Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” has been included in my scripture repertoire for about ten years now. I am unsure why I never read beyond that, maybe because I never read it at all, like so many thoughts that roll around my mind, I probably picked up through someone mentioning it at bible study or saw it on a fancy internet meme.
Today, however, as I was pondering “a seeking heart”, the Holy Spirit led me to:
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
How could I have gone so long without knowing the rest of God’s incredible message in Jeremiah 29? The instructions to call upon him and seek him with whole heart, and the promise that comes with following them, are indeed something I need to know!
There are times when I will repeat Jeremiah 29:11, and WANT to believe it, but struggle to accept it. My fear–my real gripping, paralyzing fear is honestly…what if God’s plans for me and my good are not for this life but the next? I realize ultimately that to be the truth, I am a mortal being but selfishly, I kind of want a little of that good fortune in this life as well (and for it to continue well into my old age). I beg God to allow my life to be void all suffering, illness, and strive. I want my coffers full, my weight perfect, and my anxieties squelched. I desire God to do things my way, (sure I can get a burger joint to follow that plan but really if I have to eat my hamburger without the perfect blend of ketchup, mustard and pickles, I’ll survive, but my life well that is a different story). I have some pretty specific thoughts on how I want my life to go, coupled with my great need to control things, can be the source of great anxiety in my heart.
In the summer of 2013, I was on the beach in Rio de Janeiro with an estimated 400,000 Catholics attending the opening Mass of World Youth Day. My group had foolishly tried to get as close to the altar as we could, having been erroneously told the area we were settling in was delegated to receive the Eucharist during the Mass. When we arrived hours before the main event, we had ample room, we laughed, drank coconut milk straight from the coconut, chased waves and prayed. The soft, warm rain fell upon us for most of the day, but our enthusiasm at being part of this magnificent event barred the discomfort of now drenched cold clothes from bothering us.
As the Mass began, space became less and less accessible. I was elbowed and stepped on; my good nature of 10 hours ago, faded as even maneuvering the crowd to find a restroom became impossible (good thing I had only one coconut that day)! The Mass was beautiful, as all Masses are, it was not Pope Francis, but Rio Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta , who did a magnificent job kicking off the incredible week of festivities to come! After the Mass, one of the youth traveling with us advised to leave the crowded area by heading toward the water, walking the shore and coming up much further down on the coast where it was less crowded. Unfortunately, for reasons only our leader knew, the decision was made to disregard this sage advice and he navigated our conga line of 22 people straight through the sardine-packed crowd.
The trek was harrowing to say the very least, I had to wrestle people to literally make room to breathe. The woman in front of me fainted, and by the grace of God a young man caught her along with me and helped support her the rest of the way off the beach. I have never been so frightened in my whole life, and spent the entire time in frantic prayer for assistance – calling on our Blessed Mother, my Guardian Angel, and every Saint I could possible think of!! The next day, safe from the beach but still quite marred from the experience, I knelt in prayer during a much drier and less crowded Mass, to seek answers from God. My first question, am I going to leave Rio alive?
The answer came into my heart so quickly, I knew it was from God and not something I was conjured in my mind of my own accord. Death is not a punishment, but a reward. That was the answer? Really God – that is all you have for me. That isn’t soothing at all, because you still aren’t filling me on the details – you know date, time, place, manner. I’d even had taken a simple yes or no! Again the voice in my heart repeated, death is not a punishment but a reward, but this time added, if you say you love me so much, why are you so afraid to meet me? Followed by the words again from Jeremiah 29:11 – my plans for you are good, and not for woe.
I seek God with my mind. I am lost in my desires and expectations. I believe my heart, if I would let it, out of pure LOVE for God would want what exactly God wills for me. My heart would long to be with God, and not fear the possibility of actually meeting him before I am a very old woman (or longer). My heart created for love, comes as St. Augustine tells us, with a God size hole in it, that only joining my heart to that of my Father in Heaven will it be filled. Fear can be overwhelming, but St. John reminds us true love casts out fear. My job, seek God will all my heart, and not let the uncertainty of the unknown overcome me – and to remember death is a reward not a punishment. Death is what I am called to every day in answer to my temptations and penchant for sin. Death is how Jesus over came sin and death itself. Seek with your whole heart, God has promised he will be found!
All Rights Reserved 2015, Allison Gingras
Cover Image: Kaboompics (Pixabay) PD; Inset Image: Ian Gingras