Helen Syski learns from her pooch that bringing things to God is not the same as laying it at His feet.
My dog Lexi is like a comic-strip dog in her love for tennis balls. As a senior citizen, she sleeps much of the day, and her hind legs are creaky by sundown. But when a tennis ball is around, she is suddenly a puppy, tearing after it at breakneck speed or snatching it with stunning accuracy and grace out of the air. She wants to play fetch long after we have tired of it, and long after her body needs rest.
However, we usually play with two balls in rotation. She will come up to us with her ball in her mouth, eyes pleading, but then she will not drop the ball unless we are holding another. Occasionally she will drop it in order to bark her desires to us, then she grabs it up again before we can pick it up.
Lexi, Lexi, if you want us to play fetch, you have to be willing to give us your ball!
Helen, Helen, if you want Me to act, you have to be willing to give Me your dreams!
When we come to God with our desires, are we too attached to let God handle them? Do we prefer to taste their chewiness and dream than let God send them into motion? Do we bark at him asking for our dreams, but then grab them up again ourselves rather than seeing what He does with them?
There is always the chance that the ball will go back into the box, for another day, rather than a rousing game of chase. Can we trust our Master that the ball will be given back to us, that now it is time to eat or rest? Can we trust that He always has another ball in His hand?
What is your tennis ball? Is it your children? Their safety? Your marriage? Your career aspirations? Perhaps you bring it constantly to God in prayer, but do you lay it down for Him? Allow Him to pick it up? See what He in His wisdom and generosity will do with it?
Mary had a lot of dreams and aspirations too, but she always gave them to God. I would be willing to bet that becoming mother of the Messiah was not her dream, though she had a desire for the Messiah to come. Mary placed her desires at the feet of God, and in return He asked her to be the mother of Jesus.
Sometimes this idea of surrender and YES gets confusing and exhausting. It is important to remember that every yes enacts a no. Or sometimes, LOTS of nos.
Mary’s yes to Jesus, yes to God’s plan for salvation, carried with it a lot of nos. No to apparent holiness (pregnant before marriage), no to more children (was she ridiculed or ostracized for not having enough or being barren?), no to a grown son who would care for her (the Messiah must die). When we seek to find our yes to God, to lay down our tennis balls and prepare to fetch whatever God throws us, we need not fear the collateral nos. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and all-loving. There is nothing outside of His care, nothing that He has overlooked or will not provide.
Sometimes these nos might seem out of line with the follow-the-recipe-cookie-cutter-Catholicism, the Catholicism of the Pharisees. They too were always looking for the legal definitions and bound by the weight of human dictates and expectations. Jesus came to fulfill the spirit of the law, to protect the pure law of God, to shed the burdensome laws of man. To heal on the Sabbath, to save on the Sabbath, to respond to the call of God even on the Sabbath.
What do your family’s YES and consequent nos look like? This month for us it means saying yes to our kids playing sports and no to a set Mass time. For our family, sports have been a fruitful way to spend time together as a family and a great tool to form the souls of our children. There are many ways to live a beautiful and holy Sabbath with Mass at its center; there is no commandment, “Thou shalt always attend 9 AM mass and never a Vigil!” We do enjoy the consistency and community built by a consistent Mass time and expect it to be our practice again in the near future, but let the Holy Spirit blow us where He will!
Jesus came to remind us (among so many things) that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. We are to keep holy the Sabbath, to worship and love and rely on God alone. To rest, to refocus. We are to participate in the Mass, to come to His table to partake of Him. In her wisdom the Church leaves the specifics up to us, so that we are free to listen to the Holy Spirit and fulfill God’s plan for our own family. Of course, to hear the Holy Spirit, we need to be laying down our tennis balls … and so the spiritual life of each family continually unfolds, living in the moment and responding to its current needs and callings. May the heart that throbs at its center be that of Jesus.
Copyright 2022 Helen Syski