Wednesday, 02 January 2013 15:33
The view from the rectory window
By Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke
There she stood. Unwilling to move a budge. Nothing would move her. Not the crowd politely pushing her from behind. Nor the voice beckoning before her.
She was on the precipice of a new experience. Hanging on the edge of a cliff, wanting, but not fully willing to take the first step. She was afraid.
I was returning from a trip traveling by plane. At one leg of the journey was a short layover at the Denver airport. The ‘glow worm’ terminal, as it is fondly called, because the airport terminal from a distance looks like the child’s toy “glow worm.” A cute, cuddly stuffed worm when squeezed looks like a worm glowing. (Causing one to ponder the absurdity of children’s toys which forever will cause a child to think worms glow and purple dinosaurs can dance.)
Walking through the airport I heard the odd combination of a frantic but amused cry of a mother, “Step! Take a step! It will be okay! Take a step!”
The child, a little girl probably five years old, was perched on the edge of the moving walkway. Obviously the little girl had never encountered a moving sidewalk, nor was she inclined to do so now. Even with the flow of people behind her trying to thrust her forward and the encouraging voice of her mother, she would not nudge.
Slowing down to watch the drama unfold, I was curious to see what would happen. Would the girl take the first forbidding step? Would the mother return to her daughter, walking against the current of people and the moving walkway? Would the encouragement of the older man on the adjacent walkway give her the bravery to take that first step?
It was evident the mother was not going to return, nor could return to fetch the daughter. All she could to is reassure the child to take the first step. It was also evident the little girl recognized her mother was slowly being pulled away and it would be up to her to do something.
How often in our spiritual lives have we felt or experienced what the little girl in the airport felt? Here we are, all suited up, dragged perhaps to a giant glow worm of a building, surrounded by strangers. Our mother or father leading the way, when suddenly they are being whisked away and we, alone, must make a decision: follow or be left behind.
As a priest I see this often in parishioners’ lives and especially in priest’s lives. We accept the call, the vocation. Become comfortable with our surroundings, following the lead of Our Father through His Son Jesus, when suddenly illness, a move, doubt, or spiritual aridness occupies our path, making us feel quite alone and requiring action on our part.
Once a parishioner at a parish I served came to me with such a problem. They recognized God had led them to a marital commitment to their spouse, but now it seemed their spouse had no desire to fulfill what was promised. What should they do? Did God really intend for them to be miserable? It takes two to create a loving marriage. What if one spouse chooses to be indifferent? What choices do they have?
Such questions would perplex me as a newly ordained priest. I would always give an answer. Give reasons why God would allow such an experience. Offer points how to now handle such disappointment. I would always feel good when the person left, knowing I gave them an answer. Something to rely upon.
I don’t do that anymore. I’ve become dumber in my old age. Some might even call it wisdom though. “In the mouth of the fool is a rod for pride, but the lips of the wise preserve them.” (Proverbs 14:3) My answer was primarily serving my conscience and me. It may or may not have been from the Holy Spirit.
What to do? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely. In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3: 4-5) This is the “advice” I try to give now. Trust and be always mindful of Him, then take the next right step.
What happened to the little girl? Realizing her mother was slowing leaving, her voice fading, she took a leap and bounded toward her mother with wide eyes, and was received by her mother with open arms. A reunion of sorts amidst the applause of the onlookers!
She was willing not to rely on her intelligence or limited life experiences, but instead trusted, was mindful of the voice of one who had never lied before. Was her journey over? Was this the last step of faith she would take, even with her hand firmly clasped with her mother’s?
“Caution! Caution! Moving walkway is ending! Please be careful! Caution! Caution!”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely. In all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
Father Ken Van Haverbeke is director of the Spiritual Life Center. Visit him on the web at www.slcwichita.org.