Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Putting God in the box
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the May 22, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Having not seen a couple of special friends for several years, I delighted in a long-planned visit with them this past month.
It was refreshing to catch up on lost time, as they say. While helping prepare lunch at their home, my eye caught sight of the rather large calendar hanging on the inside of the kitchen cupboard door. It clearly gave evidence of my friends’ life style. Some squares were dark with scribbled appointments. The page margins bore the mark of someone’s artistic doodling. Expectedly, the little squares numbered the days in sequence, but the lower portion of each square carried a curious hand-written note – the same note claiming its position in each day of every month on the calendar. The handwritten note simply read, “God willing.” Even when notes and appointment dates crowed its space, one could tell that it was still there – quite literally beneath it all.
My first thought was that someone in this household was dying of some dreaded disease – a query quickly denied.
But, they chimed in just as quickly, presumed good health is relative. And they went on, each adding a piece to the conversation: We need not fear that God follows us around, ready to pull our plug at any moment, they observed. Health is a wonderful gift. Time itself is a gift. Sad to say, they continued, we usually think of God when bad health strikes us or when we need something. The rest of the time, the husband noted with increased emotion that we tend to go our own way and do our own thing. We relate to God as if Divine Help were backed into a heavenly garage, ready to respond to our pleas – but not needed (or wanted?) until them. On the contrary – his gestures began a crescendo – God is with us all the time and it would behoove us to make note of it. (What he actually said was, “make a note of it,” imitating that information lady from the phone company’s directory assistance whom we all knew from our earlier contacts.)
Standing with silverware and plates in hand, I, the priest, had received my first kitchen homily. And a fine one at that.
My friends obviously try to practice what they preach. The “God willing” note penciled into each day of the year is a reminder of God’s abiding presence and partnership in the passage of time. The hand-written note itself is no guarantee that my friends actually will be conscious of God’s presence each and every day – something they readily admit. But having the note there does raise their level of awareness much more frequently than would its absence.
No, these friends are not the kind of folks from whom much public display of devotion would be expected. They are ordinary citizens in the kingdom of God. They just have found a small way in the midst of his busy life to be more conscious of God. Knowing their personalities, I would suspect that they have a few other clever ways to do the same. Their family, business and personal responsibilities seem to consume the allotted time of each and every day. (For which of us is this not a reality?) Further conversation with my friends revealed that they did not find it easy to set aside regular time for prayer, even though they do succeed on occasion. The hand-written reminders are a spiritual aid for busy people.
My friends’ contemporary devotional life itself is a reminder that we need not imitate monastic spirituality to make room for God in our daily lives. We all need to set aside time for specific prayer. We might even need to mark out that time in our calendar. In the meantime, in between things, as it were, a few little creative reminders left for ourselves here and there around the house may not be a bad idea. Putting God in the box is a good place to start.
(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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