Monday, December 9, 2013

Mary's To-Do List

Unexpected.  That was a key word in the homily yesterday at church. Not surprising, since Advent is a season of expectation, and today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I can't think of anything more unexpected than being visited by an angel and being told I would bear the son of God. Talk about a game changer.
Did you ever wonder what was on Mary's to-do list that day? Was it an ordinary day like any other? Was she feeling overwhelmed even before an angel showed up to deliver news that would rock her world -- and ours? What would have happened if instead of accepting God's plan for her, she'd have said, "Really? Pregnant? Gee, I don't think I have time for that in my schedule. Thanks, but no thanks."

I'm sure I'm not the first person to raise these questions (and I apologize to anyone I've offended by the way I've phrased my own wonderings), but yesterday's homily has me thinking about them again today in a very real, human way. (Father Jim's homilies tend to have that effect on me).

Every day, we deal with the unexpected. Snow that wasn't supposed to slow traffic to a dangerous crawl. Two hour delays (or school closings) that require us to shift our plans so that everyone gets where they need to be. Illnesses. Cars that won't start. Paperwork that needs to be redone. Plans that fall apart. The minor annoyances and inconveniences in life.

Do we handle them with grace? Do we moan and groan and think, "Why me? Why today?" Do we dig our heels in and refuse to adjust, making life more unpleasant for everyone around us?

I know that Father Jim raised some of these questions yesterday, and unfortunately, I'm not sure where his musings end and mine begin, because (as you can probably tell) his words hit home for me. Some days, I handle these things with grace. I shrug or smile and adjust my plans because that's the gracious, grown-up thing to do. I trust that God has a plan for my day, and recognize that my plans need to be subordinate to His.

Other days, I'm tempted to throw a temper tantrum that would make a two-year-old stare at me in incredulous envy.

I try to do more of the former than the latter, but honestly, it's a struggle sometimes. I wish I could say that I reserve my meltdowns for enormous impacts -- death and taxes, if you will -- but the truth is, it's usually something little that sets me off. I have a tendency to say yes to too many things, to pack my schedule with too many tasks, to forget to build wiggle room into my to-do list. And then when everything converges...well, let's just say I lack Mary's grace.

And that, I think, is what Father Jim wanted us to think about yesterday. How do we handle the unexpected? What do we do when our plans go awry? Do we insist on staying the course and powering through? Do we take a step back and reassess? Do we shrug and smile, or do we moan and groan?

I'm tempted to end this blog with some neat resolution to try to do better during this season of expectation and anticipation. To try to be more like Mary and less like Martha (but that's another story). But all of that is old news. I've made those resolutions before. And I'm better at keeping them some days than others.

Maybe what I need to remember is that it's not about what I'm going to do. Maybe what's important to remember here is that faith is the fuel for grace.

Definitely something to contemplate. Thanks, Father Jim.

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