By Julie Lazanich
The constant ring of a cell phone. The buzz of another email coming in. A knock at the door. The clatter of my life seems incessant at times. Silence seems like a rare gift that I don’t even know what to do with when it comes my way.
I used to think I could only hear God in the silence, when I was focused on being present with Him.
These intimate, set aside prayer times would be the foundation for my fruitful faith life.
But the more I tried to “make time,” the more I realized God wants to meet me where I am. He’s not just interested in the quiet spaces of my life; He’s there when I’m on the go, hectic, with a double espresso in hand.
So with this newfound awareness, I was going to try to be cognizant of deepening my communion with God throughout the day. Pray without ceasing, right? Say grace before meals, a quick prayer of gratitude as I hit every green light, forgive and forget quickly. This isn’t so hard. But then, my phone rings. I’m distracted from my routine.
So much for my own little prayer bubble – I’ve been sidelined.
I think many of us can recognize these situations in our own lives. Or in the context of today’s Gospel, can identify a person that closely reminds us of the inopportune friend.
It’s midnight, but here they are at my door, in my emails, or on my phone, begging me to answer. They’re asking me to get up from my comfortable bed or routine to help them. Luke compassionately calls these people persistent. My words aren’t so kind.
But what really comes to mind when I think about these times or these people? Sandpaper. Sandpaper rubs away at something until all that’s left is raw. It’s a painfully slow process and the work that goes into it is unavoidable. Sandpaper people and situations are very similar. They are the individuals we can’t get away from – a family member, colleague, or neighbor. It’s the situations that that we can’t escape ownership of like toxic living environments or debt. We’re trapped and being rubbed the wrong way.
But God hasn’t promised us a comfortable life.
He has promised to make us strong when we are weak. Even when it seems we are at our breaking points, or someone of some situation is causing suffering, He remains devoted to forming His character within us.
“Sandpaper people and situations are grindstones. Whether they grind us down or polish us up depends on what we are made of,” says author Mary Southerland (Sandpaper People).
I used to make myself feel better by assuming that God was just having an off day when He let these situations happen or created these people. I prayed that God would change my sandpaper people, reshape their attitudes, and just take away their suffering so I would stop having to hear about it. God only gives you what you can handle? Well apparently these people got too much. God got it wrong.
But then it hit me. It’s not the sandpaper itself that causes the abrasion. It’s the sander. It’s me.
Luke sets out a simple formula in today’s Gospel --- ask, seek, knock.
I was asking God to do what I thought was best. I was seeking conversion for a sandpaper person and relief from draining situations. I was the annoying knocker, insistent that I could make it right. “Hello, God!” Knock, knock, knock. “Hello, God!” Ring, ring, ring. “You’re doing it wrong!”
It turns out I didn’t need the silence of a set aside prayer time to learn something important about my faith. I needed to listen to the voice of God in the midst of all the noise in my life. To respond with grace and humility. To listen empathetically and recognize the brokenness that a sandpaper person or situation might be masking.
My relationship with God exists because He continually overlooks my shortcomings, yet here I was unable to overlook the flaws of others.
I told myself to be tougher in order to take the scrapping of the sandpaper from the situations and people around me, but what I actually needed was more tenderness.
He was reaching out to me in the middle of the night. At my door. Through my phone. And I needed to answer His call.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie is a recent grad of John Carroll University and has just started a research position at Jones Day law firm downtown. Aside from working 9-5, she spends her time with those that make her laugh most, especially her almost one year old, Carter James. Julie enjoys making sure others know how much they're loved and is always trying to spread God's gift of joy around. This may often include wine, sunshine, tacos, hot dogs, and replays of Lebron's legendary Game 7 block.