This is one in a series of Lenten reflections
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to The Catholic Weekly
I recently volunteered as the “chairperson” of a poker tournament at a local country club as part of a Knights of Columbus fundraiser. The job was easy and quite profitable — in exchange for trading money and poker chips at the counter, the local Knights council kept the tournament entry money. The Knights had reserved expansive time slots four days of the week and the sign ups looked low. After a short wrestle with my conscience, I signed up for a late shift.
Monday night didn’t have much bustle. I idled at my counter post, listening to the rippling clink of shuffled poker chips and I let my mind wander. Ponderings of faith mixed with the sounds of poker and a curious thought slipped into my head: it’s funny how the Christian faith warns against the dangers of gambling and yet com-mitting to the Christian faith is kind of a gamble in itself.
My mind screeched to a halt. That thought was completely false.
Committing to Christ is not a gamble, it is a guarantee to joy and salvation. And it doesn’t matter what cards of life we hold in our hand — if we go all in for God and lay down a feeble pair of two’s, we’re still going to rake in the pot. Every single time. And the pot is more than we can imagine. Jesus clearly said in the parable of the sower that those who embrace the word will bring forth grain “yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8). Paulist Father John Collins highlights in his “What Good is God?” lecture series that “we will get more back than whatever we had to trade in.” Examples are everywhere in the Bible. At Jesus’ command, Simon Peter reluctantly set back out into the water after fishing all night and caught more fish than his boats could handle. Moses gave up his safe job as a shepherd, but demolished the slavery that bound his people. Jesus sacrificed His life to endure death on a tree and was resurrected into full glory to fulfill a way to salvation for all of us.
But to us humans with spiritual dyslexia, committing to the faith does seem like a gamble. We are afraid we will miss out on certain experiences if we answer God’s call to a life different from our own plans. We fear the loss of our relationships, security and the things that make us happy. I, like many young Catholic men, hesitate to fully say, “I commit to Your Will!” out of a misplaced apprehension that He will call me into priesthood and so miss the prospects of being married and raising a family. A critical way to say this: we don’t trust that God’s plan for our lives is greater than our own life plans. You could even say we’re afraid of being disappointed.
Fortunately for us, we have a patient God who is with us during our struggle to see the truth of the faith and I believe the truth is summed up nicely by G. K. Chesterton: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Right now, we are blessed with the season of Lent. As Catholic Christians, we are called to sacrifice desires of our time and possessions to engage in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is an opportunity to give up some of our perceived “needs” to make steps in trusting God and His provisions and to see faith as a promise, not a gamble. And trust does grow in steps — it is a difficult journey and does not happen overnight. Sometimes the best we can do is trust Him one day at a time. As a college student on the eve of graduation, I stand on the threshold of possible life paths. I don’t know where God will take me and it’s hard to fathom the entirety of my future. But I have resolved to trust in Him each day as they come, filled with the reassurance that committing one day at a time still will bring me to God’s Will, whatever it may be. I invite all readers to do the same — loosen the tense control on the plans you have for yourself and leave room for God to bring forth the best for you. With persistence in our trust, we will better understand God’s promise, find contentment in any day and ultimately be flooded with more joy and grace than our finite minds can conceive.
Patrick Lawrence, a native of Almont, is a Grand Valley State University senior and has served as a peer minister at St. Luke University Parish on campus for several years. He begins the GVSU Physical Therapy program this coming fall.†