August 7, 2020

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Life’s challenges remind us ‘time’ is a gift from God

Patti LambRecently, I was reminded of an important lesson about time. At this point in my life, I should understand that God’s timing is always perfect. But the human side of me is impatient, desiring prayers answered on my timeline.

An early-morning walk with my friend, Jennifer, illustrated this in a way that made me reconsider how I was looking at time. When we met to walk the trails near her neighborhood, she asked for an update on our house.

We sold our home a few months ago and have been waiting to move into our new place. Unfortunately, we’ve met with repeated delays, disappointments and some seemingly deceptive “bait-and-switch” tactics from the builder. I vented to my friend about how the builder promised one thing, and then delivered something different.

I complained that our move-in date couldn’t come soon enough, and harshly stated that each additional week they pushed the closing back felt like an eternity. I’d soon eat those words.

Jennifer kindly listened to my diatribe and empathized with my situation.

Next, I turned the conversation to her. I asked for updates on her family. Did her daughter pursue becoming a resident advisor on her college campus in the fall? What succulent dish did her husband make recently with his smoker? How is working remotely going with her new job?

“Well, my news isn’t good,” she said. She went on to share that her mother had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Surgery didn’t prove effective, and her mother—given her age—wished to be comfortable at home without further treatment. She rejoiced over the wonderful medical staff, and the exceptional care they are providing to her mother.

Jennifer explained to me that she plans to treasure each moment spent with her mom. She talked about some things that she and her siblings would do with her mom, when her mother was having days good enough to engage with family.

“God’s timeline,” she added.

In that moment, my friend helped me to do something she has a knack for— deliberately viewing life through a lens of wisdom and faith.

A verse from Psalm 90 came to mind: “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Ps 90:12).

Here I was fussing over minor inconveniences and wishing time away so that we could move in already. Instead, I should be appreciating each season and each moment, present to God and to others. I was embarrassed that I had been viewing time in the opposite manner as my friend. I was wanting to hit “fast forward” and Jennifer was cherishing each day.

I fondly recall a story my friend Father Bob Gilday recounted from a homily by Cardinal John Wright in 1972. I’m paraphrasing, but the cardinal posed this question to a group of seminarians: “If the plane goes down on the way back to the U.S. from Rome after your ordination, would you feel that your life had been wasted since you prepared for years to be a priest and life would end before you could serve as one? If so, then you haven’t understood or lived life well.” He implied that their lives would have significance anyway, even if they never achieved their goal.

I need to stop with statements like, “I’ll be happy when …,” and appreciate the present in whatever form it takes. I’ll try to do better at seeing time as a gift from God, and an opportunity to love and serve those he’s placed around me.

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

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