Among the countless lessons of John Paul II was the ease with which the Holy Spirit operates when we have a personal touch and when what we’re doing is in God’s Plan.
He was not a man who aspired to the papacy. In fact, there are those who believe he was tempted to turn it down (in favor of a monastic life). He wasn’t obsessed with “success.” He was certainly not competitive. The papacy was something for which he neither strained nor politicked.
Diligent, yes: to the max. But not obsessed with his own success.
Karol Wojtyla performed his duties with maximum obedience and left the rest to God.
So did Pope Benedict XVI. He has said that he even prayed not to be made Pope. But the papacy followed him because it was in God’s Plan.
It’s funny in our own lives how good things follow us — almost pursue us — when we don’t lust after them.
When we’re yearning for something or straining too hard toward a goal, it’s usually something we want and not something that God has in mind for us. It’s time for all of us to realize that and tune in more carefully to what the Lord has designed as our true station in life. Otherwise, we throw our personal lives into turmoil and create tension.
These are important words: true station in life. We live at a time when everyone wants to be a “big shot.” But true contentment comes only when we seek the big in the small and fit into the role that God has designated for us.
Work hard, yes, but don’t force things; don’t get hyper; and don’t neglect the truly important things like friends and family. If there is frenzy in your life, halt what you’re doing and ask God to tell you if your wants — your plan (as opposed to His) — are causing the tension.
These days we’re experts at causing tension for ourselves and letting life go by without appreciating the important things. Don’t we all make mountains out of mole hills? And don’t we all fall into the temptation of overly complicating things?
No matter what you do in life, if you want to, you can make it tense.
Think about it a moment: In what ways do you create your own tension? What do you demand of yourself each morning? Are you overly rigid? Do you set forth a schedule that has no flexibility, no time for other people, for the truly important things in life — and then panic when events punch holes in that schedule?
If so, it’s because you want to be in control instead of letting God control the events in your life; you are reaching beyond your true zone of comfort.
When we’re tense, something is out of whack. To find out what it is, we have to seek the Holy Spirit. In prayer, He will reveal what we’re doing (or not doing) that is leading to the feeling of being on edge.
It could be a sense of competition. It could be jealousy. It could be insecurity, especially financial insecurity. (Have faith!) It almost always goes back to pride. If you dig to the root of many tensions, it comes from comparing yourself to others.
That creates tension because competition, which is based on pride, is not in God’s Plan. It alienates us from others, when what we’re supposed to be doing is nurturing relationships. Note that Christ did not line up His disciples and set them off to the races. He placed them together, not against each other.
When you are as concerned about others as yourself, and take time to be a person, not a “success machine,” this alone will diminish your stress.
Christ is the Prince of Peace and does not want you on the edge about anything. He wants you securely in His arms. But we have to seek His arms, and we have to approach life the way He did. That means handing the “cup” over to God, and — like John Paul II — letting Him set the schedule.
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar… and the two cups of coffee!
As the story goes: a professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
“The golf balls are the important things — God, family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.
“The sand is everything else — the small stuff.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
“Play with your children.
“Take time to get medical checkups.
“Take your partner out to dinner.
“Play another 18.
“There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.
“Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities.
“The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired about what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”