By Sabrina Rhodes
Earlier this year, I attended a silent retreat focused on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The Lord gave me many treasures that weekend, all of which have changed my life significantly. One of these pivotal graces was the true understanding that everything is a gift. And I don’t mean that lightly. I mean EVERYTHING. Every cent in my bank account, my job, my shelter, my car, my material belongings, my physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological attributes, my knowledge, my skills and talents, my friends, my family, my opportunities, my past, my present, my future, my challenges, and my suffering. Every breath, every second, every molecule of everything surrounding me and dwelling as a part of me. Not to mention all the gifts of the faith like the sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit! It overwhelms me to think about. Once this notion sunk in, I surrendered pride completely.
For me to believe that something was solely due to my action, my responsibility, my performance, was a deceptive lie fed to me by the evil one. I accepted this lie because it was much more comfortable to believe I had some control over my life. It was easier to hold onto my own contributions, rather than admitting they are miniscule and that nothing is solely mine. NOT A THING. Of myself, I am nothing. But through God, I am made worthy. I am equipped. And what a relief this has brought me! Nothing is up to me. It’s all in His hands. Praise God, I don’t have to worry, ever. I simply have to trust, love, surrender, listen, and follow. There is exisquite freedom in this. My job is simple (yet somehow so difficult at times!)-I love Him, I trust Him, I give my life to Him, and I follow Him. He does the rest.
The Lord has also shown me that He has entrusted me with these gifts, not only for my good, but also to share Him and His love with others. That’s incredible. He chose me, He trusts me, He knows me better than I know myself because He created me and fashioned me through His great design.
He also reminded me that to use His gifts for His glory and not mine, in the way He designed, I must consistently go back to Him, to ask Him for direction. How to use His money. How to use His time. How to use the talents and skills He’s given me. How to use the opportunities. This is a daily challenge.
That snowy, January retreat weekend, I repented both pride and ungratefulness and am more aware of these pesky sins popping up now that I recognize them more fully. Sometimes I fall back into an old way of thinking and forget to ask Him for guidance. Or I forget to thank Him for even the most mundane things. Or to thank Him for challenges and for suffering and pain. I forget they too are a gift, when given to Him. I also tend to forget that my life is not just happening because of what I do every day or because of the choices I make. Even this is a grace, a gift. He helps me remember. He nudges. He reminds. And I ask, repeatedly, for more humility. More understanding. To keep moving His truth into my heart.
My life has been pure joy once I understood that suffering is a gift. That it bears immeasurable fruit, that it shapes me into a holier person, that it brings me closer to God. What more could I want than to be closer to my Lord, my Creator, the one whom IS love? I’m not saying I constantly ask for suffering. But sometimes, I’ll admit, I do. I let Him know that I accept any suffering He allows, for His greater glory, to lead to His will and to His plan for my life. From these crosses, He creates the most beautiful things. Nothing is wasted. In the end, if I reject this, reject Him, I am creating my own suffering through a broken relationship with my God. There is no suffering that compares. Nothing more unbearable. The fact that I comprehend this is an extraordinary gift.