodents busting into your house whenever they feel like it, some the size of cats, live next to a pizza shop in the city). Anyway, it was just me and my four year old daughter. We were really quite poor. In lieu of a table, I put up an ironing board to set things on. We ate a lot of beans and bread. Before you feel too sorry, know that I brought much of it on by my own foolishness. But there we were. I had been singing at night, mostly at hotel lounges, but was starting to suspect it wasn't something God wanted of me. So, I quit. I also suspected that becoming a welfare mom was not something God wanted of me. (No offense to anyone receiving welfare, I have gotten plenty of help over the years). But it did beg the question; now what? I realized I had not actually asked Him that exact question. I thought perhaps now would be a good time to do so. Here is how it went.
Me: God, why do I keep getting involved in these bad situations with men that are not good for me?
God: Because you don't ask for My help, input or even My opinion.
Me: (after recovering from the mild heart attack at having my question answered)
So, um, now what? I'm kind of in a bind here. No job, no money, not much food. How do we get on the road to something better?
Me. Uh oh, I knew I was pushing my luck with that multiple question, question. Oh well. I guess I'll put on the radio.
On comes a show I liked on Christian radio, called "Curious about Christ", it was a minister and his wife, and they spoke about all things Christian, but in a warm and friendly way. During the show, a commercial played for Merry Maids, and gave a number to call for employment---a little light bulb came on-and I thought, mayyybe I should call...so I did. Who answered the phone, but the same minister from the radio show. Whoa.
Now this was the beginning of a string of things that happened in the space of about two weeks. One things was that 1. I did get the job; 2. there was a daycare right around the corner from it that was a Montessouri school, and who had a sliding payment scale based on your salary; 3. There was going to be a period of about two weeks before it all got started, (I forget why now) and was wondering how we were going to eat. One day, I was out somewhere, and got home to find a couple of bags in the entryway, full of food, and even a Candyland game for Meghann and I to play while we waited for our Better Life to start. Turns out a friend from a church I attended just felt that she should do this. hmmm.
You know of course I took many many wrong turns in life even after that, but I always remembered that exact moment when I chose to let God in, so He could straighten up the mess I was making.
Father Corapi has a way of saying this that I always appreciate. Loosely quoted, it went something like, If you need something, ask for it! Say you are afraid to go to confession; ask for the grace to not be afraid. Say you have a certain sin with which you struggle. Ask for the grace to stop. And if necessary, ask for the grace to WANT to stop. Just keep backing up until you get to the point where you are. That's where God can be found, anyway. Right at that place.
I was overwhelmed in a situation that I couldn't see my way out of. God reached in and led me through in steps. If I had know just how many steps lay ahead, and how difficult some of them would be, I may have faltered. He is faithful, though, if we just keep asking.