It was a warm February morning and Sr. Kalin and I were at the Houston Airport on our way to New York for a conference I was speaking at. At our gate, we found some open seats near a man wearing a KU Jayhawk hat. Sr. Kalin was excited to see a fellow alum and began a conversation with him. We chatted with him until our flight began to board. We left him a brochure of our community and assured him of our prayers for him and his family. It was the beginning of an average day in the life of an Apostle of the Interior Life until the woman taking our boarding passes said, “This is not your flight.” “Excuse me?” I replied in dismay. I did not understand how this had happened, but sure enough we were at the wrong gate and our flight was currently boarding in another terminal far, far from where we stood. We took off running.
Thankfully, we were traveling two days early, but since we indeed missed our flight now we would be at the mercy of United’s customer service department to get us on a new flight. As we stood in line, I was rather tense. But Sr. Kalin looked at the situation from another angle and said, “I wonder if we were meant to meet that guy.” I’m not sure if I spoke these words or only thought them, but all I could reply was, “I don’t care if God wanted us to meet him! I want to go to this conference and give this talk! Besides, we hardly said anything life-changing to him. I don’t see how the meeting could have been impactful in his life.”
I hope you are not scandalized by my unsaintly response, but my humanity shone through tangibly that morning. I offer this story to ask you, have you ever been in such a disposition of heart? Maybe you didn’t get a job you were hoping to get, your girlfriend broke it off with you, or you were stuck in traffic and missed something important. Then, at some point someone suggested to you that it was all a part of God’s plan for your life. Were you tempted to say, “I don’t care if this was God’s plan!”? Yes, sometimes we are not easily consoled in moments of frustration and we don’t care to look at the bigger picture. We know what we want and we think we know what is best for us. It might have something to do with control – or maybe not. In my case, I wanted to be in control. I had the flight and plans for our trip lined up months ahead, but alas we had to stay overnight in Houston until we could get on a new flight.
We can live moments like this still stuck in our self-reliance or we can live it with Jesus and see it as an opportunity to trust the words of St. Paul: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In God’s plan of love, all things work for good. God uses every event, even the difficult and painful ones, in our life to bring about good. This is the reality of God’s Divine Providence. Providence comes from the Latin word providere. Videre means “to see”. Pro is a prefix that has multiple meanings, which can enrich our understanding of the word providence. It can mean “before,” “on behalf of,” and “in favor of”. God, in His Providence, sees beforehand what we need. He also looks at our circumstances on behalf of us and He looks in favor of us. He wants our good more than we want it. Therefore, He provides for us in His loving Providence.
God’s Providence is His continuous way of creating us and loving us. Noticing what He has done in our life can become a powerful witness to others. While I was in formation, I was fascinated by all the stories the sisters often shared while at the dinner table. They told all of the new girls how God provided an apartment when they needed more space, how He helped them encounter someone who needed God in their life, how food was donated when they especially needed it, and on and on. I understood that this Providence was not only available to them, but to me if I left room for Him.
Fr. Jacques Phillipe uses a powerful analogy to describe what needs to take place if you are to experience God’s Providence in your life too. He says to imagine you are in airplane about to go skydiving. You know you have a parachute, even though you don’t see it. You may doubt for a minute that it will hold you up in the moment you need it. But to discover the strength of the cords and parachute that hold you up, you must jump out of the plane. Providence is like this parachute, because we will never know it is carrying us until we “jump” out in faith (cf. Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, p. 28).
During my years of formation, I jumped and discovered how the Lord supported me in providing for many of my needs, anywhere from learning Italian to receiving a bag of donated clothes with a beautiful dress in it for my vows. Now, my experiences of Providence are stories I recount to the new girls in formation to prove to them how God can work in their lives. My story with the man at the airport is one of these stories. God proved me wrong and showed me that the encounter with the man was indeed Providential. Sr. Kalin was right… It just so happened that seven months after our airport excursion, a card arrived in the mail from a man in Virginia. It read:
I met two of your Sisters at an airport. I was impressed. Please accept my financial donation.
(name) – KU Graduate.
What’s your Providence story?
Share with a friend, co-worker, or a family member how God has worked in your life. Let it be a testimony of God’s tender love and care. If you do not have a story to share, reflect on what area of your life that you find hard to trust that God will provide. Realize that you have a “parachute” and jump. Then go and tell that story.