At the time we had one of those cars that choked when the temperature went above 90 or lower than 30 degrees. That Monday, it finally did start after four sputtering attempts. Therese made it to the tiny parking lot behind the bank. But no empty spaces! That meant a thirty-minute parking meter in the municipal lot four blocks away. If she walked fast, she would only be a few minutes late for work… Until she opened the door and found seven people waiting in the customer service line as one frustrated teller kept repeating instructions to a frail old woman who was buying several money orders. Therese would definitely be late for work, with the bonus of a parking ticket. She was ready to launch out into full-scale complaining.
WHO NEEDS THIS?
“Who needs this kind of grief?” She muttered to herself and to God all at once.
If St. Paul had been the ninth person in line at the bank, he might have answered, “You do!” His second epistle to the Corinthians (7:5-13) offers us a choice between worldly grief that leads to death, and godly grief that leads to repentance and faith. Standing behind him are centuries of psalmists who called out to God in laments.
Therese writes, “At that moment I had a choice. I was free to turn to Jesus with St. Paul and all the psalmists. I was free to offer myself and my complaints to the Lord, turning them into a holy sacrifice, instead of fuming until my blood pressure soared.” Jesus himself chose excruciating pain, thirst, and feelings of rejection, as he prayed Psalm 22.
GROANING AND GRIEVING
“My God, my God, why have you deserted me? How far from saving me, the words I groan!” He used this Psalm 22 to describe exactly what he was experiencing to his Father, then he moved forward in godly grief. “Oh my strength, come to me quickly… You are the theme of my praise in the Great Assembly.” Another example is Psalm 139 that portrays a feverish mind riddled with doubts and anguish moving toward awe and trust.
The little band of people waiting at the bank had a very small share in the human experience of grieving. Perhaps you have mourned over grey hairs, bad weather, lost sleep, the price of beef,or a death. Such losses, however serious, can set us back, or move us forward in faith.
THE HOLY SPIRIT MOVES
The Spirit of God can gently touch a grieving heart, moving it from self-absorption into calling upon God. The Holy Spirit knows our needs and can nudge us to view things through God’s eyes. Praying through our complaints creates “a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.” (Romans 12:2) This sacrifice literally becomes an opportunity to “make holy,” to bless my car, the bank, and the old woman with the money orders.
Therese had this opportunity when the frail old woman sneezed. “God bless you!” Therese replied. “Amen!” said banking customer three. “Alleluia!” came from customer five. So turn to God with your complaints. And when this is too difficult, turn to a friend. Explain your needs, without blaming anyone. Ask that friend say a prayer with you, remembering, that some people are evangelized through helping others.