Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)


If you have read some of the earlier posts in this blog, you know that I arrived at the grace of consecrated life and vowed celibacy by a route that seemed to be heading anywhere but here. And that’s where today’s reflection begins…with a story about the “old days.”

My late husband and I met in a bar where I had gone to relax with a couple of drinks after working all day on a Saturday, and where he was hanging out with his sister and another friend. After the whole “eyes meeting across a crowded bar” thing, and enough conversation for each of us to be fairly sure that (a) the attraction was mutual and (b) neither of us was an axe murderer, we decided to head downtown to a night club where I knew the band members and we could dance to some good music.

Off we went, and we danced until the club closed. We danced fast and we danced slow, and sometimes we danced like nobody was watching. We headed out for breakfast, preceded and followed by a couple of pretty heavy makeout sessions, and we talked and talked. And from that day on, for the rest of his life, we either saw each other or talked by phone every single day.

The thing that never happened again was the dancing – the enchanted and enchanting moments of being completely tuned in to each other’s rhythms and cadences went, I supposed, to other parts of our lives, but when it came to going out to places with music, we just couldn’t seem to get it right. We simply couldn’t agree on how to be together on a dance floor, even though everything else in our lives at that time was a great fit.

I don’t think we ever talked about it much, but we were both a little disappointed that what first brought us together and seemed so wonderful just never worked for us again in our lives.

The problem we had was expectations. He expected me to dance the way he did, and I expected him to appreciate my uninhibited style. And neither of us fully realized that most of what had made the dancing so much fun that first night was some combination of the newness of everything, the intensity of a budding relationship and “love at first sight,” and the amount of alcohol we had consumed. Somehow, along the way and through our 20 years together, we figured out how to do the work that made our lives together satisfying and happy.

Sometimes, we let expectations get in the way of our spiritual life as well. How often do we get caught up in the newness of our joyful experiences in prayer, the intensity of emotion, the fulness of joy and peace – and then we expect every experience afterward to be full of the same intensity. When it isn’t, we are disappointed. Drunk on that first experience of completely natural joy, we try to make our future moments of encounter fit that same mold, and we thus limit our experiences. We get so busy trying to find the intensity that we lose sight of the source. And we get so tied up in thinking that the intensity is the goal, when in reality what Jesus wants with us is to do the work – with him! – that makes it all good.

I’m not at all sure Tom and I would have survived together had the intensity of our night of dancing continued. And likewise, I’m not sure our relationship with Jesus can survive if we value and expect only the moments of intensity and fervor. Our relationship with Jesus thrives on walking with him through the ordinary everyday experiences and encounters of our lives, turning to him in each of them to ask: How shall I love you and serve you in this, Jesus? It thrives on walking with him through difficult times, turning to him to say: Jesus, I trust in you. I trust you completely because I know you love me completely. It thrives, to be sure, on thanking him for the moments of ecstasy, but it thrives even more on thanking him for those moments that remind us that we need him.

Am I comparing a human relationship to the relationship I have with Jesus? Yes – because our God-given human context is the way he provides for us to understand a little better those things that He can’t yet reveal fully to us. It is good for me to remember that he wants me to use every circumstance of my life to understand him better, know him better, and love him better.

I can, I must, I will live with that.

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