Timing is everything, you know? I went for a walk the other day hoping to find some measure of peace along the way. Though a gentle breeze nudged me forward beneath the beautiful blue sky, I remained restless. When I arrived home I went into the house via our garage. Inside, I passed cardboard boxes I’d accumulated from online purchases. Though I’d never been a fan of internet shopping, COVID-19 has changed that. Because it was a reasonably cool day, I decided to put my nervous energy to good use. Perhaps my delay in recycling those boxes was providential. I’d reaffirm my commitment to purge by purging! I realize that I’ve written about this before and I admit that I haven’t made much progress. This is the reason I told myself, “There’s no time like the present!” I grabbed a box and headed upstairs to tackle my bookcases once again. Though their shelves are no longer overflowing, they are filled to capacity. After making that acknowledgment, I told myself, “Just one more shelf…”
My mood changed as I perused my novels, books on death, dying and the afterlife, inspirational books Mike and our sons have given me over the years, scripture resource books, my high school yearbook, favorite children’s books and an old catechism. I scanned the inspirational books first. Each touched me just as it had the day I received it. Tears formed as I tucked them back onto their shelf. As I picked up my high school yearbook, I wondered how long it had been since I’d read the scrawled messages on its pages: “Stay as great and sincere as you are… Y.C.S. was special because of you, but remember to slow down once in a while… Thanks for handling Sister Syra so well. You got us through Special Chorus… To a great kid… May your positive social deviance continue to change the world…” Of course, I slid my yearbook back onto its shelf.
I’d already decided to keep everything until I picked up that catechism. I might have disposed of it if a holy card stuck between it’s pages hadn’t piqued my interest. That card marked the chapter titled GRACE. I was taught that grace is God’s very life within us. I looked at those shelves full of my books and then upward. I whispered, “Dear God, I’ve met you in every one of them.” My novels renew my empathy for my fellow humans. My books on death, dying and the hereafter sustain my hope. Those children’s books feed my imagination and strengthen my bonds with our grandchildren. The inspirational books from Mike and our sons insist that I’m loved. That yearbook filled with my classmates’ and teachers’ messages testify to the encouragement I’ve received throughout my life. I had to ask, “Dear God, have I thanked you recently for the amazing people who’ve supported me along the way?” I placed that catechism on the shelf with the rest of my books. I looked upward again because I had a few words to add to my prayer: “I didn’t put any books into that box because you continue to touch me through them, especially today. Dear God, your timing is impeccable.”
Though that cardboard box remains empty, my heart is full. I didn’t part with a single book, but I did find what I needed to sooth my spirit and to fill this page. You see, Matthew’s gospel (14:22-33) speaks of God’s impeccable timing and God’s grace as well. God’s grace (God’s very presence!) is always with us and especially when we need God most. This passage begins just after the disciples fed the crowd with the bread and fish Jesus had blessed. Afterward, Jesus went off to be alone. John the Baptist had been murdered and Jesus hadn’t yet had the time to mourn him. Jesus hoped for a few minutes of peace while the disciples set out on their boat. Without warning, a terrible storm engulfed that boat. They’d just experienced another of Jesus’ miracles, yet Jesus was the farthest thing from his friends’ minds. As that perilous storm continued, Jesus set aside his own needs once again to come to their rescue. Jesus walked across those raging waters. Sadly, rather than celebrating Jesus’ intervention, the disciples screamed in fear. They thought Jesus was a ghost! Only Peter, who often relied on his heart more than his head, recognized Jesus. Peter immediately asked Jesus to help him walk through those waves to meet him. Peter stepped off the boat and almost made until he realized what he was doing. Suddenly, Peter focused upon the roaring wind and water rather than upon Jesus and he began to sink. Only when Peter turned back to Jesus and reached for Jesus’ hand was he finally safe.
God’s response to Peter is much like God’s response to us whenever we’re in trouble. Throughout this pandemic and all of the worry which accompanies it, God has been here. As was the case for the disciples in the midst of that storm, God offers a hand with impeccable timing to you and me. Throughout this pandemic and always, God provides moments of safety and moments of grace precisely when they’re needed. Like Peter, all we need to do is to reach for God’s hand along the way.
©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved