"Go say hello to Jesus. You cannot work until you do," one of the Missionaries of Charity greeted me one morning as I arrived to work at their camp for underprivileged kids. Shoving me into the Chapel, she abruptly closed the door as I prepared myself for the upcoming crazy morning.
At 9:00 a.m., thirty inner city kids flooded through the entryway of the abandon school building where the Sisters ran a soup kitchen and a home for unwed mothers. On this particular morning, we were taking the children swimming in a neighborhood pool about fifteen minutes away.
After prayers and bible time, the Sisters announced that we would be leaving shortly. While we waited for instructions, I noticed all the Sisters huddled in a corner seriously discussing something. Walking over I asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?" Sister Bernadette, the Mother Superior, responded in her thick Indian accent,
"We don't have enough drivers. I'm not sure how we will get all the children to the pool."
"Oh no," I exclaimed as I scanned the room of kids who were now fully bouncing off the walls in excitement. Most of these kids had never been swimming in their life. This was a rare treat, a once in a lifetime experience for many of them, and we didn't have transportation!
My critical nature and desire to control took over. Why didn't Sister plan better? I thought to myself, She knew all week that we were going swimming. If I had known, I could have tried to round up some help. Instead I said, "What are we going to do?" In total serenity and in all kindness she replied,
"We'll wait fifteen minutes."
Wait? She's loosing it! We need to leave! We only have two hours. That's not much time and it will take a half hour to get there and back. The kids are going to be so disappointed if we don't get to go, I carried on in my thoughts.
Within a few minutes, the Sisters organized the children into teams for tag and hula-hoop races. Happily they ran all over the over-sized recreation room screaming and shouting in joy. Despite the fun, they kept asking, "When are we going? Who am I going to drive with? Will Sister be in my car?" Attempting to divert their attention to something else, I became annoyed.
Time passed and Sister Bernadette continued to pop in and out of the room to check on us. Never once did she look stressed. Never once did she appear nervous or frantic with extra energy. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I walked out of the room to look for her. As I rounded the corner, I practically collided with her. With a big grin on her face she announced, "Speedy just showed up. He's getting some drivers and we'll be ready to go in five minutes." Walking off quickly, she hurried to the room to round up the large group of children and deliver them to the cars. Before the hour was up, the kids were kicking, splashing, and cannon balling into the blue water.
I've never forgotten that experience because it taught me an important lesson in trust. So often, I run around tirelessly toiling as if everything depends on me. Though I know intellectually that God is all-powerful and can do all things, my daily activity demonstrates a conviction that the salvation of my family, friends, and the entire planet rest on my shoulders. Even if I believe He's in charge, I usually don't allow Him an opportunity to prove it to me!
On that hot, summer day, Sister Bernadette did. Resting in her deep faith, she remained convinced and calm that Jesus wasn't going to let her down. She didn't hop on the cell phone and frantically dial the number of every volunteer she knew, like I would have done. She didn't spend the extra fifteen minutes explaining why she had no transportation to the pool, like I would have done. What she did do was go to the Chapel and ask God to help her, something I probably would not have done. Her fidelity allowed God to work. And He did.
The Scriptures are littered with examples of prayer warriors, like Sister Bernadette, who made requests fulfilled by our faithful God. Consider the centurion in the Gospel of Matthew (5: 8-13). His servant is sick so with tremendous confidence he approaches Jesus, begging Him to heal him. When Jesus asks the centurion to bring the servant to Him, he replies, "But, Lord, just say the word and my servant shall be healed!" It's as if he's saying, "I know who you are, Jesus. I am aware of your great power. It's not necessary for you to physically touch my servant. You can save him on your own accord. Please, just do it."
When Jesus heard this, "…he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith." What was so amazing about the centurion's response? He didn't control, he didn't question, he didn’t freak out, and he didn't doubt--all typical human responses. He simply asked for healing and then confidently waited for it to happen. By turning to God in the moment of trial, he demonstrated trust in God over trust in himself.
I, too, must be firm and unyielding in the face of any obstacle--big or small. When the tough times hit, I don't want to be the one whose faith waxes and wanes. I want to resist the temptation to run around like a chicken with my head cut off. In the midst of the storm, I want to be calm and peaceful. Trusting in Him, I want to confidently allow Him to work.
Hebrews 11:6 states: "Without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe...that he rewards those who seek him." So, when my own three-year old daughter dumps a million plastic pieces on the floor for the second time in a row, I want to trust that God will give me patience to deal with it. When I'm worried about my children's future, I want to believe that God will protect them. When I focus on my struggles as a wife and mother, I want to have faith that in my weakness, He makes me strong. After all, if the Good Lord sent a bunch of cars to transport thirty inner city kids to a pool in fifteen minutes, I know He'll answer me.
Copyright 2009 Colleen Duggan
About the Author
Colleen Duggan is the author of Good Enough Is Good Enough: Confessions Of An Imperfect Catholic Mom, published by Ave Maria Press. She is a Catholic writer, teacher and speaker whose work has appeared in Catholic Digest, Creative Catechist, CatholicMom.com, Aleteia, and Integrated Catholic Life.