By Anne Carraux
By the time you read this July blog, it will be the thick of summer vacation in Minnesota. In Minnesota, we brace ourselves physically for the onslaught of cold for such a vast majority of the year that summer is the time we let loose with joy and a bit of indulgence. We pour our money into garden centers just to relish the 10 weeks we can grow plants. We get out on our 10,000 lakes and let the sun beat its rays into us until the mosquitos set in at dusk. We seep up the enjoyment of life and wish the time of bliss could go on forever.
In today’s gospel from Mark, we hear the message that might contradict our summer guacamole feasting, though; a message whereby God instructs us on His great mission for us as his disciples. I remember hearing this call as a teen and wondering, how literally does God want us to take this radical message? Do we really need to leave all our comforts behind in taking up His mission?
A few things really resonate from this gospel with my life experience.
God wants us to know we don’t need a back-up plan on His team. Leaving comforts behind (extra tunic, bread, etc.) is a symbol in this Gospel for giving control back to God.
Radically counter-culture as this may sound, it is also so freeing to know that God’s plan for us does not require our knowledge of the 10-year vision. God is our loving Father, always ready to meet us in prayer and discern about the next moment in our life. We don’t need our plan when we take a step back and realize His vision is greater.
While I might be able to get on board with this idea philosophically, it can be so much more difficult for us to internalize the message in our daily trials. In my life, one of the most poignant examples of this has been the idea of planning our family size in marriage. Right out of the gate nine months after our honeymoon, my husband and I welcomed our first beautiful son. In the next 24 months, we also welcomed a beautiful daughter and then another amazing son. You read the math on that right—-three babies in three years.
Much as the joys of coos and the scent of Johnson’s baby lotion gave salve to our work, my husband and I were overwhelmed with early family life. We were largely inexperienced in raising kids, and yet each day seemed to bring a new stage—potty training, meltdowns, sleep training—that required more than we felt we had to give. I was desperate. I told my husband our family couldn’t grow anymore. Three was enough, I said. Our hands were full.
I have learned so much from my husband in my life, and I look back to this stage now and thank God for my husband’s deep faith. Despite our desperation and my pleading need to control this area of life, my husband knew that God had the right plan for us. He trusted in the wisdom of the Church, which called us toward Natural Family Planning instead of sterilization, which to me seemed the only answer in my desperation.
It wasn’t easy to trust in God, but together, we did.
Four years after the time of raising three babies in tandem, life looked different than I had imagined it could. Our family had settled into a less desperate but still busy pace, and I knew a few more things about the stages of raising children. Sending kids to school also brought our family much needed role models and structure, and we developed a community and friendship with other parents which made our family stage of life more beautiful and less isolating.
We were overjoyed to learn another child, another son, was on the way.
As is always the case when a family welcomes a child, we can’t really look back to a time when we thought our home would be complete without this son. He brings so much laughter into our walls. He is about to finish up kindergarten as I write these words, and has been carrying his first yearbook everywhere in the house for 24 hours. Our whole family marvels at the way he sees the world, and God’s blessing in this gift of a son counters unequivocally the “right plan” that I stubbornly wanted 10 years ago.
Mark’s gospel message brings more than just this relinquish control theme, but to me, this is one theme to bring deeply and repeatedly into prayer life. How is God calling you to go forward as a disciple and let go of your plan for life? In what area is He quietly whispering to you that He has a greater path in mind?
This week, I encourage you to bring that to prayer—–on your own, perhaps with a friend, or perhaps with a spouse. The other joy here is that He doesn’t call us to go it alone.
God bless. Anne
About the author:
Anne Carraux married her college sweetheart and together they embarked on a journey of raising four exuberant children in Chaska, MN. Writing mostly in prayer and to make sense of her journey, Anne hopes her words help readers keep looking toward God, especially when it comes to living joyfully with faith. When not potty training or doing stress-maintenance in group exercise, you might find Anne hanging out in the sunshine with a good book.