Elizabeth Reardon shares a conversation with a young man who needed to be reminded that we don't go through this life alone.
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
"Why is it that it seems when we try the hardest to do everything right that everything seems to go all wrong?" he asked. The question itself is a loaded one, and there isn't an easy answer. At its heart is an engagement of evil in the world and an assertion of righteousness. And yet, though not always privy to all the details, we can be assured that there is a multitude of underlying questions and situations present here.
In this case I was well aware of the back story. Always the protagonist of a seemingly unending drama, choices past and present had become instrumental in determining the future. Prior friends, and lifestyles had in fact become so constraining that the opportunity for change almost unthinkable and hope but a distant thought.
"All my hard work is just for nothing ... I am beginning to wonder why I should even try."
As a prayerful pause occupied my soul, I sought for a worthy response.
"Adam, It isn't that you are being punished for choosing to do right here, but that life is a series of choices not just yours but that of others. The gift of free will affects not just our lives but all those around us and sets into motion consequences that may not be immediately recognizable. Doing the right thing is not simply one or two choices, but a daily decision to choose to walk in life and love. Especially when faced with disappointment and we are tempted to walk away that is when we need to recommit and ask for help."
This is what it means to walk and grow in virtue. As a child, I enjoyed the simplicity of the proverbs. Do this and this happens, or in contrast don't do that for it will bring about ruin. While there is profound truth here, these platitudes barely scratch the surface on the challenge of our human condition. We think that we would much rather have a detailed list of steps, a tailored prescription as it were on the right course in life and corrections where necessary. However, I wonder if that were available would we follow it or even understand it.
"I guess I get that, but I have nothing left. I am tired of the struggle, tired of working hard and having nothing to show for it. Not sure how much more I can give." After a brief discussion about concrete ways to practically approach his situation with work and finances, one thing became glaringly apparent. There was no room made in his life for anyone else but him.
"Adam, you mention all the things YOU have tried and relied upon, but do you realize you were never meant to do this alone? It isn't all about what YOU can do but what Someone much greater than you can do. "
"Oh, you mean God ... you know I haven't gone to church. Not sure that will work for me," he answered.
"Well, you say that you have tried everything and that you inevitably find yourself in the same predicament. That, you cannot do this on your own, and you are running out of steam. What needs to happen before you try something different? What have you got to lose?" I inquired.
"Not sure ..." he responded hesitantly. "I guess it is worth a shot. Thank you for taking the time today to listen. It feels good to share this with someone else.”
"Well, Adam, know that I will be praying for you, I hope that you decide to share this with God too."
Lord, these are the words you wish to speak to each one of us. Oh, how you wish for us to invite you into the messiness of our lives. The path we are on can be so difficult, and made even more so by our stubborn independence. Jesus help us to reach out to you for help, quiet our fears and guide us on the right path.
Copyright 2021 Elizabeth Reardon
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About the Author
Elizabeth Reardon is Director of Parish Ministries and Pastoral Associate for the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection & St. Paul in Hingham, Massachusetts; a wife and mother of three, and writer at TheologyIsAVerb.com. Her writing is an invitation to seek and create space for God in the midst of the busyness of everyday life.