by Sr. Hope Therese, O.Carm.
Shortly before I left for my last mission as a novice in Davenport, Iowa the sisters had a Chinese food night. This of course involved fortune cookies. I received the strangest fortune cookie I have ever received in my life. It said “What’s hidden in an empty box?” I have never had a fortune that was a question before. My first thought was how stupid it was. How can anything be hidden in a box, if the box is indeed empty? Yet, the question continued to drive me crazy.
I received many varied answers from Sisters when I asked them the question. Some said rice, Schrodinger’s cat, secrets, dreams, peace, love, faith, and hope as in the story of Pandora’s Box. Perhaps the box only appeared to be empty because what was in it was hidden. Perhaps the box was really being looked at by a pessimist and was not empty, but full of potential. With all the answers I received I had to come up with my own after much frustration.
The empty box is my future. Part of my annoyance with the empty box comes from not being able to see what lies in my future. I am the sort of person that sometimes, okay most of the time, reads the ends of books and watches the ends of movies first. When it comes to finding out what will happen next I am not patient.
I have heard it said that the past is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why we call it the present. We need to appreciate every moment. Every moment of our lives is a precious gift from God that we need to experience as it comes. Once it comes it is gone and we will never have it back again. When we are present to the present we are really living. It is so important to really live. The future is what we make of it.
However, God is in control and helping everything to work according to his plan and the greater good. Have faith and trust that God’s grace will impel you to make the right decisions in and for your future. The same God that helped you through any problem you had in the past is still beside you here and now in the present. He will be there in the future. In fact He has seen your future and He is already there. Nothing will interfere with His plan for those who trust in Him.
Today I can look back on my past and see how the Lord was there all along even when I couldn’t sense how he was working. That reminds me that He is here with me today even though I can’t see now how He is working. When the future of a situation is out of your control knowing what will happen in the end will change nothing. Learning from the past is good, but dwelling on the changeless past is pointless and a waste of time. All you can do is surrender the past or the future of the situation into God’s hands and pray that his will be done. If we waste time dwelling on the past or dreaming about the future, then we are forgetting to live.
In the Bible Mathew 6:34 says “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” The children of an almighty and ever loving God were never meant to be anxious. Anxiety was brought into the world with sin when man damaged his relationship with God. Our best friend Jesus Christ repaired that relationship by giving up his life for us. With a friend like that on our side is there any need to be anxious? Patience is a virtue and a gift of the Holy Spirit. If we pray to God for patience he will help us to live as life happens without focusing on the past or future. That is the way life is meant to be lived.
When we wait for something it feels like forever, but when it’s over it seems that time has flown so fast. Life is a series of journeys and destinations. It is in the journeying that life really happens. Humans are naturally anxious and impatient and peace and patience usually do not come easy to us. That is why peace and patience are such precious and powerful gifts of God’s grace. Peace and patience help us to live. I recently received the joyful news of my sister’s second pregnancy. This was something I was waiting for not so patiently, but the waiting helped me to appreciate the moment more. Waiting for the special moments in your life is what sometimes makes them more worthwhile. I have been trying to resist looking into, and even trying to ignore the empty box of my future. There is nothing to see and only God knows what is there. At present I have been filling up empty suitcases in happy anticipation of my first mission as a professed sister. I will not know where I am going until Profession day on October 4th. I am starting to learn to be okay with that and everything else out of my control.
The last fortune cookie I opened said; “Make your life a mission, not an intermission.” I think that advice speaks for itself. I refuse to make my life an intermission by peering into an empty box.