It’s a scene I’ll never forget: my one-year-old son taking his first steps, placing one foot uncertainly in front of the other, arms outstretched toward my hands, eyes wide open in wonder, and a big awe-struck smile on his upturned face.
As he closed the gap between us and finally grasped my hand, I swooped him up in a bear hug, and we all cheered for him. Amazingly, after months of crawling and pulling up and falling and getting up again, my baby had learned to walk.
It was a miracle.
Spiritual baby steps
Like a child in my spiritual life, I am miraculously learning to walk, too. Arms outstretched toward Our Father, I take uncertain steps each day. And I fall. But Our Father encourages me, again and again, to humbly accept failure and get up and start anew.
One area in which I stumble is the offering up of my crosses in humility. Unfortunately a natural control freak and perfectionist, I squeeze each cross close to my heart, determined to master carrying it completely on my own.
At times, finally recognizing the need for His helping hand, I have tried to offer God my trials, only to realize I come away from prayer still clutching them in the hidden unrelenting grip of my heart.
Even though each morning our family prays for God to show us His will for our lives and to grant us the courage and grace to do it, sometimes I realize that I’m really praying that His will might match my own. This, of course, is not true humility.
“If we turn to Sacred Scripture, we will see that humility is absolutely necessary when we are making ready to listen to God,” said St. Josemaria Escriva in Friends of God. “Humility means looking at ourselves as we really are, honestly, and without excuses.”
In my steps of spiritual infancy, I’m learning that it is one thing to ask for the Father’s will to be made known. It’s quite another to accept it.
There is a quiet acceptance that can emerge from truly approaching Our Father in humility, to offer Him the crosses closest to my heart and openly beg Him to show me the way to carry them, to give Him control of my struggles, and let Him unfold what He wants for me in His own time.
He asks of me a laying bare of my soul in humility, patience, detachment, surrender, emptying my heart of my own desires and allowing Him to fill it with His own.
But how can I — a mere spiritual infant learning to walk — possibly give Him these things so far beyond my grasp?
Only through prayer, which requires time with Him or in front of Him each day. It is imperative. Without prayer, my relationship with God simply doesn’t exist.
Each cross can serve a different purpose. We can teach our children to learn to look past our current heaviest crosses and try to see what good Our Father is trying to teach us through them.
Perhaps it is financial uncertainty or mental or physical anguish. Perhaps it is trying to overcome a personal habitual vice of gossip or intemperance or succumbing to pride, fear, or sadness.
Whatever the trial is, we must strive to give it — with all our will power and love in our hearts — fully and completely to Our Father, trusting in His love and goodness to do what is best for us.
When I can give up in absolute surrender this cross that burdens my heart each day, there is an emptying of my soul that means so much more than just words on a page or in my head.
It is a sacrifice in itself, this laying bare of my soul in humility in front of Our Father, this complete willful letting go of the cross I clutch so tightly. It is like a burning away of part of my heart in a purifying fire. This could be, perhaps, what true sacrifice must feel like.
Deep well of love
Once that emptying out of my heart occurs, He can replace the void with such a peaceful love that cannot be described by words in any language. Its breadth and depth are beyond any experience of this earth.
And once you discover it for yourself — this well of peace and love that only God can give in the depths of your own soul — you will strive to search for it again and again. And it can become easier to find as you practice turning each cross over to Him.
Little by little, He is leading me tenderly to this well from which He is teaching me to draw. In humble gratitude and awe like a tiny child learning to walk, I reach again and again for His hand to guide me through the offering up of each cross.
I have so much to learn. And, wobbly spiritual child that I am, I fall again and again, inevitably, because I am human. But Our Father is teaching me to get up and start again — day after day, hour after hour.
And in no other way but getting up and trying again will I ever learn to walk — toward Him.
Julianne Nornberg, mother of four children, is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee.