Thursday, May 31, 2012

God: Only In Hospitals

(Warning: coffee- and sleep- deprived post; read at your own risk!)

Our parish has a door to door evangelization team to rival that of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses!  Okay, no, we don’t.  I’m just kidding.  Our team is much smaller, only goes out once a month, and is much, much less annoying.  They just go out in teams of three to different neighborhoods.  One person does the talking, the second team member writes prayer requests down, and the last prays for both the team and the people they are visiting.  At each house, a simple question is asked:

“How can we help you?”

 I’ve been out with the Evangelization Teams only once.  That time, I misunderstood the schedule and arrived at the church hall a day early for a discernment talk, only to find myself caught up in an E.T. meeting.  On a spur-of-the-moment decision, I figured I would go out with them that day, and I did.  After being paired with two older women and taking up the position of Pray-er, we drove to a neighborhood of about twenty houses and began knocking.  The majority of the houses we visited were empty, their occupants out a-visiting themselves on that rainy Saturday.  Nevertheless, a few persons came to the door, and were asked our question.

“How can we help you?”

 We never specified what sort of help.  We’d do anything for them, spiritual or menial.  Change a lightbulb, fix a Rosary (it was a beautiful Job’s tears Rosary), get Father to bring them communion, etc.  However, the majority of people understood us as asking if they needed prayers.  Their responses generally ran like this:

“Nope, I’m good.  The family’s good.  No one’s sick.”


“Well, there is this girl that lives over-the-way and she has leukemia.  Can you pray for her?”

 Now, as nice as it is to hear of other’s care for the sick, and as cheering as it is to know that a family is in good health, I noticed a trend in these answers that soon unsettled me, not least of all because I recognized them in myself.  Why is it that we only ask for prayers when we are in trouble, especially illness or other things too large for us to handle on our own?

I’m not certain why I do this.  If I am brutally honest, it is probably because I am too independent.  I harbor the mindset that I can handle things; I’m strong, and smart, and completely capable of taking care of myself.  Besides, God helps those who help themselves, right?

Wrong.  Not only is that verse not in the Bible, it is completely inaccurate.  God wants us to come to Him like little children.  And what do little children do but come openly, with humility, for *all* of their needs?  Not just the big ones, but *all* of them.  A toddler turns to her father to have her teeth brushed.  An infant turns to his mother for *everything*.  Children are not independent; they are needy, with an expectant, trusting sort of need.   God wants us to come to Him like that. 

Perhaps our hesitation to come to God with anything but big troubles is because we think we have nothing else to tell Him.  What is my joy over a new job compared to that girl-over-the-way with leukemia?  What is my joy over my puppy compared to the loss of that child whose mother overdosed?  Okay, God wants the small things.  But surely He doesn’t want happy things.  He has more grave concerns, more troubled people to help, than my quite contented self!  This is an understandable mindset, from our own point of view.  I mean, if you had a choice between listening to someone squeal over a bunny, or helping a person in a car accident, which would you choose?  However, I think this mindset, this perspective, misunderstands the nature of God. 

God doesn’t need to choose.  To say that God cannot pay attention to “this” because He is busy doing “that” is to forget that God is omnipotent and omnipresent.  He has more than enough mental capacity and attention span to listen to *everything* anyone could ever bring Him.  God can never be too busy for each of us individuals.  Furthermore, and to put it all in another light: if you only went to your friend when you needed something big from them, would you consider yourself as having a good relationship with them?  I wouldn’t, and the fact that I do this with God reflects pretty heavily on the sort of relationship I have with Him, I think.

We act as though God is available for a limited amount of time, and we save that time for Bad Things.  We think as if we believed that God is a last resort, only to be called when we can no longer handle the situation.  We pray as if God is only interested in our troubles.

I call this the “God Is Only in Hospitals” mentality, and I am very guilty of it.  So, today I pray for the grace to always remember that the small things are never too small for God, and that He does not want just my sufferings, sorrow, and trials, but my pleasures, joy, and peace.

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