April 5, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Cling to Easter’s promise in life’s difficult moments

Patti LambI know a soul who is being followed by a dark cloud, so to speak.

She has seen far too many of life’s storms, and she is undeserving of such hardship.

I knew I’d run into her eventually, so I kept trying to think of something helpful and witty to say that would provide encouragement when our paths finally crossed.

At first, I wanted to keep it lighthearted, and I decided to remind her of the sage advice of Dory the fish in the movie Finding Nemo. That advice for troubled waters was simple: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” It’s pretty practical and sound guidance—if you’re a fish.

I thought I’d better brainstorm beyond a Disney movie.

So I turned to country music, where some nuggets of wisdom can occasionally be found. There are song lyrics by Rascal Flatts that say: “If you’re going through hell, keep on going. Don’t slow down. … You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.”

I wasn’t sure if this woman was hip to country tunes, so I opted not to play that card.

Then I thought back to a time when my dad offered me some helpful instruction. It was years ago when I was at my wit’s end, and I didn’t know how I was going to endure a particularly undesirable situation.

His message was elementary, but it was right on the mark. “Take one day at a time,” he said.

He quickly realized, however, that even 24 hours might be too big of a chunk for my worried mind. So he tweaked his advice and said, “Better yet, take one minute at a time and ask God for the strength to get through that minute.”

He told me that this minute—right now—is where I am so I shouldn’t give thought to what lies ahead or behind.

Instead, I should invite God into the moment, and his grace would see me through. When taken minute by minute, the situation seemed slightly more bearable. And it helped me to focus on the only thing I can really influence, which is the present.

My dad’s words reminded me of a plaque I once read that said, “Even the darkest hour has only 60 minutes.”

He then pointed out that God has given all of us a “Simon.” Dad was referring to St. Simon of Cyrene, who was pulled out of the crowd by the Romans to help Jesus carry his cross on the road to Calvary.

He said that I could call upon someone around me to act as my own Simon and help me shoulder my burdens. In his humanity, Jesus fell three times while carrying the cross. I view Simon’s participation on Good Friday as evidence that God doesn’t want anyone to carry his or her cross alone. We should do our parts to act as Simon to those around us who struggle. Opportunities abound in today’s troubled world.

Regarding the woman I mentioned at the beginning of this story, I never found a clever way to dispense my sincere encouragement or my dad’s helpful advice. All of our interactions were in brief passing.

So I mailed her an Easter card that said it for me. Inside, the card read: “May you experience the profound joy of Easter. Just as we share in Christ’s suffering, we also share in his resurrection. In difficult moments, remember the hope of all things being made new and right and beautiful. Cling to Easter’s promise.”

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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