Have you ever asked for something specific, that you were certain you really needed, and didn’t get it? I have. It is disappointing. So disappointing that I have found myself questioning whether it was a worthwhile to even ask for or if I was truly deserving of such a gift.
Over the last several weeks, I have begged for mercy from the relentless waves of nausea, fatigue and irritability that keep me unfocused from my everyday responsibilities. I timidly offer up prayers for relief. (After all, morning sickness is not a prerequisite for every pregnancy.) My request is to function effectively for the people who need me, not for myself.
Why is it that this prayer never seems to be answered? It must be me, I rationalize. Perhaps I am not grateful enough for the gift, or strong enough to push through or gracious enough to accept it.
I confided in my sister that I was struggling to have faith and she shared with me that she was too. What a heel, I am, of course she knows how this feels! She understands all too well the depths of desire for something and month after month the feeling of coming up short. She struggles with infertility and here I am complaining to her.
She offered an example from scripture and a homily that had spoken to her at daily Mass about the paralytic that needed his friends to carry his mat. In her wisdom, strength and vulnerability she shared how she needed others to ask for her, to pray to intercede and carry some of the burden. (Please join me in praying for her!)
We were both particularly struck by the persistence of his friends. They were not timid in asking for help. They lowered him through the roof when they couldn’t squeeze through the crowded room. Talk about faith!
Yesterday I received an email from a friend, who I had been interceding for our family. She sent me the reading for that day from Hebrews:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
A few things from this scripture stood out. As we confidently (not timidly) approach the throne of grace we receive mercy and grace for timely help.
Oh Carrie! He has answered you even in your timidity. Then like a reel from a movie I saw the beautiful mercies He has poured out over the last week; friends and family who have confidently carried us when we have not been able to stand. On Tuesday Sister Miriam came over and cleaned my house and made us dinner- what a gift! On Wednesday my dad treated us to sandwiches after soccer practice. On Thursday my sister took my little guys while we were at co-op and that night my sweet husband sent me to bed at 8 o’ clock while he put the kids to bed by himself. On Friday my sister and mom both came over to play with the kids while I napped and that night my sister and her husband watched our kids while we went out on a date. Yesterday friends who heard our news asked if they could make us dinner and came over to deliver a wonderful meal with a balloon, card and hugs at hand. What timely help indeed!
While praying I have been begging for relief- so I can do all the things that need to get done…He answers with mercy and compassion and with family and friends to carry my mat.
Then I receive another beautiful layer this morning as I sat to read the gospel reflection on the Wedding at Cana. Father Simon Tugwell wrote of Mary and our Mother Church:
Faith never means simply your faith or my faith. In one of the prayers at Mass we say, “Look not at our sins, but on the faith of your Church.” To invite God to look simply upon our individual faith might be a little better than offering him our splendid virtue! It is not our faith, but the faith of the Church the we present before him, and that means the faith of Mary, the faith of all those people who have made the Body of Christ healthy and glorious; we, when we are weak and poor can live off their faith.
We aren’t meant to do all things by ourselves. Self-sufficiency is the converse of faith. When we approach the throne of grace we are asking for more than what we think we want and more of what we need –communion, the body and blood of Christ that miraculously never runs dry.