Searching for Answers
I have been blessed in many ways. One of the blessings I particularly cherish is that my many nieces , nephews, and younger cousins have welcomed me as a “friend” on Facebook. I’m from a large family and married into a large family, both with overlapping generations, so there are many teens and young adults, some with very young children, as well as my siblings and their spouses and even my parents, who communicate regularly through Facebook.
Periodically, there’ll be an entry such as “X is trying to figure it out” or “Y is looking for the answer” or “Z doesn’t know what to do.” (Substitute a person’s name for the X, Y or Z.) My heart always goes out to that person who is struggling with these great questions that have arisen throughout human history. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do in this life? Where do I go next? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there meaning to it all?
Particularly in difficult economic times, these questions come to the fore and seem to have no good answers. Folks who have “followed the rules,” saved for their retirement, lived frugally, given generously to those in need, never asked for a “hand-out,” suddenly find that their savings have dropped in value, costs have risen dramatically, and the social safety net has developed enormous holes. Illnesses come unexpectedly. Jobs are lost. Children need help getting started. The old answers no longer seem relevant. And that’s just what we of the middle-aged and older generations are experiencing! For those just getting started, it can be a frightening time.
So … what reassurance and advice can I give them?
Often the glib or joking answers come to mind first. “The answer is 42” (see The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the context of this response). “Didn’t anybody tell you babies take a lot of work?” “Welcome to adulthood!” “Quick, tell me your father’s middle name, your brother’s age and your sister’s hair color. See you have some answers!”
These responses are generally well received. They tell the questioner, “You’re not alone and you are loved. I care about you. You’ll be fine.” And that’s the kind of thing “netiquette” allows for posting on public “walls.”
But I always feel there’s so much more to be said. I want to say:
Take time to enjoy life just where you are. Notice the beauty of the sunrise and sunset. See the wild flowers and weeds – how beautiful they can be. Watch a snail make its way across the garden. Watch how the ants cut up larger insects to move them back to the hive for food. Listen to the birds and the hum of the bees. Watch for a baby’s smile and the lilt in the cooing and babbling that’s the beginning of language and communication. Live in the here and now, one day at a time. Tomorrow, do the same. Each morning, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your way, to smile through your face, to work through your hands, to speak through your voice. Pray the Our Father and mean it. “Give us this day our daily bread” – trust in God’s ‘just in time financing.’ There are no guarantees that human financial institutions will take care of you or your money. Yes, we need to work and be prudent and take responsibility for helping God provide for us, but God is much bigger than our understandings and plans. God has much more to give us than we can imagine. And as long as we are open to receive God’s gifts, we’ll continually be surprised by life and love and joy.
So don’t waste a lot of time trying to figure things out. Don’t spend time worrying about things that can’t be changed just now or for which there really are no answers at present. Do what you can. Spread a little patience and love. Laugh and sing and dance because that’s what God does through all of creation. Give thanks for what you’ve received already and what’s coming down the road. Know that we grow and learn wisdom only by going through rough times and that we are all called to grow in “wisdom, age and grace.” Each of us is ultimately called to return to union with God. We are called to become saints through the ups and downs of our lives. So try to relax, take one day at a time, and know that when all is done, you’ll shine like fine gold, refined and polished by a master craftsman who really, really loves you.