Charla Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

“Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”

samWhen I was a little girl, I remember my mother reading the Bible story of Samuel to me. I placed myself in his position, hearing my name called in the middle of the night, mistaking the voice for my mom’s or my dad’s, and then realizing that it was the Lord that was speaking to me, I responded with “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” It was heart-warming and flattering to me that God was actually calling me, that He wanted to speak to me, and that He was there, in the middle of the night, while I slept, wanting to talk to me. Here I was, a little girl, and I was important to God, so important that he called me out of my slumber to speak to me. The only problem is that as I grew up, I stopped listening. I stopped listening for a long time.
In interpersonal communication, we are told that the best communicators are good listeners. It is a sign of respect to listen to those in authority, to our own children, and to friends who need us. But in order to listen, we must become silent, and oh how difficult that is for me. I realize that God has authority over me and in order to do His will, I must know exactly what it is he wants of and asks of me, and above all else, I want to show Him the respect He deserves, but why can’t I just quiet myself. My self-importance never allows humility and one must be humble in order to be quiet. I keep talking because I like to listen to my own words, my own thoughts. My words are comforting to me; they make me feel important and wise and powerful. I can close my heart from being hurt or affected by the words of others; I become the center of my own world, but in the process, I avoid the Lord.
Besides my own pride getting in the way of my listening for the Lord’s call, my insecurity causes me to avoid silence. Silence is agitating because it require me to be introspective, and more often than not, I don’t like what I find if I dig deep within myself. I feel unworthy of God’s call. I am not Samuel; I am just me. I cannot possibly be of such importance that God needs to speak to me. What I fail to comprehend is that I am important to God; I am of worth to Him; I have come to the realization that He needs to speak to all of us. It is the way He lets us know His will for us. Mother Angelica has stated that no one truly seeks happiness, rather we seek our own way. Our own way does not bring happiness, following God’s will for us is what brings content and happiness.

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No Greater Love than This Part 3: A Reflection

It seems unreal that one year ago today I was standing in my bathroom, my hands shaking as they held a positive pregnancy test.  That test would bring such joy and fear all in the same moment.  I didn’t realize that it would also bring heartache, strife, resentment, community, support, and love.  The journey that God had chosen to lead us on was overwhelming.  Still, He provided us with everything we needed every step of the way.

spiritual growthToday, just a mere four months after giving birth to a beautiful son, our struggles seem almost distant. There are, however, reminders of that journey.  We have lost friends.  We have felt judged. We still feel judged.  We have felt alone.  Things have changed for us.  We can never be the same.  But it’s ok.  God sometimes asks us to do difficult things because He knows in the end that they are in our best interest.  He knows that without those struggles we may stay in the same place, doing the same things, and never grow the way He knows we need to grow.  Looking back at our journey I know that every struggle, every battle, every heartache had purpose.  Likewise, every triumph, every prayer raised for us, and every heart converted also had purpose.  God used every single part of my pregnancy to help me see that my trust in Him would be my saving grace.

Our faith was challenged.  I dare say that the faith of those around us was challenged as well.  As Catholics we teach that we are supposed to give ourselves to God, to submit to His will. We are to cherish life, fight for it even!  We are to trust Him in all we do. We are to rely on God to help us through the worst of the worst.  We are called to live the lives of saints.  I found out very quickly that while we like to preach this, often we don’t truly support those who decide to live this way.

We tend to have a romanticized view of what it means to live a saintly life.  We look at the people the Church has deemed “Saints” and are amazed at the sacrifices they have made for their faith.  We call them heroes for giving up their lives for their beliefs, for putting others before themselves, for selling all they own and living in poverty so that others may come to know God, for submitting to God’s will in every aspect of their lives.  These Saints are amazing!  They are wonderful!  They are worthy of emulating!  But in the “real world” when someone decides to try to live according to these same standards it suddenly is different… the person is foolish, selfish, and irresponsible.  How can that be? Why do we look at some as saints and others as fools?  I would struggle with this question my whole pregnancy.

st. giannaBecause I have been taught that the Saints are there for us, both to guide us to God through the example of their lives and to pray for and with us, throughout my pregnancy I looked to many saints to help me wade through the difficulties I was facing.  We prayed for the Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin to intercede on our behalf.  I asked St. Gianna to pray that I have strength and faith.  I wondered if she face the criticism that I was facing by choosing life for her baby even though it meant that she would lose her own.  I prayed that Mary, who also had a surprise pregnancy, would hold me close to her and help me forgive those who did not understand and who judged me.  I pleaded with them to keep me close to them in prayer.  While I knew I was a fool in many eyes I also knew that in the eyes of the One who matter most I was doing exactly what I was called to do.

God knows our hearts.  I firmly believe He knew I would have no problem choosing life for my child.  That was not the lesson I needed to learn.  Perhaps others needed to see the beauty in putting my child’s life before my own, but for me He had another lesson in mind.  You see, what I learned from this journey and through all that we experienced, both good and bad, was that in the end we are not put here to please others; we are here to please God.  Others may ridicule us, they may not support us when we try to live the way the saints have lived, and we may even be persecuted for living our faith.  But it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we continue to have steadfast trust in God and that all we do glorifies Him.

I won’t lie and tell you that it was an easy lesson to learn or that I still don’t struggle with wanting those people to accept my life, to accept my decisions, to accept my faith.  But I know, just by looking at my tiny son, snuggled safely in my arms, that the decision to trust in God no matter what is far more important than what any person could think, say or feel about me.  I have to live my life for God, not for others.

If you find yourself in a situation where God is calling you to follow Him and you worry what others may say about you or that it is too difficult a calling to answer, I pray you find hope in the trials we have been through.  God has never left my side, not even once.  He won’t leave yours.  He will provide you with the grace and wisdom to make it through even the hardest times.  He loved you so much that He sent His Son to lay down His life for you.  He won’t leave you.  His love is so much greater than we can ever imagine.  I only have to look at my own son to know this is true.