We cannot measure Divine Providence by the yardstick of human mentality (A.J. Cronin, 20th century Scottish novelist and physician).
Through the years, my husband and I, as parents of twelve children, have been subjected to many a question borne of curiosity, disbelief or both,
“Are they all yours? Any twins?” Yes, all ours. No, there are no twins among them.
“How do you do it?” By the sheer grace of God.
“Did you plan on having so many kids?” Plan? What plan?
There have also been many assumptions made based on our family size, “You must be rich.” Ha!
“You must be a saint!” Not even close.
“You must have a huge house!” In your dreams.
Things get really interesting, though, when we are asked how many bathrooms our house has I answer,
“One. One full bathroom. One and a half if you include the two-piece in the master’s bedroom.”
At this point, the shock begins to set in. How can our whole family share just one full bathroom? It just is not humanly possible. What on earth was God thinking? How can a family of fourteen share one bathroom?
If You Want to Make God Laugh
Somebody once said, as a joke, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” It is funny and yet, so very true to a certain extent. For most of us, our plans come about after some sort of review of what we need and what we want. There are plans, which come about because of goals, which we want to achieve. There are impromptu plans, long-range plans, forward planning, and plans to make plans. In other words, if the human mind can imagine it and want it, one can thus come up with a plan for it.
Yet, plans change. Plans can change after the original goal is altered, by choice or out of necessity. They can also change without warning when an unforeseen element blindsides carefully laid out plans. If we were to consider the aforementioned joke for a moment, does God laugh at our plans as if He was making fun of us? I do not believe that for one second. If God laughs at all when He hears of our plans, it is because what He has in mind for us for our ultimate good is infinitely better than any plan anyone can possibly come up with. He is our Creator and Father God, after all.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church 302, we read:
Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created “in a state of journeying” (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call “divine providence” the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection:
“By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, “reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well”. For “all are open and laid bare to his eyes”, even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures.” (Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 1: DS 3003; cf. Wis 8:1; Heb 4:13.)
It is astonishing to realize we live in this world, which until now, is still “in a state of journeying”! When one is on the road travelling, one does not really rest easily or completely until one reaches one’s destination. The traveller is mindful of the temporal nature of wherever he is, knowing that however pleasant (or unpleasant, for that matter) the surroundings or experience may be, it is not permanent.
This is the truth of our human condition, living day by day, in the middle of the world: we were and are made for God, Who wills for us to be with Him in heaven for all eternity, which is our goal and destination. Any and all suffering, hardships and tribulations we may experience on earth cannot compare to what God has prepared for us in heaven.
A bad night, in a bad inn. That is how Saint Teresa of Jesus is said to have defined this earthly life. It’s a good comparison, isn’t it? (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, Number 703)
Like Sheep Without a Shepherd
About a week ago, my five-year-old son had a bit of a bathroom mishap. It is a long, graphic bit, the details of which you shall be spared. I had not had much planned for that evening, but I can assure you neither had I considered a five-hour wait with my beloved, injured rascal in an especially busy emergency room to be even a slight possibility. Yet, wait we did, amongst many others who had not planned on being there that evening but still found themselves doing so.
As I sat with my son in the uncomfortable chairs with everyone else, the slow pace of things was marked by our silent surrender to the inevitability of what was going to be a long wait. My restless son, being all of five years old, helped to make things more interesting by asking me, every fifteen minutes or so when we would be called by the nurse for treatment. I had to find creative ways of saying basically the same thing: “Be patient. There are a lot of other patients who are not well. The doctors and nurses are working hard.”
At some faintly hazy point during our long wait, a thought gently nudged its way into the consciousness:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:36).
Suddenly, I understood, in a way, I never had before, what that verse meant. I got a sliver of comprehension of what Jesus must have felt to see so many in the crowds which gathered around him, who were anxious, afraid, feeling alone and weak. I was stunned because it was almost as if I had been able to see through Jesus’ eyes.
Could I have imagined that day turning out the way it did? Not at all. Then again, what is my imagination, as crazy as it is, compared to the beautiful complexity of God’s plans? Divine Providence does not always make a lot of human or worldly sense. It does not have to make sense for it to be right and good and exactly what it should be. It is God’s hand directing, guiding, caressing and caring for us through whatever it is we may be going through. Every moment, every action, every event has a purpose, sometimes logical, other times inexplicable, but always leading to the ultimate good and perfection of His plan.
My son did not go looking for an accident to happen, nor did I want to be in that emergency room waiting all that time for four stitches to mend my son’s wound. None of those people that night wanted to be there, “wasting” their time waiting for things to slowly move along. Whatever brought us all there, I am certain it was necessary in order to bring about a greater good somewhere somehow. I know for myself, if I was told beforehand that I would have to be sitting around waiting for our turn to be called for five hours, I would have agonized and groaned about it. Unbearable! Yet, sit there we did, without knowing how long it would take, and we are not the worst for wear. In fact, I consider it a gift to have been able to “see” through our Lord’s eyes for that split second and get a better sense of His compassion and love for those who needed Him. I will never be able to look at people waiting in hospital for treatment or help without thinking of how Jesus would have seen them.
We Do Not Understand
Regarding Divine Providence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church 303 states:
The witness of Scripture is unanimous the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the course of events: “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” (Ps 115:3) And so it is with Christ, “who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens”(Rev 3:7). As the book of Proverbs states: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established” (Prov. 19:21)
God’s providence is real and palpable, living and ever-present. Whereas we as His children fail Him many times in so many ways, He never abandons us even when we cannot comprehend why things are the way they are in our life.
Funnily enough, perhaps it is a greater gift not to immediately understand what God’s purpose is and what His providence is leading us to. The mystery, which envelops God’s actions should not be off-putting, but rather compelling. It is an invitation to us to be in conversation with God, asking Him for lights to understand what we need to, and the courage to accept what we cannot grasp. Many times, we may be so wrapped up in the frustration of what we do not understand, we forget to talk to the One who has all the answers. Or maybe we talk but we forget to listen.
The Blessing of a One-Bathroom Home
So, back to what God was thinking, blessing our family with a house that has only one full bathroom. And it is indeed a first-class, grade A, top rate, an undeniable blessing. We are so grateful for the gift of the cute little home we have! That we are homeowners is a gift itself, something we dreamed about and aspired to during the years we were renting.
This one full bathroom we share has provided each of us with many opportunities to grow in virtues:
patience -“Please hurry up! You said you’d just be five minutes more ten minutes ago!”
charity – “If it runs out with you, replace the toilet paper, please!”
service – “Whose turn is it to clean the bathroom?”
We continue to learn to be considerate of others and not take our time. It is certainly a work in progress. It would be fair to say we are in a “state of journeying” when it comes to sharing our home with each other, with our family being the size that it is.
One cannot help but be grateful when one does not have too much of what one needs. We have enough. Our Father in heaven sees to that every single day.
Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?”. . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” ( CCC 305)