I have a tattoo. I don’t think I’ve shared that here. It’s on my wrist, as you can see, and it references Deuteronomy 30:14. Last summer, Deuteronomy 30:10-14 was the First Reading one Sunday. On that day, I felt these words of Scripture pierce my heart in a way I never had before. This is the passage in full:
Moses said to the people:
“If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.
“For this command that I enjoin on you todayDeuteronomy 30:10-14
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.”
The last part, about carrying out the commands of God, was what struck me. God’s Will isn’t so far away I have to strive to find it. It is not too mysterious, not some lofty thing I cannot attain. It is already written in my heart. Do I have the courage to carry it out?
So many times in my life I have allowed myself to become trapped by the grandness of God’s plan and how it is too big for me to see my part in. While this is true, God’s ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts, and yes, His grand design for the whole world is beyond my comprehension, that does not mean I don’t know anything at all. I don’t know where God will take me in 10 years, in 5, in tomorrow. What I can know is God’s Will in this present moment. How? Jesus told us in last Sunday’s Gospel reading and in so many other places in the Gospels:
Love your enemies. Love your neighbors. Love yourself. Love God. Act out of love for God. Pray because you love God.
What do you need to do, now, in the present moment? Love. And in the next moment? Love. And in all the moments that follow? Love.
This is HARD! Especially when love looks like cleaning up after a sick child in the middle of the night, or forgiving a colleague for a hurtful comment. Love is sacrifice, love takes courage, love is selfless.
I can give a recent example.
Ben had left for a 3-4 week trip and we were only on day 3. The day Ben left, Nathan (the 1 year old) threw up twice, once in the middle of the night in his bed. He was fine for a day and then was sick again the following. The rest of the kids missed their dad, were tired from a week of school and other activities, and generally needy. Gabriel, the 3 year old, was especially insistent for every moment of my attention he could get. And I just couldn’t take it. I was snappy all morning, harsh when I didn’t need to be, impatient and generally awful. I knew it and I chose to lean into selfishness instead of following Deuteronomy’s advice.
Our big 4 kids had piano practice so they were out of the house for 2 hours. I let Gabe and Nathan watch some Bluey (of course, Bluey!), and I sat down with my coffee. The reality of the morning and my behavior hit me. I was so discouraged. I almost went and got my book to distract myself and get a break from it all.
Then I felt it. The little nudge, the random thought that you don’t know where it came from. “Don’t run away, sit here. Sit here and then do something to make it right.” So I did. It was probably the first moment I truly tried to do God’s Will all day. I sat, and then came the next nudge, “Write to them.” I got out 5 cards and I wrote apology notes to each one of my kids (Nathan excluded, I just gave him extra hugs). I apologized, I asked for forgiveness. I also let them know, according to their ages, how one specific behavior was not helping our family thrive. I asked them to think on it and see if it could be a place to work on. I told them I loved them.
I left the notes on their pillows and went peacefully to read. For about 30 seconds because it was time to turn off Bluey but that’s ok. I had followed God’s Will for those moments, my cup was being filled with grace and His Love.
I’d love to say we had a beautiful day after the kids read their notes. I’d love to say they had marked improvement in behavior, that I was was gracious and gentle from that moment forward. They did not, and I was not. But it was still better. I reigned myself in faster, I spoke more calmly. It was easier to make the right choice faster, even if I initially made the wrong one. I had become more attentive to God’s Will in the present moment because I had practiced it earlier.
I have grown so much in my trust in the Holy Spirit since hearing this reading. It has changed my relationship with God and encouraged me to form a deeper bond with the Holy Spirit. I chose to get the tattoo because I want to keep these words ever present with me, “God’s Will is already in my heart, I have only to carry it out.” This is not a lesson I will ever be done learning.
God has grand designs for each of us. Perhaps we have already seen Him working in our lives, perhaps we are wondering when it will all begin. No matter what God’s larger plans are, His perfect Will for each of our individual moments is the same: Love.
P.S. As a woman and mom, I know I have gotten trapped in the lie that everyone else needs to be served before I can take care of myself. Self-care is a big topic is popular society and it is important. We do need to take care of ourselves, but in a way that does not lead to selfishness or entitlement. It takes practice, it is a work of discernment. If you struggle with the line between no-care, self-care and selfish-care, take it to prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to pay special attention to this area and to inspire you to rest how and when you need to rest, and to recognize when your focus on rest is inhibiting your ability to do God’s Will.