How do I begin?
If I try to start at the beginning, I must admit that I don’t even know where the beginning is. I only know that You have always been there.
Long before I have any conscious memory, You began Your work in me, with the waters of salvation poured upon my head when I was but ten days old. In the arms of my parents, You claimed me.
As I ponder the decades of my life, I see so much that, at first glance, seems to make so little sense. One moment, You were there and the next, it seemed that You were not.
Or was it me? Was I not praying enough or believing enough during those times You seemed so absent?
So I wondered at the time. But now I see differently.
You allowed me such beautiful moments in childhood: learning to pray, receiving You in Eucharist for the first time when I was 7, being confirmed in the Faith with the Holy Chrism when I was 8.
But you also allowed me many dull and ordinary moments, even difficult moments, in which irritability and fears and annoyances crowded out all of the good You had instilled within me. And I felt discouraged.
But greater perhaps than anything, You implanted in my soul a relentless hunger for You – a desire to know You and to know the truth about You. I wanted You to exist but You gave me a mind that would not accept merely believing what it wanted to believe.
And You allowed this hunger to both delight me with its holy promise and torment me with the possibility of a horrifying and inescapable emptiness. Sometimes both in the same day.
Your generosity with me in many ways seems boundless. You have allowed me so much opportunity in life, so much ability (none of which I have earned or deserved). You have sent me innumerable helps and guides and blessings through every phase of my life, in books and dreams and teachers and friends, all to instruct me and guide me that I might know You.
At the same time, at points in my life, You allowed me to undergo great mental suffering – and some physical as well – some of which endured for decades with little or no relief. Sometimes I could barely hold on. Sometimes I didn’t want to hold on, it hurt and frightened me so much.
Yet You never left me alone or without help. And afflictions that I thought would never leave me were lifted. All by Your grace.
There were times when working for You exhausted me so much that I became angry, though I did not recognize it at the time. I saw so many injustices that I could not remain quiet. I heard so many sorrows that I could not stop crying. But in each one, I was sustained in hope because of You.
And then You began opening new doors for me, leading me to unexpected places. Each new door led me through the same maze of challenge and growth, pain and joy, always with You leading and beckoning me to come in a bit further, to enter more deeply into Your promise.
With the openings, You allowed me to see more clearly my sinfulness, the total destitution of my soul when it ventures away from You, even for a moment. You taught me what it means to live a life of repentance. You planted in my heart a longing to pray without ceasing.
At the same time, You flooded my soul like an artist’s palette, with colors that long to be painted, images that call out to be received and words waiting to find form that they might praise You.
Certainly I have not fulfilled all that You have given me. Not even close. Yet I see now that You have been shaping me through each step, through each experience.
In Your presence, I have found joy and consolation. In Your “absence”, I have come to understand how deep is my need for You.
In the many gifts You have given me, I have learned that what I have to give others is not my own but Yours. In my challenges and suffering, I have discovered a compassion and humility that can only be learned through raw need.
For all of this, O God, for all of this – the joys and the sorrows, the suffering and the celebrations – I praise Your great glory. For all of it has led me to be where I am right now, standing before You in worshipful awe…