ColumnsNaming Grace

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts’

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

As young mothers, we often rose early to hit the pavement for two miles before the chaos began. Mostly our conversations centered on raising our children and the day’s events, but this particular fall season was different. Morning after morning, as the crisp autumn leaves swirled around our tennis shoes, our thoughts and conversations turned toward death. A good friend’s young child had died recently, and we had witnessed the grief of lowering a small casket into the earth. We wrestled with the meaning of it all. Why would God allow such pain in the world? Why would God present the gift of a beautiful child, only to snatch him away? How does one trust again after such a blow? Why? Why? Why? The questioning was sincere, but endless and exhausting. We were stymied. Then one morning as we were bundled up for the chill of November’s wind and snowflakes began to descend, we laid down our doubts and simply surrendered. “It’s a mystery. We will never be able to figure this out. We are called to simply trust our loving, merciful God.”

In this Sunday’s readings, Isaiah speaks of God’s grandeur, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” In the Gospel, we are confronted with God’s inconceivable love and mercy. Who can fathom a love that forgives infinitely, sacrifices totally, and pours out generously—for tireless workers and stragglers? For saints and sinners? For you and me? Clearly, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.

God’s thoughts and ways are as far beyond us as our thoughts and ways are from our children. As Elin delights in the colorful foliage, she’s incapable of understanding why she may not rush into the street to catch the red, yellow and brown leaves floating to the ground. At two years old, she must learn to simply trust in her mother’s merciful commands. When Freddy requests a cell phone because everyone in his class is on Facebook, he’s incapable of grasping the possible consequences of engaging in social media. At 12, he must learn to surrender to his parents’ loving command.

Likewise, when a child breaks a valuable item and receives forgiveness instead of harsh punishment, he experiences God’s merciful presence—grace—and begins to understand God’s compassion. When a family works all day raking leaves and “Johnny come lately” finally shows up to help for a few minutes, he is still welcomed to join the family for pizza and monopoly, and all begin to experience God’s generosity.

God’s thoughts, ways, commands, love and mercy are incomprehensible—beyond our ability to grasp. But as we surrender in faith, we will be able to trust in God’s goodness and infinite love in even the darkest moments, for “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Now, that’s good news!

How will you teach your child of God’s incomprehensible ways?

What have you surrendered to trust in God’s ways?