I Can Work With That
My friend Joan has a gift of transforming what looks like trash into something beautiful. She found a rusty metal garden chair and buckets, and sanded and painted them. They now sit on her patio. She had an old Catholic missal, which is a book of prayers, and used the pages to create a piece of art. She has a wonderful gift. It's like she sees something and thinks, "I can work with that."
I believe that God has the same thought about us. He sees our faults, our mistakes, even our sins and says, "I can work with that." At least, that's how it seems to be with me. For example, when I was called back to the Catholic Church, it came through a conversation with a friend. I began to gossip. My friend stopped me and asked if we could change the subject because she had just gone to Confession and was trying not to gossip. So God saw me in my sin of gossip. He didn't smite me. He didn't condemn me to Hell. He said, "I can work with that." And so He did. I was convicted in that conversation to go to Confession and make an effort to return to Church. It was the first step on my return to God.
Here is another example. About 20 years ago I moved to the same town as my parents. At the time, my Dad led a Holy Hour every Monday night. Holy Hour is a time of Adoration in Church that is a small amount of community prayer followed by a lot of silent prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I began to attend because I wanted to please my parents. I actually had no idea what to do in a Holy Hour. Sometimes I read a book. Sometimes I prayed a rosary. Sometimes I struggled to stay awake. I was there out of love for my parents. God said, "I can work with that." And through many years of Holy Hours, he worked on my heart. I came to know Him better. I experienced His peace. God worked with my ignorance and my desire to honor my parents and brought much good from it.
I remember once asking a Confirmation student why he wanted to receive the Sacrament. He said he really didn't care and was doing it for his parents. I told him that it was good that he wanted to honor his parents. That was a good desire. Then I told him I would pray that he would desire it for his own benefit as well. I know God was able to work with that young man's love for his parents to open a door to an encounter with Jesus.
God has also worked with my competitive spirit, which is a nice way of saying my need to win an argument. There was a period of time when I had to defend my faith on a fairly regular basis. It was frustrating because, even when I knew I was right I didn't always have the answer to defend it. And I hate to lose, especially when I know I'm right. God looked at the situation, maybe thinking, "She isn't seeking to know me, but she likes to fight. She likes to win. I can work with that." And He did. I began to study apologetics, which is the defense of the faith. I read books, listened to CDs, and attended conferences to learn my faith. My goal was to learn enough to win an argument. There was no thought about it being a path toward God, but He used it in just that way. He was able to work with my pride and bring something good out of it.
It's like Romans 8:28 says: "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." I'm sure I didn't love God enough at the time – and likely will never love him enough in this life, but I was called according to his purpose. And so he used my faults to bring about something good.
That may be how he saw the apostle Paul before his conversion. While still named Saul, Paul was zealous for the Lord. So zealous that he was trying to find Christians and get them arrested and killed. He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen in Acts 7:54-59. God looked at Saul and said, "I can work with that." Saul was sincere but mistaken. He desired to do right by God, but he didn't know what that meant. He was blind spiritually – and then by God's grace he was blinded physically. And then he was healed so that his zeal, which caused the death of many early Christians, could be transformed into zeal for the Messiah – Jesus Christ. He became one of the 12 apostles who preached the Good News and changed the world. God saw Paul's zeal to destroy Christians and said, "I can work with that."
Paul took that same approach when in Athens. Acts chapter 17 describes the city as one filled with temples to many different gods. I might have looked at that and thought it was hopeless to convince anyone that there is just One God. But perhaps Paul thought, "I can work with that." And he said to them, "I see you are very religious. You have a temple to an unknown God. I know who that is." He found something there to work with.
Sometimes when we are ready to give up, God says, "I can work with that." That may be one of his favorite things to work with. A friend had a meeting recently that required some discussion about problems. She wasn't sure how to approach it or how it would turn out. She had nothing. No idea what to do. She went into the meeting totally surrendered to God – trusting Him to lead the way. She had nothing and God said, "I can work with that." He loves it when we finally say, "I got nothin'. God – you take over." And He does. If we listen to the Holy Spirit, He will guide us through any situation. I think God loves to work with that moment of surrender when we turn it all over to Him.
So God can work with our sins, with our faults, with our pride, with our weakness, with our ignorance, with our failures and disappointments, with our hurts and wounds, even with our anger. In every situation, God says, "I can work with that."
Sometimes he works with it to bring us greater knowledge of Him like He did with me and my need to win an argument or my desire to please my parents.
Sometimes he works with it to help us grow in humility like he did in my attempt to gossip and with St. Paul's zeal.
Sometimes he works with it to teach us to trust in Him more than ourselves like he did with my friend and her meeting.
This God of ours is pretty amazing. Like my friend, Joan, who turns junk into treasure, God takes what is broken and works with it to make it beautiful. To make it useful for the building up of the Kingdom of God. I need to be more like that. Instead I am more likely to see a difficult situation or person and decide it's not worth my effort. I don't naturally see the potential beauty, only the actual ugliness. I pray to have eyes like God, that can look at a person or a situation and think, "I can work with that." And I am grateful for a God who looks at me and thinks the same thing: "I can work with that."
So now, here are two questions to ponder in prayer:
When has God taken something negative in your life and said, "I can work with that"? How was he able to draw you closer to Him?
Is there a difficult situation or person in your life that you have given up on? What might happen if you were to think, "I can work with that."?