Previously I have written that for several years the Lord has placed a vague but efficacious prayer in my heart: Reveal. Whenever confusion reigns in a personal, social or even international situation, I find my heart offering a now familiar refrain: Reveal. In this one-word prayer, the Lord stirs up my spirit to intercede on behalf of truth, knowledge, wisdom and understanding, that these gifts may overcome any dark and cloudy situation with His light.
At times the light He gives is searing and painful, like hot sun on already burnt skin. Other times it is a single glowing candle showing beauty where I had only seen ashes. Quite often it is a simple, 100-watt bulb illuminating the truth of what I had been blind to, didn’t want to see, or somehow deceived myself into not recognizing. Always it is grace: grace to make a change and align my sight and actions up with His truth.
In the Gospel for a recent daily Mass we read the story of the blind beggar, where our Lord responds to his plea for help:
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 18:42)
It seems that this is something He longs to repeat to each of us, in answer to many of our prayers not only for help, but for understanding and a way forward out of the mire that can overtake our lives.
My Friend’s Spiritual Director Is My Spiritual Director
When you are blessed to have a close, spiritual friend you share so much more than simply the passing events of your lives. The connection of the Spirit allows you to share your journey with Jesus and to help each other along that journey. One such dear friend of mine and I often discuss what our spiritual directors teach us. It’s like the best kind of two-for-one sale! The wisdom I receive from my director, I share with her. The wisdom she receives from hers, she shares with me. It is much more than just sharing tidbits or knowledge; it is a grace of the friendship the Lord has given us. So often when we learn something from our director, we immediately know it is not just for us; it is a gift to share with our friend.
Recently, my dear friend relayed the recent events in an ongoing struggle she had been living with, suffering through, trying to figure out to the best of her ability. Her director then uttered a few simple, bombshell words that have changed the way she and I both process long-term struggles: acceptance, gratitude and freedom.
When the Lord reveals an issue, problem, or area that needs to be changed in our lives, we have to decide what to do with the revelation. We have to, as the blind beggar did, attach our faith to our problem and move forward. The Lord is with us, right there next to us, in all of our problems and struggles, but He requires that we cooperate with His saving work by engaging our faith with real ways, practical actions: acceptance and gratitude.
The first action we take to engage our faith is through acceptance of the truth God has revealed. One important example of this in my life has been in regard to relationships with difficult people. If God has revealed to me that I am having problems with a particular person because I am not seeing the person for who they are, but insisting on seeing them for who I want them to be, acceptance is what is needed.
God has revealed an important truth. I need to engage my faith by accepting that truth. I cannot change or control people. I can only love them and change and control myself. I need to realistically accept people without any varnish or paint or any such contrivance. When I fail to see the truth about a person, I am choosing to live in a cognitive dissonance, pushing down a bump in the mattress that will only pop out elsewhere. When I seek to explain away someone’s flaws or behavior, I put the onus on myself to contort my thinking and behavior around theirs in order to get the outcome I am hoping for, but that just isn’t in them. When I fail to see the truth about someone, I am setting myself up for repeated disappointment at best and abuse at worst.
In accepting the truth that God has revealed to me, I can move forward by changing my own expectations. Perhaps necessary boundaries will need to be put in place. Perhaps difficult discussions will need to be had. Continued prayer based on this grace of revelation, yoked to our act of faith in the form of acceptance will show us the next steps to take.
Once I have walked in this grace of revelation, through the faith-action of acceptance, the next step toward freedom is gratitude. What? I’m supposed to be grateful for this cantankerous, hurtful soul in my life, for this all-encompassing problem or trial? Well, not quite, but, yes! This comes to the heart of our faith, to our belief in the redemptive value of suffering and to our need to love the unlovely. Most of all, gratitude brings us face to face with our need to trust that God’s most perfect and holy will is active in every aspect of our lives, even and especially in the disagreeable aspects. We need to be grateful for what He is revealing to us. We also need to be grateful for the grace He gives to adjust our own thoughts and behavior. These adjustments will bring us to a place of true spiritual freedom. God willing, this freedom may be from a problem, as with our blind beggar. Often the grace of freedom is not from the problem, but through the problem. Often the grace of freedom is the continued acceptance of and gratitude for the problem, and how God is using it to draw us nearer to Him, to remake us in His own image.
This type of gratitude says, “Thank you, Lord, for the good things in this person that allow me to continue to see You in them, in the midst of their unkind actions.” This type of gratitude says, “It is a blessing you have given us, Lord, to be able to work through this problem with my child, which I did not know he was having, before it became a true bondage in his life.” This type of gratitude says, “You are so good to me, Lord, in knocking me off of my horse in thinking that I was right about this argument I was having with my husband. I see clearly now how stubborn and wrong I was.” Most of all, this type of gratitude says, “I accept this truth that you have revealed, Lord, because you love me and you know what is best for me in the long run, and for eternity.”
Yoked to Jesus in these small and large revelations of our lives, we offer our little works of acceptance and gratitude. Faithfully doing this, we will find ourselves in an area of freedom, either from or in the midst of our problem. We will continually need to yoke ourselves to Jesus with our little acts of acceptance-faith and gratitude-faith, even when we have reached an area of freedom. Practice makes perfect. Practice acceptance for perfect acceptance. Practice gratitude for perfect gratitude. Practice freedom for perfect freedom. It is not about feeling these gifts, but practicing them. The feelings will come. They are fruits of the Holy Spirit’s work in you in these areas. Your cooperation, your practice is required.
Pray. Have Faith. Repeat.
Jesus reveals truths to us in our families when we pray for it. In the same way we will receive acceptance, gratitude and ultimately freedom when we pray for it. As with the blind beggar, we can hear:
Have revelation; your faith has saved you.
Have acceptance; your faith has saved you.
Have gratitude; your faith has saved you.
Have freedom; your faith has saved you.
Revelation, acceptance, gratitude, freedom. Repeat. Yes, repeat. So much of the Christian life is about repeat. Because this is difficult, and many problems, especially family problems, are “knotty” and involved, we cannot do this on our own. Ever our perfect companion, the Blessed Mother will gladly help us to remain yoked to her Son in this long-suffering work. This linear progressive prayer of Revelation, Acceptance, Gratitude and Freedom seems a tailor-made work for the assistance of our Lady under the title “Undoer of Knots.” Perhaps the Lord has given us freedom in one area of our family knot-ball, but we know there is much more work to be done. We can repeat the process under the patronage of Our Lady as Undoer of Knots, trusting her to know just which knot to start loosening next. As she loosens each knot, our Lord reveals, and we are off again, to deeper acceptance, gratitude and freedom. Thanks be to God and to our Lady.
Our Lady Undoer of Knots, pray for us. Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen. – Pope Francis’ Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots