Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It’s Not Hopeless

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” Jeremiah 29: 11

Every night at dinner when my family prays grace, in addition to saying the formal grace before meals prayer, we go around and everyone says a prayer of thanksgiving. And my 3 year old son Benny always goes first. I think he is going to grow-up to be a preacher because his prayers are sincere, but long. He normally begins with “Thank you Jesus…” and then he follows with a litany of thank you’s for the yummy food, his family, that everyone loves him, that he loves everyone, that he loves the whole world…but then about this time each night recently he’s been adding, “except I don’t love dragons and monsters and bad guys.” Or some variation of this.

So the other night he is going strong and gets to the part about monsters and bad guys and then concludes with “…and thank you Jesus it’s not hopeless. Amen” Of course we all stopped and kind of looked at him, not sure we and heard him correctly. And so I asked him what he just prayed and he sighed and said with a little frustration, “Daddy, it’s not hopeless.”

Now I don’t know what is exactly going through his little brain and I’m not sure why all of a sudden he has been having some kind of fear or concern about monsters and dragons and bad guys. But I think Benny expressed the way a lot of us feel about life: we live in fears and doubts, especially young people, and perhaps even more acutely when we think of our futures. But despite his little fears and fantasies going on in his head, Benny got it right and he offers this profound lesson to all of us today: “It’s not hopeless”. Benny illustrates the childlike faith that each of us must have as we walk this earth. What he doesn’t even realize yet is that the monsters and dragons and bad guys are real and they get scarier as you get older and know more about the world. And even without the “monsters”, there are bills, health issues, peer pressures, broken families and all kinds of situations that flow in and out of our lives from day to day that can leave us feeling hopeless. But I think if at the end of the day we can confront our fears, disappointments and tragedies and say “It’s not hopeless”, then we will be OK.

How can we do this? St. Catherine of Siena put it well when she said, “There is only one thing to do, then, and that is to invest our affection, our desire, our love in something stronger than ourselves—I mean God, the source of all strength. He is our God who loved us without being loved..[we] have no fear because it is not in [ourselves] that [we] trust. No, all [our] faith and trust is in God, whom [we] love, because [we] see that he is strong, and that he is willing and able to help [us].”

If we invest our affections desires and love in Jesus instead of ourselves, others or things, then no matter what life throws at us, we can live free from fear and despair with the confidence and hopefulness of a three year old.

Dear Jesus, I want to have a childlike trust and hope in You. Give me the grace to let go of my fears and doubts and cling to You above all else. Amen.

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