Paul Moore: Holy uncertainty and giving up control echo in my own life
In My Father’s House / By Paul Thomas Moore
Recently, at my annual dental checkup, my hygienist gave me a refresher in proper flossing technique. We often veer into faith matters when we meet. So, at no extra charge, she provided me with some encouragement to keep my spiritual attitude well-flossed, and thereby steer clear of the plaque of doubt and fear.
I had been talking about the unsettled nature of the world these days, even with COVID finally on the wane (thank you, God). I confess I may have been tipping toward the temptation of negativity.
Before I got too mired in uncertainty, she suggested I claim the Lord’s promise, as described in Psalm 91:10: “No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent.” I took comfort in this timely reminder, even after my dentist informed me of two cavities.
I was also heartened by my Catholic Post colleague Lindsey Weishar’s column on May 9. She shared how life’s uncertainties had been an “invitation to holiness” to her as a young Illini undergrad, and still today as a poet, freelance writer, and Catholic layperson in the world.
Lindsey acknowledged that although uncertainty always hides opportunity somewhere, it can sometimes be difficult to see the pattern from our perch. However, faith has 20/20 vision, “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
PLACING FAITH IN GOD’S WILL
Dealing with the nameless fears of life led me to recall another mentoring voice — St. Thérèse of Lisieux — that echoed the wisdom I was receiving at the dentist’s office and in the pages of The Catholic Post. Thérèse cleared her “little way” of faith through the jungle growth of anxiety by going all in. Her response to the choice of how much faith to place in God’s will was to say, “‘I choose all!’ I don’t want to be a saint by halves.”
Again, I don’t doubt The Little Flower (I wouldn’t dare!), but it’s hard to “choose all” when that means giving up control, or at least the illusion that I have control over anything inside or outside my soul.
Desperation helps. Anne Lamott writes of the Christian “gift of desperation, the g-o-d” cry that rises from the heart and pushes past pride. Lamott cites how the Canaanite woman petitions the Lord to heal her daughter, who is being tormented by a demon: “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15:25) Jesus replies he was sent only to feed the lost children of Israel. She persists, saying even the dogs share the crumbs from the master’s table. Her daughter is healed.
Obviously, all glory and honor are due our Lord. Yet looking at the successful, though bold approaches of the Canaanite mother (“Lord, help me!”), and St. Thérèse (“I choose all!”), I must conclude He is willing to forgive a little attitude on occasion. To present our case before Him in a straightforward, even blunt fashion is to make plain our faith in His ability to do something about it.
ASSISTANCE IS AVAILABLE
Still, the illusion of self-sufficiency dies hard. In his autobiographical Christian classic, “Surprised by Joy,” C.S. Lewis recounts his own commitment to Christ, and how even after the “gift” of desperation brought him to the feet of Jesus, it remained difficult for him to concede his need. In the end, though, “I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”
Via all these disparate desperate voices, I was receiving the strong hint that even if my personal faith journey may seem uncertain by times, I am not in uncharted waters. Navigational assistance is readily available from the Bible and the Church, not to mention a host of living and dead saints and scribes (although the phrase “dead saint” is a bit of an oxymoron, as their Communion is very much alive).
Also, the value of a kind and spiritually wise dental hygienist can never be underestimated.
Paul Thomas Moore is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at email@example.com.