Friday, February 7, 2014

Seeing God Now

I went to confession today. The sacrament of confession has been a blessing in my life that I cannot even begin to describe, so I will not try. I try to go regularly, but sometimes it isn't easy, even in the Philippines. The parish on my post, for whatever reason, does not have regularly scheduled confessions. In other parishes they have confessions scheduled five days a week, but I cannot always get there. Today, however, I was able to get out for confession.

Now, on the schedule it said that confessions started at 2:00 PM. I was planning on seeing a movie with the guys, which I remembered from seeing on the billboard the day prior, started at 3:00. Accordingly I arrived early, so as to be the first in line. I was early enough to make a short visit in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel before getting into where I assumed the line would form. I was 15 minutes early, a respectable time.

The priest was not 15 minutes early. He was not early at all. He was, in fact, on what Americans lovingly refer to as "Island Time," which means that you show up, you know, meh... whenever. As time ticked by I said a rosary, and still no priest showed up. Other people came and got in a sort of line behind me, and still no priest showed up. I, being the only white guy in church, also appeared to be the only one at all perturbed by this.

While I was waiting in line I was reading "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything," by James Martin, SJ. The chapter I was reading was called, "Surrendering to the Future," in which he talks about the Jesuit vow of obedience and what it means to be obedient to God's will in day-to-day life. He quoted from a Jesuit named Walter Ciszek:

"The plain and simple truth is that His will is what He actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people and problems. The trick is to learn to see that... Each of us has no need to wonder about what God's will must be for us; His will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day, if only we could learn to view all things as he sees them and sends them to us."

Of course! God's will in the moment! I get it, so this late confession thing is like a test? Right. I got this. I immediately set myself to surrendering my impatience. Cool beans! I surrendered the heck out of it!

Then when my buddy M texted to ask about the movie, I told him it was at 3:00 (he had thought it was 3:30) and I replied I probably wouldn't be able to make it to the movie. I was stuck in confession line. So I wouldn't get to hang out with the guys? I wasn't looking forward to being stuck in the hotel room by myself, or going to see a movie by myself later if I still even wanted to see it, but God's will. Surrender. Got it.

Finally the priest arrived at 2:38. I was out of the church at 2:48 thinking I might just have time to
catch a trike cab to the theater by 3:00. (Trike cabs are the primary transport around here. The small ones are basically a small motorcycle with a covered side car. The large ones are a medium motorcycle with a frame welded around them with a passenger compartment to the right and behind the motorcycle.)

Unfortunately, all the trikes waiting outside the church were the little kind. When I told them I wanted to go to the mall they shook their head and replied in Cebuano, which I do not speak. Something about too small, which I thought was a reference to my size, but I saw an identical trike carrying three Filipinos. No matter how small they are, three of them are bigger than one of me.

Eventually I figured it must be illegal for them to drive on the highway, since I only ever see the big ones on the highway outside our hotel. These guys were little trike drivers, but they cheerfully spent ten minutes trying to flag me down a big trike. When that was to no avail, they suggested I walk back to the corner and try to get one from the other road.

So I headed back to the corner, and then when no trikes would stop there I kept walking. No point in bothering about the movie now. It looked like God wanted me to have some alone time. Maybe I would do some more reading? Maybe journal for a bit? Spend some time in prayer?

Eventually I got picked up an made it back to the hotel so I didn't have to walk the two miles. Which, two miles is nothing, but I was still glad to get a ride. I walked into the library, still trying to accept God's will being me spending the rest of the afternoon by myself. In the elevator I accidentally pressed the 3rd floor button instead of the fifth floor button. That was a slight irritation, because it's an old fashioned elevator and you cannot cancel a floor by pressing the button again, and it takes a long time to slow down and start back up again.

Then the door opened at the third floor and my buddy H was standing there. He stepped into the elevator, and then looked at the number 5 and then at me. "Wait, are you going up?"

"Yep. Are you going down?"

"Yeah. Are you going to the movie?"

"I am pretty sure it started at 3:00."

"M is pretty sure it's at 3:30. That's where I am going now, down to his room. Are you going to come."

"Sure, let me drop off my book and I will meet you down there."

And so it was that all of the delays and frustrations and accidentally pressed wrong buttons served to put me in the exact right place at the right time to meet up with H in the elevator. And it turned out the movie was at 3:40.

God is sometimes obscure, or maybe I am obtuse. I can sometimes see Him in hindsight, but only rarely in the moment. But that was so obvious even I couldn't miss it. He was saying, "I care about everything, even the smallest details. You can trust me with your life."

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