God writes straight with crooked lines
We are, of course, generally impatient to reach the solution, whether the solution is a medical cure, a new flowerbed, a home renovation project, or a completed crossword grid. Many of us, if not most, like completion. It’s probably always been this way, but the internet age has sharpened our appetite for instant solutions. If I can just Google the best design or the correct phrase!
We are forever searching for the immediate solution to our personal and social woes. We are not stupid, so we know that there are not usually instant solutions that can be fully trusted. But we live in hope.
Our Gospel once again evokes images of weeds and seeds and yeast, reminding us of what happens when we are sleeping. One of the clearest truths about such imagery is that there is a reminder about the place of patience. We all know the need to be patient and persevering, to take the long view. We know this truth, but we often live as if there will be an exception this time, that we will wake up and everything will be made well.
I’ve always thought of the wisdom behind a teaching offered by Young Drivers of Canada when I was learning to drive in the 1960s: “Get the big picture.” The value of a driver following that wisdom is that not much will be missed and we will see potential issues before they actually occur. And it is imperative that I be on top of what is happening with the other passengers and my personal concentration. You have an awareness of what is seen in the rear view mirror, what is seen to your right and left, and what is happening with the various instruments on the panel.
That seemingly simple imperative covers a multitude of life situations at home or in the workplace: handling a vehicle, running a classroom or a group meeting, organizing an event or being a parent. It helps to pull back and grasp the big picture.
There is a Portuguese proverb that reminds us that God writes straight with crooked lines. It is not usual to pass through life in a linear trajectory, going from success to success, always at the top of our game. The usual path of our life is more similar to a roller coaster with ups and downs, some gentle paths and some more erratic periods.
If we step back and see the long view and the big picture, we have the possibility of recognizing the Divine presence in the diverse movements of life. That takes careful discernment.
We likely know the simple reminders from spiritual writers such as the contemplative writer Thomas Merton and the martyr Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and the Jesuit scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. They are worth remembering. Take a closer look at the context for each quote. They are easily Googled.
Many a praying person has been consoled by Merton’s words. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.”
Romero’s words are helpful for those who can be impatient to solve intractable social issues: “It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. … We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted. We lay foundations that will need further development.”
de Chardin speaks of patient trust in the face of the slow work of God. “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages.”
The prayers of these spiritual giants have taken many of us closer to a desire for God. One or more of these generally speak to a person who is praying. We all have our favourite spiritual writings. Remind yourself why your favourite is so important for you and allow it to serve as a mantra today.