If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Never in Vain

I've published this before, but I can't remember when or where. But as I thought about the struggles the Church finds itself in at the moment, assailed by government decrees on all levels, I thought about this story. I hope it encourages you.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The guy bowling in the lane to my right looked like he might be a tackle for the local college football team. Maybe a center. His arms looked bigger than my legs, and each time he stalked toward the foul line, I knew what to expect. For the last half-hour he’d hurled his 16-pounder at the speed of light toward the pins at the far end. Every time he tossed the bowling ball, all ten pins exploded with a roar that echoed across the bowling alley.

This time wasn’t any different. As my ball rumbled through the return mechanism, I turned to watch him stride confidently toward the foul line. As soon as the ball left his hand I knew the pins didn’t stand a chance. I was right. He walked back to his table and marked another X on the score sheet.

That’s when the youngster a few lanes to the left caught my eye. He looked like he might be three or four years old as he wobbled toward the foul line, straining with both hands to hold his ball. I wondered if it weighed more than he did. When he reached the line, he stooped and placed the ball between his legs. Then, with a mighty grunt, he pushed it as hard as he could toward the other end.

I don’t know why I watched it lumber down the lane, but I’m glad I did. The ball glanced off the air-filled bumpers in the left gutter, and then the right. I doubted it had enough uummph to reach the pins. By the time it did, it moved so slowly that the pins forced it to meander left, then right, then left again as it rolled through them. My jaw dropped as, one by one, all ten pins toppled over.

The youngster screeched, twirled in circles and raced back to his father, who penciled a big X on the score sheet. Meanwhile, I left my ball in the carousel and walked back to my seat, suddenly aware of an important spiritual lesson I’d just witnessed.

I am embarrassed to admit how often I’ve compared myself with God’s mighty warriors and lost hope that God could -- or would -- also use me. I’ve marveled at evangelists who only have to say, “Jesus loves you,” and crowds come forward by the hundreds, yet I spend half a day sharing the gospel with a friend, only to hear him say, “I’m glad you found something to make you happy. But, I think I’ll keep looking.”  I’ve turned my radio dial and listened to insightful, gifted teachers who’ve turned their corner of the world upside down for Christ, yet I've look around my Faith Formation class and wondered if the students slouched before me have heard a word I’ve said. I’ve spoken with missionaries home on furlough and been inspired by dramatic stories of entire communities turning to Christ, yet I can’t get one neighbor family to attend church with me.

It’s no mystery to me why I’ve often looked in the mirror and wondered aloud toward heaven, “You want ME to do what?” To which I usually follow with a litany of excuses: “I don’t know how. I’m too young, too old, too tired, too weak . . . .” 

And then God used a four-year old to remind me that, in all my self-excusing and self-justifying, I miss a critical point of Scripture: with faith as small as a mustard seed, any Christian (even I) can move mountains, stop the mouth of lions, and accomplish anything else God asks of us. Even when our feeble and halting attempts for Christ bounce from one gutter to the next, God orchestrates our meandering until even the gates of hell fall before us.

The young boy a few lanes to my left confirmed what I have known for a long time, but often forget : whether with the strength of a Samson, or the struggling attempts of a child, whether we hurl the ball at the speed of light, or use all our energy just to push it toward the pins, God’s word never returns to Him void, and our labor for Christ is never in vain. 


truthfinder2 said...

This is so good! I needed the encouragement right now. I have attention-deficit issues, so I bounce and wobble from side to side a LOT. Yet I feel called to do something I have never tackled before. It's good to be reminded that "whom He calls, He also equips." Thank you, Richard! --- Rosemary

Richard Maffeo said...

You're welcome, Rosemary. And yes, "whom he calls, He also equips."