Friday, September 11, 2009
Little Acts of Love
It's been a hard day for me, harder than in previous years. All day long I've either been crying or right on the edge and have had to work hard to joke with others at work. No one at work knows what I was going through today and I don't want them to know.
I hate it when people see me crying. And I don't want to worry people. Maybe this is one of the reasons I'm anonymous online...because as an anonymous I can write of these things and no one will call me up and make sure I'm not slicing my veins.
Which I'm not, by the way. Just sayin'.
Because I'm sad, though, I want to write of something beautiful.
All day, God has been with me, He has spoken to me, and although I can't share anything concrete, I can write of a revelation of love, which in turn reminds me that love isn't in big showy events, but small "inconsequential" ones that are hidden from sight.
Conversations from the Monastery
When I visited the Cistercians and it was clear that God had drawn me there in order to know Him in the silence, without pressure or expectation, it freed the conversations had with the Vocations Director there. We spoke of many many things, and on that Sunday, we spoke specificially of God's little acts of love.
We spoke of those times where we see something and desire it, perhaps a small thing, such as flowers. Any kind of simple pleasure, in fact. Sister said she finds she'll desire something and thinks to herself, "That's so stupid! I'm not going to ask Him for that!" And so she'll remain silent, her hidden desire obscured as she goes throughout her day or week.
And then she'll find that the very object of her desire, the very blessing for which she refused to ask...would land in her very hands. She would recognize that gift, and as she sat in front of me describing this, she dropped her head, her veil falling to frame her face as she stared downwards in surprised humility, softened in her reception of great love.
Contained there was recognition of God's love so great He responds to the smallest requests, and a recognition of a lack of faith and love...to not ASK for the small things, thinking them insignificant.
God doesn't consider ANYTHING to be insignificant. He makes Himself present in the smallest things and delights in the little, unnoticeable acts of love.
I think He does this because we can't imitate the big ones, and so He gives us an example, something we can imitate every day to reveal Him to those around us.
If we don't know Love...we can't reveal it to others.
Maybe one of the reasons God sent me to visit the Cistercians was to know Him in His deep, personal love for us all, which is something I struggle to accept. I don't know who I am in relation to the Church, I don't know who or what I'm supposed to be, and so often I feel like I'm just floating on the fringes, invisible. Tonight, as I left Mass, I tried to talk to two people...who just walked away or remained in their conversations, not seeing me.
No, they didn't "shun" me. It was clear they didn't see me, which was fine. I'm not offended or discouraged.
It did remind me, though, to keep my own eyes open for others, as God keeps His eyes open for us, and responds in the smallest of ways, if only we are open to His gifts.
We also spoke of the little mistakes we make every day. I mentioned that during prayer that very day, a weird thought had interjected itself into my reading of Morning Prayer, rendering the Antiphon completely nonsensical and humorous. I had to suppress giggles as I apologized to God for my foible. At the same time I realized my apology was unnecessary as my goof wasn't intentional distraction, but simply arose sporadically, and God was probably laughing with me.
Sister and I spoke of how those simple little mistakes made us MORE human, MORE lovable to God, for He had created us in such a way that, even in our Fall, we make errors that are endearing, not sinful. And those little mistakes elicit great pleasure from Our Lord, who gave us a share in His own good humor. When we make little unintentional foibles, Jesus must laugh, given our good intentions that go hilariously wrong in our attempt to honor Him and join with Him throughout our long days.
I expressed to Sister that although I apologized to Jesus, I knew He was laughing, too, and in that, we drew closer to each other, giving the intended prayer even greater depth than that which was contained in the words and very history. It was my little error that made Him more present and more REAL to me, and in so doing, brought me more deeply into His Presence.
While at the Monastery, hearing Sister's story of God's little gifts of love, I considered that very idea and shared with her my own memories of God revealing Himself to me in that way.
What I didn't mention was that I was hugely craving chocolate while on that retreat, and while there were chips and pop left for retreatants near a little mini-fridge in the guest quarters, there was no chocolate.
I did not ask God for chocolate, although I told Him of my craving and offered it up as random insignificant suffering. I was surprised at the craving while I was there and really thought it to be nothing at all.
That evening, the Guest Mistress told me that she'd have to set my place ahead of time in the morning as she had a prior commitment and wouldn't be available as usual. I said I'd be fine with whatever she set, and thanked her for everything, hoped she would do well.
The next morning after prayer as I sat in the guest refrectory, I saw a little jar that looked like jelly, but I couldn't identify it. I turned it, wondering if Smucker's had come out with something new.
The label read "Hot Fudge".
As I surveyed by breakfast table of cereal, bread, a toaster, milk, absent of butter or jelly, I wondered if there was some tradition I was supposed to know about?
Was this a Feast?
Was I supposed to put hot fudge on my cereal or smear it on toast in honor of something, or as a part of a community tradition?
As I ate my cereal, I contemplated that hot fudge jar, wondering why it was there. I had fallen deliberately into the "Everything is God's will" mentality to help me be docile to every little event at the Monastery, knowing in advance that I needed to leave preconceptions behind.
Perhaps I went too far as I contemplated the fudge; I almost missed the point.
Ah! That Little Signal of Love!
Then it hit me.
I pictured Sister GM getting my place ready before she headed to her appointment. She put everything out, and grabbed what she THOUGHT was jelly for my toast, for the pattern on the cap was checkered like all the jellies.
In her good will, wanting to make sure I had everything I needed, she gave me exactly what she DIDN'T intend...but God did.
As I ate my cereal, wishing for toast and jelly (I could have rung and asked for jelly but didn't, desiring to live in the moment and accepting everything), I realized the message God was sending.
Sister's little mistake was really a deep expression of God's love.
I hadn't spoken of my intense but unresolved random craving for chocolate.
That morning, the craving was gone, and it didn't matter. But there it was, if I thought I needed it. God answered, through the little gesture from His handmaid.
In contemplating the fudge, I contemplated my own mistake, and realized that God delighted in my mistake as much or more so than I delighted in Sr. MG's, for I did not ultimately see a "mistake" set before me, but an intention gone wrong, which actually was an answer to something deeper...and therefore an action giving the RIGHT response.
God is in our little cravings, the things we don't want to request as we think them too small, and in our own tiny acts of charity for others. I have no doubt that Sr. MG, when she cleared my table when she got back from her appointment, realized her mistake. I hope that God helped her see, as He did for me, that it WASN'T a mistake, but a signal grace, a sign of love for us both. He used her as a willing messenger, and me, the woman in need of a tiny bouquet.
God does this for us and with us every day, if we would only be OPEN to Him. He DELIGHTS in the small things in our lives. They are what form us, what draw us, what draws others.
Ask anyone in friendship or marriage; what drew you and kept you together?
All who are honest and all that last will say the same; it is the small things.
It is the small things that reveal true love, it is the small things that reveal true friendship. Sometimes big things are needed (such as the Passion and Crucifixion), but before all that, wasn't Jesus a friend in small ways as well? Didn't He care for the most basic of needs? Didn't Jesus come to SHARE with us every human desire that would draw us to true holiness?
Doesn't any lover give not only where it is needed, but where a gift is wanted, especially if it is expressed without words? Isn't the hidden desire fulfilled a sign of true devotion?
Doesn't anyone who has love give to their object of affection or friendship something of beauty, something of desire...something so insignificant that no one else would know about it?
Love is in the small things. Let us learn to accept those little graces and give them as welll, for it is only in being a part of this that we can ever truly know God.