Today the Lord invites us to assume an attitude of humble listening and docile waiting, because the grace of God often presents itself to us in surprising ways, which don’t line up with our expectations.
—Pope Francis, July 8, 2018
I am most aware of God’s handiwork in my day when I remember Pope Francis’s advice to let God surprise us. So, when he revisited this theme last month, it renewed my resolve to step back and loosen my grip on the reigns. I said, “OK, God, surprise me!”
I have been praying for healing for an injury that has sidelined me for over a year. Multiple treatments still haven’t fully healed the issue. It’s been so painful and frustrating that I even looked at airline tickets to Lourdes. I saw a rosary with Lourdes water that I wanted to order but held off.
Lourdes was on my mind again when, before retiring for the night, I picked a book off my nightstand: In the Arms of Angels by Joan Wester Anderson. I opened to the fascinating story of Rita McLaughlin. Rita entered a convent at the age of 15 and loved being a nun. At 23, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. After 13 years in the convent, she left, due in large part to the MS. Her illness went into remission, and she married. After some years, though, her symptoms returned with a vengeance, and she rapidly became so ill she couldn’t stand or even hold a pen. She was angry with God and found it difficult to trust God again. She desperately wanted to be healed but just kept getting sicker. She thought about going to Medjugorje to seek a miracle. One night, as she was falling to sleep, she heard a voice say, “Why don’t you ask?” So, she asked God to heal her. As Rita slept, she was healed, and her MS went into remission for the rest of her life.
Closing the book, I decided to just ask too: “Lord, please heal me. I want to be fully healed.”
I woke up wondering if, like Rita, I would be all better. Not yet.
My friend called that morning and said, “My mom got something for you, and I keep forgetting to give it to you. She keeps asking me to give it to you, so I had better get it to you soon.” That afternoon, she came over and handed me a blue, velvet box. Inside was the rosary containing Lourdes water that I had wanted to order.
I was stunned. I told my friend how I had wanted that particular rosary and about my thoughts of going to Lourdes. I thought about how the water from Lourdes came to me in the rosary and remembered how Rita didn’t have to go anywhere to be healed. Pope Francis’s words came to mind: “Let God surprise you!”
Riding the high of that encounter, I ran into a neighbor outside. This neighbor was moving and offered me a tall lamp. I gratefully accepted. I had been wanting a lamp to go behind my prayer chair. I was thinking it would be nice if it matched the unusual, grey-green color of the chair. This lamp not only would fit perfectly in the space, it matched the chair.
On my way into the house, I grabbed my mail. Junk mail. Bills. Tax refund! I needed funds for another upcoming medical treatment for the injury. The refund was enough to cover the treatment.
Standing there, I had the distinct feeling of riding a wave—that thrilling feeling when you have no control but are really enjoying the ride—the wave of God’s surprises. Throughout the day, God had worked through people who had no idea they were participants in God’s handiwork. And, thanks to Pope Francis, I had remembered to get out of God’s way and let God surprise me.
What if I did that every day?
What if we all did that every day? How would God surprise us?